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Self-Improvement, or self-lying?

The self-improvement / personal development industry is now worth over $9 billion. Thats billion. With a B. From Tony Robbins to Tim Ferriss, all sorts of people are working in, and profiting off of, everyone’s desire to become a “better version of themselves.” Even Apple’s latest commercial ends with, “There’s a better you in you.”

But what does this all mean? And are people really focusing on doing the things necessary for self-improvement, or is it just a way to make you feel good about yourself?

Self-Improvement implies action.

I was having a conversation with a member at our gym one afternoon after his workout, and he works with a lot of people who are allocated funds to focus on self-improvement. I’ll leave out details as they aren’t important, but suffice it to say people were given the choice of any one of the following:

  • Educational material (online class or book)
  • Personal coaching (guiding them through steps to improvement)
  • A written guide to improvement (showing them the roadmap to change)

Interestingly, in his experience, these people choose the educational material in nearly every situation. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. People don’t like change. Action makes change. It’s much easier to keep the status quo than to go through the painful steps to force change.

This conversation forced me to consider, “why do people, myself included, consistently fall back on education rather than action?”

The Self-Improvement industry is built on consumption, not change.

Think back to the last podcast you listened to. I have listened to three already this week (it’s Thursday) and have another two on tap to listen to this afternoon and tomorrow. Now think, 1: was this a self-improvement podcast? The answer is most likely yes. 2: did I take any steps to change after listening? The answer is most likely no. 

I know this because for myself it’s almost always a no. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve actually listened to a podcast or read a book and then immediately took action based on what I had learned. It’s uncomfortable to actually take the action, but when you’re THINKING about taking the action it FEELS amazing.

That’s really what it comes down to. When we consume self-improvement material, we’re doing something I’m going to call “self-lying.” Yes, I know this isn’t a real word. But it fits.

Self-Improvement or Self-Lying?

When we find ourselves in the moment of self-lying, it is really hard to notice. It is the feeling of, “I’m going to change my life with this,” which eventually turns into nothing actually changing. Congrats, you’ve just told yourself a “self-lie.” So, how do we break this habit?

  1. Stop Consuming so much. Just like getting into the gym and working out too much, an over-consumption of self-improvement material is a net negative. When you consume, consume, consume, and then consume some more, you get so many ideas you can’t even begin to start. Instead, choose one. Choose just one simple thing you want to implement IMMEDIATELY, and go make just that one thing happen. There’s time for more later. Start here.
  2. Treat self-improvement like school and homework. Maybe that made you cringe. Good. That will help with step one. Whenever you start a self-improvement book, or listen to a podcast, or attend a class, think to yourself, “What is the golden nugget here, and how can I turn this into homework for myself?” For most of the content created, there isn’t more than one or two moments of real value. Actively search for them, then give yourself an assignment to truly think about how you can implement these in your life.
  3. Create a reward system. I am a big fan of positive reinforcement. Change is hard. Getting yourself to take action on ONE specific step, rather than just listening to and consuming various self-improvement ideas is not easy. So, you should be rewarded for doing it. Maybe for you that means spending your Saturday morning at your favorite coffee shop with a non-goal related book/magazine. Maybe it’s a new outfit for the gym. Maybe it’s your favorite meal. Whatever reward will give you motivation to actually stick to just that one change will work. Be creative.

There you have it. Three steps you can take to switch from self-lying to self-improvement. Implement these and let us know if they work for you!

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