Beware the Simplistic Logic of Most Self-Help

The self-help industry is booming; and it’s been booming for years. On one hand, I think this is great, because it provides people useful tools and advice to help them grow, flourish and make the most out of life.

One the other hand, not all the tools and advice being provided are actually valuable. In fact, based on my own personal development experience for well over a decade, and nearly a decade of training and coaching experience, I dare say that the vast majority of the self-help literature consists of naive guidance and ineffective solutions.

The biggest issue I see in most self-help is what I can best refer to as its simplistic logic (and I use the word “logic” hesitantly).

The dictionary defines the term “simplistic” as: “treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are”. That’s exactly how a lot of the self-help literature treats people’s complex life problems, and thus offers crude, superficial solutions for them, solutions which inevitably fall short.

So I wanna share with you some ideas on how this simplistic logic works and how to not fall prey to it, so you can find and apply the best self-improvement tools out there, and see the best results.

I distinguish two major manifestations of simplistic logic in self-help. Let’s tackle them individually.

1. Reducing the Solution for a Major Issue to a Single Variable

Most self-improvement issues are multifaceted and complex. It makes sense for the proper solutions to them to not be too simple either.

Whether you wanna have more confidence, better relationships, better health or more money, you’ll probably have to address and tweak several variables to reach the desired outcome. Because success in such areas involves an array of factors, many of which are necessary, but not sufficient individually.

That’s not what you’ll read in most self-help literature though. On the contrary, you’ll often be presented one-simple-step solutions to reach your goals, which address a single variable. It’s the all too common “just do this and you’ll get what you want” approach.

For example, many self-help authors say that all you need to be happy is love. Or that all you need for a relationship to work is honesty. Or that all you need to have a thriving business is to care about your clients. I can see how such ideas can be appealing, as they make success seem straightforward. But they are gross oversimplifications.

There’s a popular book out there right now that asserts the one secret to outstanding achievement is a mix of passion and perseverance (referred to as “grit”). The book does a good job of showing that grit is important, and it offers inspiring examples of people who achieved great things with aid from grit. But it fails to prove that grit is the only big factor that matters.

Indeed, grit it is as a necessary factor, but not a sufficient factor for great success. For every person with grit who achieved great things, there are probably hundreds who only achieved moderate success at best.

Grit alone does not cut it. Other factors play key roles as well. Choosing goals that match your natural strengths and learning from mistakes are two more such factors in my view, but there are likely more.

So, whenever you see a book, course or article stating there is one simple key to getting something, be cautions. It’s probably exaggerating the role of one factor for success, while ignoring the others.

2. Failing to Explain the Process of Changing a Variable

Not only that a lot of self-help insists that a single variable is all you need to change in order to achieve a meaningful result, it also assumes that once you know that, you can just go and do it.

It treats changing that variable as a simple, straightforward action anyone can do with little or no additional instructions. Thus the term “just”, which is very common in self-help advice: “just think positively”, “just love yourself”, “just be confident”, and so on.

What many self-help authors either fail to recognize or deliberately ignore is that such changes are not basic, simple actions. Rather, they are complex psychological processes, which entail a set of steps and integrated actions that need to be taken.

For example, loving yourself is not something you can just start doing one day, because you’ve realized it is important. If that were the case, there would be no people with self-esteem issues on this planet.

Loving yourself involves taking a series of steps, at the cognitive and behavioral level, which if taken correctly create long-term positive changes in your self-image. I talk more about this process in this confidence video. Telling someone to just love themselves is like telling them to just build a harmonica. Hard to do if you lack any training or guidance.

That is why in my work as a confidence and communication coach, I focus on properly teaching people the actual process of becoming more confident or communicating better, with all the relevant underlying psychology. My experience has consistently shown me that it is not only the best approach, but the only approach that works.

By the way: if being more confident in social situations is something you seek, I highly recommend you check out my Conversation Confidence guide, from which you’ll learn my step-by-step method for achieving this, which draws from my almost a decade of training and coaching experience in this area.

Improving yourself opens up amazing new possibilities in your career, social life, and dating life. But you can’t do it effectively with a simplistic approach.

As alluring as simple tips & tricks type solutions can be, it’s crucial to recognize they will probably not benefit you, and seek a more mature, complex approach to self-improvement. If a solution to bettering yourself and your life sounds too simple to work, it probably is.

For more non-simplistic advice from me, especially on improving your confidence and communications skills, I invite you go here and join my free newsletter today.

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more!!
    So often I talk to folk who’ve had therapy. They tell me they are going to have a more positive approach to life. When challenged on how, they have no idea. I think such an approach can be destructive and can lead directly lead to the self-loathing that so much therapy is aimed at stopping.

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