One thing that I have learned along this journey is that there are many popular self-help teachings that on the surface seem to make sense and be helpful, but are actually disempowering and manipulative.
These teachings lead people to inaction, keep them dependent on their teachers, and prevent people from creating the life they desire.
Here are the 13 most popular self-help teachings that are complete lies and hold people back from living a life of purpose and passion.
1. Happiness Can Be Taught
All those famous self help gurus will boast about how they will teach you how to find happiness. Researcher Nassim Taleb made the observation, while at a happiness conference, that happiness researchers didn’t look very happy.
Happiness is not often found by reading books on “How to Be Happy”. It’s found by maintaining a healthy body and mind and doing things that make you happy.
Happiness only happens when you are actively looking for it, it just sort of slips in behind you when you are doing things that feed your soul.
Gurus that talk about how they can show you what happiness is will really just show you some statistics about what brings all the people in this nation the most joy.
Okay, that is great and all but doesn’t really apply to us.
I am not average. You are not average.
What makes someone else happy won’t always work for you. And how boring would that be anyway.
2. The Universe Is Rooting For You
Many of you will not like this, but it must be said. This myth is the source of great frustration and suffering. It is used to cover up ineffective teachings, and as an excuse for people relinquish their seat of power.
The universe is not conspiring for you to succeed. The universe is not conspiring against either.
The universe is not conspiring towards anything. The universe is just there. It does not judge. It is impartial. It has no morals or feelings.
It acts according to specific laws and principles of science.
If you doubt this then just look around our world. Too many people die poor, lonely, angry, sad, and frustrated for this myth to be true. Where was their greatest good? When was the universe planning on providing it for them?
The universe will bring whatever you choose into your world. The universe does not judge if this is good for you or bad for you. It does not consider if you are deemed worthy or unworthy. It simply provides you with that which you choose. The universe reacts to you.
Many people are lead to believe that the universe is going to make all of the selections, decisions, and choices for them. People are under the misguided belief that the universe will someday deliver that which they need.
If we want consistent and predictable results we must take deliberate control of our lives. We must claim our seat of power, and remain in control.
You can have, be, and do anything and everything that you want to. Waiting for the universe to provide it to you all on its own is not the way to accomplish this though.
The universe is not conspiring for your own good. It will bring you pain just as easily as it will bring you pleasure. We need to take accountability for our worlds. We have chosen everything in them. We have chosen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our goal is to choose things deliberately.
It is time to properly choose your life!
You are powerful. You are unique. You have purpose. Take accountability for your world.
Have, be, and do anything and everything that you desire!
3. You Just Have To Be Positive
Like all of the other teachings in this post “just having a positive attitude” is, on the surface, a good practice. Having a positive attitude will often lead to a better outcome than having a negative attitude.
This is obvious to anyone; however, this teaching is often used by the self-help industry to induce complacency and inaction.
Some of the big names gurus who promote this include Tony Robbins, Think and Grow Rich, The Power of Positive Thinking, and about 80% of all other self help gurus.
There are currently millions of people who have adopted this teaching as it is popularly taught. Previously they were going nowhere in their lives. Now the only thing that has changed in their lives is that they are feeling good about going nowhere. I think this is a problem. I want results.
Far too many people are taught that all they need to do is feel good and then everything they want will come into their lives. Although it is true that you do need to feel good in order to have, be, and do what you want, simply feeling good will not deliver them to you all on its own.
In their efforts to feel good most people merely push down negative thoughts and feelings and wrap them up in a pretty bag of positivity.
This leads to frustration, anger, and ultimately bringing the things they do not want into their lives. There is a big difference between actually feeling happy and pretending to feel good. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it is still just a pig.
Research by Frederickson and Losada found out that too many positives become harmful above a certain threshold.
4. Focus On The Silver Lining
This self help teaching dates all the way back to the beginning of this movement. Pretend that bad things don’t happen, and it is like they never happened.
This teaching evolved for some good ideas including: “control your thoughts or your thoughts will control you” and “thoughts are things”. Both of these are true, the trouble comes when gurus manipulate and twist those ideas.
Yes, there is always a silver lining. But, there is always a negative side too. Facing both of those sides give you power.
Things will happen that suck and you shouldn’t feel scared to say, “This sucks.” Loudly and honestly proclaim the suck of the situation – but then force yourself to see the good. There is good.
5. Create Your Own Reality
It is easy to believe that if you just want it bad enough and believe in it, then it will happen.
