Self-Helped to Death
For the greater part of my adult life, I’ve been attracted to non-fiction books, typically of the self- help variety, particularly with a spiritual slant. Everything from The Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras to my latest audio book – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*C$. (Apologies for the language, but that is indeed, the title of the book. It’s no coincidence I was attracted to its author, Mark Manson, and his writing.) I’ve always sought out ways to learn, grow, and improve and on the surface, this would seem to be a positive quality. But if there’s one thing I have learned in my latter years of adulthood, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
By consistently seeking out advice or guidance and tools or techniques to achieve a life we desire, we are stating that we need improving. As if the way we are currently isn’t good enough. Good enough to be loved. Good enough to be successful in our career. Good enough to attract the partner we want. It immediately puts us in a state of lack, thereby attracting the very thing we seek to change. This can be a mind twister so I’ll let it sink in a little bit. By arduously trying to shape shift our body, our minds, our life, we are acting out of a place that believes we need shape shifting. Like attracts like. I’m not saying if you are overweight without a job and living in your parents’ basement scouring the Internet for hot chicks (or guys) that you couldn’t use a swift kick in the ass and a lesson or two. However, these are usually not the people stockpiling How To Be Happy books and dumping dollars into life coaches, gurus and juice cleanses.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the well-meaning advice out there without actually doing anything about it. When it comes right down to it, all the self –help books and blogs aren’t worth the paper (or screen) they’re printed on if you continue to sit on your ass and read about the life you want. Intention is worthless without action. One of my favorite descriptions of yoga comes from the aforementioned Bhagavad Gita. When Arjuna, the warrior is paralyzed with fear upon learning he is about to battle his own flesh and blood, Krishna states in no uncertain terms that he must not turn over and quit. Yoga is the path of action. He wasn’t speaking about a vinyasa flow. While stillness in our practice is required to gain clarity and insight, ultimately, real change happens on the battlefield of life.
Change does not happen easily or on its own. It is the very reason so few of us actually realize our New Year’s resolutions or succeed in goals we set. But maybe, just maybe, the goals we set aren’t truly aligned with meaningful values. You can set a goal to eat healthier or lose weight or earn more money or find the perfect partner, but at the end of the day, do these really offer true, lasting happiness? Or more depression? Maybe it’s a matter of adjusting our values. Maybe in an era where leading the path to self-improvement has become the career du jour – think yoga teachers, “life coaches,” nutritionists, boutique fitness studios, etc. – it’s not actually us that needs improving. It’s our values.
The irony that I am included in the category of folks I just mentioned is not lost on me. In the past couple of months, I’ve questioned my career and my place in this health and wellness space. While I may continue a career in what I’ve considered for a majority of my adult life to be my calling, I very well may not. I may want to get married and pop out a kid. The pressure to be some big teacher that changes the world has been lifted. My most meaningful values now center around joy and love – no matter what my livelihood looks, or doesn’t look, like.
All I’m saying is the next time you seek out advice or sign up for another 30 day challenge or dole out hundreds of dollars on the next Tony Robbins seminar, ask yourself why. If your rationale is based in strong values and will truly lead you to more joy and better problems (as Mark Manson discusses in his book, there is no such thing as a life without problems – just a life with better problems), go for it. But know that ultimately YOU must decide what is right for you at this point in time – which will hopefully be different than two years ago and undeniably be different than two years from now. While some people are swearing off sugar for 2017, I’ve decided to eat more ice cream. While some are committing to 5 weekly visits to the gym, I’m resisting the urge to go every day. While some will decide that I’m an idiot and toss this out the window, I would agree. My only motto for 2017 is “do something different.” Not get better at something. Not improve myself. Just get a little uncomfortable. It’s in discomfort, not enhancement, that true change and happiness can grow.