The self-help industry generates about $10 billion each and every year.
Which really shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the promises that it makes.
“Become a more efficient worker.”
“Become more successful.”
“Become more fulfilled.“
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of the above promises. In fact, the entire Knowledge for Men community was built to help men solve these exact issues.
However, in a market that is as saturated as the personal growth and peak performance industry, you are bound to encounter a few individuals and companies that try to sell you some steaming piles of b.s.
Personal growth is a complex subject unique to every individual – but that disconcerting truth can be lost in the chaos of fake smiles, personality tests, and motivational blogs – leading many people down paths that are ineffective at best and downright detrimental at worst.
But there’s a problem…
Most of us have no idea what information is good and what isn’t.
Most of you aren’t aware of the lies you’ve been sold.
To help you remedy this situation, I’ve put together a list of the 7 biggest lies in the personal growth world.
1. Being Happy is Simple! You Just have to …
I’m going to go ahead and nip this one in the bud because, frankly, it’s my least favorite lie on this entire list.
In fact, it makes me resentful of what “Self Help” has evolved into.
What is this lie, you ask?
It’s the lie that happiness has a “One Size Fits All Formula” and that it can boiled down to some cheesy Instagram quote – and if you do it just right, bam, eternal happiness.
The reason that this particular lie bothers me so much is that it preys on people who are suffering.
If someone is suffering from severe depression or a deep sadness, they want to believe that they can be happy again with “One Weird Trick”.
They want to believe that happiness can be distilled down to 140 characters or a fancy picture with a quote slapped on top of it.
They see a big bold article headline that says “The One True Key To Happiness is _______…(buy my book and you’ll find out)”
Fill in the blank with whatever you want – but I’ll tell you right now, straight up, there is no one simple answer to life’s problems.
It’s like reading an article about how “writing your goals down will make you a more successful person.”
Well…yeah, it’s a small, first step, in a long process of many steps.
But if you think that doing one simple little trick will somehow create a vast amount of change in your life, it’s just not going to happen.
Life is a complicated series of events with a million variables, and to think that there is one little solution that will fix all your life’s problems is not only ridiculous, it’s a little insulting to the audience’s intelligence.
Life, happiness, personal growth, success – none of these are a singular event. It’s a long, hard, drawn out process that takes tons of patience and hard work, and involves tough decision after decision.
Don’t get me wrong.
There are plenty of simple things that you can do to drastically improve the quality of your life.
If you pick up meditation, start waking up earlier, exercising, eating well, and spending lots of time with family, you will be happier.
But to pretend that meditating for 10 minutes a day will solve your $50,000 in debt or angry ex-wife or chronic health problems is both unrealistic and insulting.
But it’s not something that can be distilled into a few motivational lines in a blog post and while the formula might be constant, the variables inside of that formula vary for every single human being.
2. If You Follow my Proven Program You Will Never Have Problems Again
Building on my last point, I’ve found that several prominent personal development thinkers and influencers seem to believe that there is this perfect, ethereal, “you’ve made it” period in your life where problems won’t exist.
You will have affirmed, meditated, and visualized yourself all the way to perfection.
Here’s a little wake up call…
Pain and failure will always exist.
At every period of our lives, there’s going to be something hard and something that hurts. Every time you squash one problem, three come up in it’s place.
And here’s another wake up call…
This is a good thing!
A perfect, problem free life wouldn’t be worth living.
It would be boring, monotonous, and almost robotic.
There would be no challenges to keep you interested, no obstacles to overcome, and nothing worth achieving.
No one is remembered for living a perfect life.
People are remembered for solving huge problems and overcoming obstacles that would kill a normal person.
So stop searching for a problem free life, it doesn’t exist and even if it did, you probably wouldn’t want to live there.
Find what you’re willing to struggle for – something that you are passionate about, and you’ll never feel the need to wish for a problem-less life.
(If you are interested in learning more about this particular point, I recommend you check out our interview with Mark Manson who writes about this concept extensively on his blog as well as his New York Times Best Selling Book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck)
3. I Only Need 4 Hours of Sleep a Night…
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the “Sleepless Elite” who live on 4-5 hours of sleep a night and perform at the highest levels of human potential.
Nine times out of ten, this is a load of crap.
There is a very rare genetic mutation that allows certain individuals to recover and perform at optimal levels with a very nominal amount of sleep… But it’s rare!
For most people, you and me included, getting a sufficient amount of high quality sleep is one of the best things that we can do.
Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post has told interviewers that she sleeps a minimum of eight hours a night.
In fact, this topic is so important to her that she decided to write an entire book titled “The Sleep Revolution” top encourage high performers and entrepreneurs to sleep more.
“The irony is that a lot of people forego sleep in the name of productivity,” she writes. “But in fact our productivity is reduced substantially when we’re sleep deprived.” She goes on to say that the myth of doing a job better on just a few hours of sleep is a “modern delusion.”
It’s already (or should already be) common knowledge that sleep deprivation damages our immune systems, increases stress, leads to obesity and countless other chronic diseases.
But these problems are only the tip of the iceberg.
When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your social and emotional intelligence is lowered as well. You become more irritable, more likely to succumb to depression and anxiety, and less likely to express empathy towards the people you love.
And it goes even deeper than that.
“It affects more than just our personal health. It affects the economy,” Ariana goes on to say.
“A loss of sleep not only impairs employees’ moods and diet, but also hinders productivity, creativity, and decision-making. In many fields, such as medicine or transport, sleep deprivation can mean life or death, but for most others, it generally means a subpar performance.”
