Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Play for the Cure! Stop “Self Improvement” Now!

Self-help is not a new concept — and self-help books have been around for a very long time. Samuel Smiles published a book titled Self Help back in 1882 (available as a free download from Project Gutenberg). Smiles writes:
““Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual…Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates.”
That an enormous population believes wholeheartedly in this spirit is obvious from the tremendous growth of the self-help industry over the past three decades. According to a 2006 Marketdata Enterprises report on the US self-help industry alone:
The total self-improvement market (incl. revenues of
weight loss programs) was estimated to be worth $9.59
billion in 2005. The market grew more than 24% between
2003 and 2005. We expect 11.4% yearly growth through
2010, to a value of $13.9 billion.
Now please understand that I have no quarrel with Self-Help. I am a believer in its spirit and have contributed thousands of dollars to the growth of the industry myself!

What I object to is the underlying assumption of Self Improvement that there is something about us that is fundamentally wrong and needs to be changed or fixed or improved!

How can this possibly be so? Here we stand, children of the Universe, packed full-to-the-teeth with a lifetime of experiences and understanding, beliefs and ideas, some of which work for us and others that do not. How can this possibly be improved upon?

We are, each of us, now, today, in exactly the right place to grow and learn as we need to! And what helps us help ourselves is good. Beating up on ourselves because we wish we were some other way is not only not helpful and argues with Reality, but actually impedes our growth by misdirecting our attention and thoughts to the imagined imperfection!

D’oh! Why would we want to focus on our perceived flaws when the Universe conspires to give us more of whatever we focus on??

Today at, Michael Neill addresses self-esteem as the catalyst for success, and offers Today’s Experiment:

1. Take the week off from working on yourself in any way. Don’t try to change, improve, or fix yourself — just enjoy hanging out with your work, your hobbies and your loved ones.

2. If you can’t bring yourself to take the whole week off, take a few days off. If you can’t get yourself to take a few days off, just take one. If you can’t even take one day off, repeat step one.

Do this experiment yourself, and let me know how you get on!

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