August 25, 2015

5 Ways Self-Help Goals Kill Success (& What to Do About It).

Flickr/Commodore Gandalf Cunningham

As an intuitive guide and coach whose entire work is centered around helping people transform their lives, this article is a little ironic for me to write.

After all, the last thing I should be saying is a large part of the self-help movement is counterproductive to personal growth.

So, why would I make such a strong statement? The reason is simple:

Time and time again, I’ve seen motivated and talented people completely bust their a** working toward their goals, only to end up frustrated, overwhelmed and burned out. Day after day, they face the same blocks disguised in a dozen ways.

And it sucks.

We live in a society that tells us we can have it all: success, fame, money, the perfect spouse, career, kids—whatever. We believe success and fulfillment come to those who work hard and stay on the proverbial “grind.”

Walk into the self-help section of any bookstore, and you’ll see thousands of books claiming to teach you how to achieve this. We love learning how to create an awesome life for ourselves and others. We can’t get enough of trying to become better!

And we’re putting our money where our yearning-to-self-actualize mouth is on this one. The personal growth industry sings to the tune of 10 billion dollars in the United States alone. That’s 10 zeros, people. I know. I just googled it. It looks like this: 10,000,000,000.

I don’t know about you, but I personally find this statistic to be awesome. It means we’ve accepted the fact that we are the creators of our reality. We’ve woken up to the truth that life is inherently joyful. And it means we’ve discovered that achievement starts with personal responsibility and going within.

So what’s the problem?

If the purpose of life is to self-actualize and we have the inner drive to do it, then why aren’t more of us achieving the ever-so-sweet and sought after success we crave? Why can’t we get off the self-limitation hamster wheel?

In my opinion, the problem is this: In all this self-discovery-induced I-have-the-power-to-do-anything awesomeness, we’re losing the ability to be happy with who we are in the now.

Accomplishing stuff is great. Reaching the top of our Mount Kilimanjaro-sized goals gives our lives context, purpose and meaning.

But it becomes counter-productive when we do it at the expense of being happy with who we are, and how much we’ve already achieved in our lives.

It can lead to feelings of despondency, anxiety, low self-worth and so many other issues, which is the entire reason why we are in the self-help section of the bookstore to begin with.

Hello, hamster wheel. So lovely to see you again!

The good news is there’s an easy answer, and we don’t have to buy another self-help book to get it.

Below are the top five ways your self-help regimen could be putting the kibosh on your success and what you can do to shift back into a balance between being who you are and becoming who you desire to be.

Ask yourself the following questions. If any of this resonates, make a solid commitment to end your groundhog-day-esque goal routine and embrace a big helping of feeling awesome right now. No exterior accomplishment needed.

1. Do your goals imply that where you are now isn’t good enough?

You are at this particular point in your life for an important reason. Everything you have ever experienced has led you here. That deserves to be honored. Sure, you want to improve and make changes, but don’t be so focused on climbing the ladder of personal awesomeness that you begin to feel inadequate about who you are and what you’ve accomplished thus far.

What you can do: Realize that you rock just the way you are—warts and all. Don’t judge yourself in relation to where you think you “should be.” Know that what you perceive to be failures and shortcomings have a purpose when you take the time to see the lesson, which leads me to my next point.

2. Can you find the lesson within your challenges?

The easiest and swiftest way to make progress is to focus on the lesson at hand. You can’t progress if you don’t discover why you have the challenge to begin with. The growth you seek will happen as a natural result of learning what you are supposed to learn. That’s how it works. Period.

What you can do: Honestly ask yourself why [insert whatever-it-is] is in your life and how you can learn from it. Stay focused on the lesson and let go of outcomes.

3. Is your idea of success a moving target?

It seems that no matter how much you achieve, you want to do more. Your previous accomplishments are quickly forgotten and you are on to the next big goal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it provides you with a sense of fulfillment and you stop to recognize your success. The danger of this is that no matter how much you achieve, you will never truly be satisfied because you are always future-focused. Don’t fall into this trap.

What you can do: Get in the present moment and realize there is no one thing you will ever do that will make you feel like you’ve “made it.” Learn to enjoy the journey because it’s all you have. Seek emotional balance between the thrill of what you are a striving for and sense of pride in what you’ve already accomplished. See the greater truth, which is that you’ve already arrived.

4. Do you know what you truly want?

In order to get where you want to go, you have to understand where you are. It’s a lot like taking a trip. You can’t get to San Francisco if you don’t know what city you’re starting out from. It’s the same way with goals. You have to have a solid idea of where you are right now before you can create a viable plan to go from A to B. The vast majority of people skip this crucial step.

What you can do: Take the time to do an honest assessment of where you are right now and why you want what you want. Does achieving this goal truly honor your higher purpose and life mission, or do you want it for some other reason? Make sure you understand what is motivating you, then create a conscious plan to move forward.

5. Does the progress and change you make actually last?

True change takes time. In our fast-paced-give-it-to-me-now world, we want to see results quickly. That’s not conducive to the inner reflection needed to make lasting change. In all honesty, some people spend their entire lives learning how to overcome only one or two major life lessons to reach alignment with their higher nature. If you don’t take the proper amount of time to thoroughly work on yourself, your success will be short-lived.

What you can do: Ask yourself, “What’s the rush? What will happen if I do not accomplish this goal within the next six months or year?” The answer is probably nothing! So hold your horses, and try to enjoy the process. You are much more likely to stick to the changes you make if you are enjoying yourself and having fun.



Self-help is bad for you! So buy my book, guaranteed happiness, only $49.99.


Author: Heather Alice Shea

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Flickr/Commodore Gandalf Cunningham


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