Although we may initially feel like those extra few hours of work vs. sleep might be worth it – it’s a huge tradeoff that is far outweighed by the negative.
So seriously, get your damn sleep.
4. Your Personality, Mindset, Abilities, and Habits are Set In Stone
Here’s another myth that drives me insane.
“A leopard can’t change it’s spots.”
Personally, I used to hate being analyzed. Whether it’s a personality test a diagnoses by a shrink or a “Strengths Finders” quiz.
I hate it…
There are plenty of personal reasons for my distaste but the biggest one is that these personality tests have a connotation of “this is who you are, and who you always will be.”
And that’s bullshit.
The idea that you can’t change who you are as a person, or that your characteristics lie in your genetics and you will never be able to escape them is not only depressing but ridiculous and unfounded.
Progress and change are vital parts to a successful and happy life.
There are plenty of people who settle for characteristics that they think are “just a part of them” – and those people do so because they are either lazy, ignorant, or fearful.
They’re scared of stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing change, because, surprise – it’s really hard.
And in turn, they try to convince other people that change is impossible to bring them down to their level – and when you find yourself surrounded by this kind of negative thinking, it turns into normal thinking.
They don’t want to see other people struggle and change in a positive way when they themselves refuse to put in the work to do it.
But there is evidence of positive change everywhere if you choose to look for it. Alcoholics and drug addicts quitting their vices. Criminals reforming into contributing members of society. Introverts becoming speech-giving masters. Obese people getting into shape.
People change when they make a conscious decision that they want to change.
I personally used to be extremely shy. I was scared to make interactions, scared of making my voice heard, terrified of what other people thought of me.
And I hated who I was because of it.
One fateful day I realized I couldn’t just go on living with something I hated about myself.
I decided that there was no choice but to change my line of thinking, no matter how much work it took. Didn’t matter how many personality tests labeled me an introvert.
Now, if I was analyzed by any professional worth their salt, they would undoubtedly diagnose me as an extrovert or socialite.
Don’t fall into the trap of putting some permanent label on yourself. It’s a self-inflicted barrier. You’re a complicated, evolving, fluid person that is constantly changing.
Taking some Myers Briggs test or other assessments are great benchmarks to see where you are at, but don’t be mistaken to think that those characteristics are set in stone.
You are in control of your development. Don’t leave it up to genetics or anything else to tell you that you can’t change something you don’t like about yourself.
They don’t define who you are, they define certain traits you may have at a given time.
If there is something that you aren’t satisfied with about yourself, make a conscious decision to change, and you can definitely do it.
5. Just “Get Rid of Your Fear”
There are a lot of success gurus out there that make a living telling you to “just get rid of your fear.”
Can you say “Oversimplification?”
“Just let go of your fear?”
Fear is a biological part of us that we can’t “just let go of.”
Fear is a necessary part of life that acts a compass and stops us from doing stupid things like jumping off of bridges and running into burning buildings.
Fear exists as a form of intelligence.
Fear stops you from careless Jackass-like stunts. Fear makes you stop and think intelligently. Fear is the probably the reason you’re still alive right now.
Assuming you should just “let go of fear” would insinuate that fear is a totally negative thing, which it isn’t.
Courage isn’t numbing yourself to reality so that you don’t fear anything – courage is taking action despite the fear you feel.
Progression is working at something despite the fact that the fear of failure exists.
Fear exists to let us know that there are consequences in a situation, and without fear and consequences, there is no progression.
Fear is scary.
It’s supposed to be.
But once you realize how much progress in your life is gained in the name of fear, learning to embrace that fear is one of the most liberating and powerful things you can ever do.
Don’t just “let go of fear.”
6. Accomplishing Any Goal is Easy/Hard
When it comes to personal development, we often compare our struggles and goals to other people as a benchmark of where we should be.
While it’s useful to see people who are experiencing the same trials as you, it it can be really easy to fall into a line of thinking that the same struggles and problems are just as easy or just as hard for everyone.
Everyone is different and will find certain things easier and certain things harder.
For example, while one person might find dieting and exercise easy to adopt, another might find it difficult as hell, while that same person who struggled with diet and exercise might find building a business to be a cake walk.
When you compare yourself and seek advice from other people, take what they say with an open mind and realize that there might be a hundred extra variables to the equation that you’re not seeing right off the bat.
If you find something harder to take on than other people do, don’t get discouraged – focus. Take a step back from the situation and ask yourself why something might be harder for you than others, and realize that your race might be completely different from someone else’s despite it’s initial appearance.
7. Life Coaches Need to Be Better and More Successful than You Are
When we start searching for a mentor, we often believe that we need to find the best person at the top of the industry who is way better and further along than you are.
In reality, coaches and mentors are people who are simply supposed to be able to help you see things that you can’t or won’t see and provide you with strategies that you may or may not have known about initially.
In other words, mentors need to be able to help you see things in a different way, but don’t necessarily need to be further along then you are.
Imagine if Michael Jordan only worked with coaches who were significantly better than him…
Do you think he would have had the same kind of career?
Once you are able to drop your ego a bit and open your mind to the fact that there is something to learn from just about everyone, you’ll realize that people don’t necessarily have to be “Better” than you are to add value to your life and craft.
When people jump into the self-development industry, it can be really easy to trip and fall into every shiny headline that we see.
Just like any other industry, there’s a lot of deceit and clever marketing that is deployed in order to take advantage of gullible individuals.
But once you get past the tricks – there is a ton of amazing and positive help to be found.
Question whether something works for you.
Hell, question this article.
But realize that the answers you are seeking do exist.
It’s just up to you to find the right people to ask.
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