I believe I can run a 3 minute mile.
I believe I will be a successful business owner.
I believe I will be a millionaire by the time I turn 40.
If I just believe hard enough, it will happen right??!??
Reality is mostly perceptions so we can make it whatever we want. Stretch what you think is possible and expand what you believe is possible. But don’t pretend to believe what you don’t.
It’s easy to believe in creating a dream life for yourself and then not take any steps towards achieving it. Try replacing your beliefs with intentions, and see how much farther you will get.
6. Procrastinating Will Always Lead To Failure.
Procrastinating is made out to be the hell in which college students become college dropouts. According to lots of self help gurus, procrastinating, in the worst sin of productivity and accomplishment.
Consider for a moment all the great things Leonardo da Vinci is known for. According to wikipedia:
“Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.”
They go on to say:
“Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive, the small number because of his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques and his chronic procrastination.”
If Leonardo da Vinci was a chronic procrastinator and he still achieved all he did and we still think of him as a genius, then maybe procrastinating isn’t all bad.
Rarely when you procrastinate do you do nothing. I bet you get a lot of stuff done—just not the stuff you intended to do. The well known computer scientist Paul Graham writes, “The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators.”
We will always procrastinate, and so instead of learning how not to procrastinate, we should learn how to procrastinate well.
- Which Type Of Procrastinator Are You?
- Top 10 Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Spark Your Motivation
- Procrastination or Perfectionism?
- What is Procrastination and Why We Do It? – Backed By Science
- Hidden Benefits of Procrastination
7. When The Time Is Right, It Will All Work Out
Many people do not realize how disempowering this teaching is.
It implies that things are out of our control. It states that there is some power outside yourself that may allow you to have things when it deems it to be the right time.
It implies that you are powerless to alter the timeline of things in your life at that you are at the mercy of something else.
It is amazing how many teachings will tell you that you can be, do, and have everything that you want, but only when some other power says you can have it.
These are two very contradictory teachings. Either you are powerful and in control of your own life, or you aren’t.
This teaching leads to helplessness and inaction. People will continue doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
Either a teaching works or it doesn’t. If you have been applying a teaching for a long time and you do not have substantial changes in your life then you should probably something else – something that works.
8. So And So Has A Plan For You
I understand that this may not sit will with all of you but hear me out. I am for having believes and faith in something but don’t let it take away your own power.
This teaching takes away all your personal power and has the added burden of trying to please or manipulate that higher power that has a plan for you.
The two problems that occur here are:
1. We normally have to please this entity by behaving in particular ways in order to earn, or be deserving of, the great purpose and future it has planned for us.
2. We have not way of directly communicating with this entity, so how do we know if we are abiding by their rules. So we resort to trying to interpret “signs from above” or we rely on other people who claim to know and understand what it is this higher power wants from us.
The limitations here are rather clear.
We become dependent on, and obedient to, those people who claim to know how the entity wants us to behave.
This takes away our power to determine our own fate and create our own lives.
You are self-sovereign.
There is no power that has control over your future accept for you.
9. Mental Barriers Are Stopping You
People are often told that the things they are being taught work, but their some sort of mental barriers are preventing them from working.
This teaching leads to a lot of dependency on the guru. The practice of breaking down these mental barriers is a bottomless self help pit, and it puts all of the blame for the lack of results on you.
Some gurus you may have heard of that use this method include: Tony Robins, Robert Doyle, Peter Drucker, and many more.
The subconscious, by definition, cannot be consciously known. You can therefore be exploring it and ‘breaking down’ those mental barriers forever.
Just as a magician can continuously produce objects out of thin air, another mental block can always be made to seem to appear to replace the one you just removed. A person can spend their entire life removing these blocks if they are under the guidance of a crafty teacher.
The entire time that the student is working on this they will be told that the techniques and philosophies they have been taught to improve their world are accurate and effective. They will be told either directly or indirectly, that any lack of results is their fault, not the fault of the teachings.
Remember that these famous gurus make their living “helping” people. If they provided solutions that actually worked and not just admission to the ever revolving self help carrisell then they would be out of business.
10. You Just Need To Be Fixed
The greatest trick in the self-help world is that it is always implied that if the teachings do not work for you, then you need to be fixed.
This is false. You do not need to be fixed. You are a dynamic creative force. You are creating your world right now, as we speak. You have been doing it 24 hours a day since you were born, and you will be doing it until you pass from this life.
