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The bane of self-help

May 4, 2013

Do you seek help? Are you overwhelmed by the terrible pressures of modern day living? Are you-

Our modern age is full of ways to increased our low productivity. Countless self-help articles, guides and books abound promising riches and discoveries that we are incapable of achieving without a ‘special’ insight offered by the author of the self-help advice. Not all self-help advice is like this though.

What I really want to talk about is the problem associated with a public gluttonous for advice. Now, before we delve into our critique let me be clear on a point – self help can be very beneficial when of a high quality. I peruse many high quality websites and books that relate to self-help, productivity and the like. There are good things out there. The key point is to separate the wheat from the chaff – take what can benefit us and discard that which is useless. We refine towards a Grand Synthesis

Many people are addicted to self-help resources now. It’s a strange thing, but people feel positive after lots of self-help reading. “You can do anything!” , “The sky isn’t the limit” and more uplifting cries provide a surge of positive feedback.  People are telling us that we’re capable people, and praise makes us happy.

Self-help is often empowering, but so many people simply seek out ‘help’ in the form of hackneyed platitudes overflowing with pathos and not logos. At the end of these help articles they feel happy. Is this a problem? Not in and of itself, yet people are often deluded into their own growth when in fact they aren’t learning anything. Self help best works when you take…


Let me say this – thousands of great men and women have come before us and their lessons are written down. We have the experiences of all our elders to discuss when we meet them. We have amazing new research into psychology, neuroscience and more to aid us in improving ourselves. Think memory retention science over the past century. We have all of this, and yet we still feel hollow and worthless. We still waste time and feel that we’re so, so far from being who we want to be. After all of this we then go and read some self help for more advice… this is ludicrous! Let me offer a thought:

We already know enough to be brilliant.

So much is the same under the sun, but we are blind to those similarities. If we simply acted upon the habits of any of history’s greatest or actually followed through on that research we read… well, we wouldn’t be reading very much self-help!

And this is the bane of self-help. Self-help is anathema to it’s own ideals when consumed in vast quantities.

Of course we ought to peruse self help from time to time; I do it, and I say that without shame. The lessons of memory retention, the habits of our best… we would be wrong to throw them away. But, in honour of these good lessons, let us ignore the useless platitudes too often found in self-help.

We do have limits. Self-help of a certain kind often says we don’t. It tells us to push those limits. We do this best through not indulging in self-help. Act now. Don’t defer your actions through reading self-help.


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  1. False Productivity | The Holistic Thinker

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