There are so many ways to find happiness. Just peruse the self-help section in your local bookstore and you’ll find doctors, actors, impassioned speakers, and school-of-hard-knock types, all offering tomes of redemption and paths to “balance.”
I hate that word. Ever since “finding balance” became a quest for ordinary folk, I’ve failed miserably. What does it mean? Finding my daily Zen is about as remote as finding the $10 I lost when I was in third grade.
I more often find myself sniffing clothes to see if they’re clean, rushing to pick up my son from school, and putting in extra hours of work to stay ahead. Meditation happens sporadically, exercise slightly more, but luckily I laugh a lot.
However, balance is what the self-help books are offering. We can get more organized, tap into a deep, meaningful relationship with our spouse (or kid or whoever), we can lose weight, manage our boss, get ahead, and live our dream. Sure.
An ugly realization
The film interviewed Professor John Norcross of the University of Scranton, an expert on all things self-help. He has studied over 1,000 different books and programs in the genre and estimates that more than 95% of all self-help books are published without any scientific research attesting to their effectiveness or safety.
So to boil that down, more than 95% of self-help books are full of crap.
Where does that leave us?
May I suggest, without any research to back me up, that we just give ourselves a break? If we’re desperately unhappy then professionals such as career counselors, therapists, and ministers should be on our schedules. But if we’re just run-of-the-mill ho-hum then how about setting small goals to get to a bigger goal?
Think big, Act small
We all have lofty goals and idealized fantasies of life. We all have the capacity to achieve this but we need to break it down into smaller steps.
Here’s an example: I’m in the process of moving my Pilates studio. I can’t “wish it into life;” I have to act on it with a thousand little decisions. I’m keeping my eye on the big idea, but I’m breaking it down into a host of smaller steps.
I’ve got my peeps too. My friends, family, and staff are all helping me get there. I nicely asked for their help before I dove into a project as large as this.
Back to those self-help books
So you can buy a self-help book if you wish, but how ’bout this: just pick a goals big or small, and then figure out how to get there.
Create an inspiring moment, maybe candlelight and a glass of wine, or just a quiet, sunny spot after a good night’s sleep, and pick a dream. Break down the parts and figure out how to get there. Begin with Step 1, check it off, and move on to Step 2. I doubt you’ll need a self-help book to get you there, but maybe a “how to” guide for a skill that is new to you.
You’ll get there, with or without that self-help book. Maybe you won’t feel “balanced” when you reach your goal, but I bet you’ll feel rather proud of yourself. I know I will. I’ll be celebrating with a big ol’ party too.
What do you think? Have you found self-help books to be helpful? Or just a distraction full of frustrations?