If a teaching is not working for you then there is not something wrong with you, there is something wrong with the teaching.
If something is a cosmic, or universal law, then it should work for everyone – all the time no matter what.
Gravity does not have different effects on different people. Neither do the laws of lift, acceleration, or thermodynamics.
If you are practicing a teaching that works for some people and not others then the teaching is either wrong or incomplete.
Here are a few fact you should remember when someone says you are broken.
–You are not broken. You do not need fixed
-You are unique
-You are more powerful than you realize
-You always have, are currently, and always will determine what’s in your life
-You have a role and a purpose in the universe.
-You don’t attract. You choose. It is time to choose your life!
11. Just Appreciate What You Have
Appreciation is a very powerful thing. Appreciating what you have is vital in order for you to move forward and attain what you want to attain.
The way that appreciation is normally taught to people is good, but it will hold you back from attaining your full potential.
As kids we are taught to appreciate what we have, and what people do. We are taught that we should always look to the positive side of situations, and feel good about what we do have instead of feeling bad about what we don’t have.
I agree that it is far better to focus on what we have than it is to focus on what is missing.
The standard teaching of appreciation therefore is a very good base for people to start from. Being grateful for what you have and appreciating it will serve you well. It is limited however.
By properly appreciating what you have you will be constantly recreating having it in your world. You will not move backwards, however, it will also not bring you forwards. This is how many people attain a certain level of success and then plateau.
They stagnate at a certain level and do not grow, or evolve, any further. These people attain a certain level of success, and they continually appreciate it. This continual and proper appreciation continuously helps to create the same state within their world over and over again.
Appreciating a penny will bring you a penny.
12. Find A Way To Release Your Anger
We have all heard it. You cannot move forward in life if anger is holding you back.
Bottling up anger and negative emotions is destructive. Hence, it’s much better to let them all go.
Yet research has found the opposite.
13. Some Things Are Just Meant To Be
There are not many statements that are more disempowering than ‘Things are meant to be’.
We see it again and again in popular media. It is crippling. It hands people’s power of choice over to something outside of themselves, and resigns them to a fate that they feel is predetermined.
You are powerful. There is nothing in your life that is predetermined.
Everything is up to you.
You can be, do, and have everything and anything that you want.
Your hand is on the rudder.
The only question is – will you steer your ship, or just let it drift upon the waves?
Although a few rare people who are convinced they have a glorious predetermined destiny will be motivated by the phrase ‘Things are meant to be’, the majority of the population is condemned to inaction by this statement. It is completely disempowering.
Nothing is ‘meant’ to be. There is no power outside yourself that has already determined what your future will be. There is no power ensuring that everything will turn our all right for you, and there is no power restricting what you can achieve. Everything is up to you!
How To Spot Self Help Lies
Self help gurus are masters at telling beautiful stories of how so and so turned their life around and starting living a glorious life. The are also masters at convincing people that their method, theory, book, course, or seminar is the solution that will work for everyone.
Gurus are so good at their jobs that is can be very hard to spot the truth in all the bull shit that they feed you. Here is a simple checklist to follow that will help you navigate through all the crappy advise.
Is the advice a sales pitch?
If the advice is packaged in a sales pitch chances are that its goal is to grab attention and sell… Not necessarily to share what’s useful and what’s true.
Does it sound too easy, simple or generic?
Life rarely is simple and easy and generalizations almost always fall into the category of “poor advice”.
Does it refer to multiple research studies?
Notice the word MULTIPLE. A single research example is almost meaningless.
Does it make sense?
You will notice that some self-help myth doesn’t even make sense (ie.: verbal communication is only 7% of the meaning).
Does it use correlation?
Remember: correlation is not causation.
The self-help gurus who don’t get this are either dumb or in bad faith.
Does it provide actual measures?
“Better”, “more”, “quicker” mean nothing.
How better, how much more, how quicker?
Plenty of research shows a correlation between and weather and stock performance.
Yet, would you invest based on the weather?
No, because the effect is minimal.
You need to take 100% accountability and responsibility for where you are in life, and for where you will go. All of it is under your influence and direction. You can be, do, and have everything or anything that you want. You can also be, do, and have mediocrity. You can also be, do and have nothing.
The choice is entirely yours. It is time to choose your life!
So how does one continue to evolve and move forward? In order to evolve and move forward a person must create more in their lives. Their desires must continue the evolutionary cycle of being fulfilled and expanding.