It was a wet Sunday afternoon and the time had arrived that I’d been waiting for. I had finally managed to get a week off work. No crawling out of bed to the shrill call of the alarm clock, fighting the rush hour or getting through the day to end up sitting on my sofa in the evening wondering where another part of my life had gone.
For a whole week I could……. and then it hit me like a sledge hammer: what was I going to do? I had to make the most of my time but what exactly was I going to do?
So that set the emotional roller coaster going: from happy to a major plummet into something like despair.
I have always been an avid reader (thank you Dad for taking me to the library every week when I was a kid) and in my early 20s I discovered the amazing genre of personal development and self help.
I have always been led into things by my curiosity and, as a result I’ve learnt many things and many lessons. For me, the personal development field became a source of knowledge, ideas and viewpoints that I had never known before.
Before long I was hooked. I had so much development to get through! I discovered so many things about me that needed improving! And for over 20 years I have been out there, searching for answers.
So, back to the wet Sunday afternoon and I’m at the dip in the rollercoaster, the bottom of the despair barrel and suddenly, a light comes on. To call it an epiphany would not be exaggeration. It was big enough to propel me back up to the heights again. This is what was revealed to me:
1. All the books, courses, tapes and CDs had left me with more questions than answers. It was as if I had been led into a labyrinth, getting further and further in with everything I studied. I was discovering more parts of me that didn’t come up to the mark, more work that needed doing before I could ‘get there’.
2. I must have spent a fortune on all those things.
3. How or why would any of these people who created all these theories on life improvement know what was right for me any more than I would myself? Surely I’m the most qualified person to do that aren’t I?
4. In all the years of seeking I had been looking the wrong way. I had been searching outside of myself for answers. Says a lot about my opinion of me doesn’t it? I wasn’t good enough or brainy enough or spiritual enough to provide my own answers that I would take any notice of. I had handed over the responsibility for my happiness to other people.
My happiness? Yes, because that’s really what I want: to be happy. Is it what you want? I don’t know because you’re the only one to answer that but, if I was to make a bet…..?
What I realised was that other people don’t have my answers. They don’t know what’s right for me. They are not following my path. My truth is not out there playing buddies with their truth.
However, my years of worshipping the personal development genre have not been wasted. Neither has yours. In fact, our contribution has been invaluable so let’s pat ourselves on the back.
You are exalted and revered by a huge group of people.
Without you, they would not be where they are today.
You are the key to their success.
You are their lifeblood.
Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Yes? Well IT SHOULDN’T!
Do you know how instrumental you have been in lining the coffers of all the people that have been telling you how to be more successful?
Do you realise that the only reason they are so successful is because people like me and you pay for their hallowed words.
“look at me – see the lifestyle I have, the happiness I have, the money I have, the charisma I have, the health I have……..”
Then they say
“listen to me – I can show you how to get this lifestyle, this happiness, this money, this charisma, this health….”
And then they say
“give me your money and it’s yours.”
And we put our hands in our pockets because that’s what we think we want.
The self improvement market was estimated at $9.6 billion dollars in 2006. How much have you contributed? Think about it:
- How many books, CDs, DVDs, workshop or seminar places have you bought?
- How many books, CDs, DVDs are sitting at home unopened, unread or unpractised?
- Has the distance from where you are now to where you want to be got shorter as a direct result of reading, listening or attending workshops?
- Or do you find that the more you delve the more complex and further away your goals become?
- Do you have more success in your life as a direct result of all this self development expenditure?
- Are you happier, richer, healthier etc, as a direct result of all this development expenditure?
Just think of all those promises that have been made to you. The promises that really found an empathy with what you were looking for, that made you excited about buying the information and that made you think that this time you were finally going to get the answer.
All those promises that made you put your hand in your pocket because ‘you were worth it’.
Did they live up to your expectations?
Are you a happy, successful, fulfilled human being?
If the answer’s yes then that’s great. Maybe you should write a book about your method. If the answer is no, which is more likely otherwise the self development industry wouldn’t exist, we need to understand why.
At the time of writing there are over 56 million results produced from a search for ‘self development’ on Google. It’s big stuff. Our individual dissatisfaction has spurned this industry through what I call the ‘Abundant Circle’.
The Abundant Circle can trap you
So, let’s have a look at this in a little more detail:
- You are unhappy or dissatisfied in some way and you want to feel happier or more satisfied with what you have. (There is nothing wrong with this. If we didn’t want to improve our lot then why on earth are we here?)
- Therefore, you decide to look for help. (Okay so far but this is when things can get a little sticky. Where are you looking for this help? Oh yes – out there.)
- Now remember, if you search on the internet you have over 56 million results that you could search – I guess that might certainly take your mind off your problems. Or if you go into any book shop I guarantee that you will have at least one floor to ceiling section to keep you busy. (As an aside, do you ever look at the other people browsing those books and just wonder what’s going on inside their head or is that just me?)
- Anyway, back to the point. You’re now getting into dangerous waters because you are swimming where the professional fisher of men lurk, just waiting to hook you with their promises and reel you in.
Do you want wealth? Buy my book.
Happiness? No problem, here’s a CD.
You too can have a lifestyle like mine (funded by people who want a lifestyle like mine!)
- So, we buy the promises. This is it. This time things are going to change. This time I will succeed.
- Now we come into the ‘set up to fail’ part of the Abundant Circle because usually one of the following will happen:
- We practise what we are told and it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle, makes you boring, loses your friends etc.
- We can’t practise it because we have a normal lifestyle like having to go to work, look after the kids, clean the house, do the shopping etc.
- We don’t understand it.
- We never get round to finishing it, opening it etc.
- As a result we become even more dissatisfied and look for help AGAIN.
It’s a self perpetuating circle and what the industry depends on to keep success, happiness, abundance and whatever else where it should be and away from us so we keep on searching.
I have one question for you. If you have tried getting self development help from external sources and it hasn’t worked, why do you keep on doing it? I’m interested to know because I was caught up in the cycle for many years.
How do you break the cycle? How do you stop giving your money and responsibility for your life to other people? It’s a simple truth and it’s yours. The truth is not ‘out there’ but inside you. Nobody else knows what your truth is. You may say that you don’t know what your truth is. But if you don’t then how do you expect somebody you’ve never met to know and to accept your money for telling you what your truth is. It’s really quite bizarre.
You are a responsible human being so take responsibility. Turn inside, find the answers – your answers – and take responsibility. If your actions aren’t right or don’t work then it’s nobody’s fault. You just have to find another way.
It’s scary all this responsibility. But it’s the only way you can move forward. Don’t hand your power or your life over to someone else. There’s only one place you’ll find your truth.
Jackie Notman is a copywriter, feng shui consultant and e-commerce retailer. This article is from her blog ‘Life – and everything else’ where you’ll find an eclectic mix of articles and information.
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