The Self Help Formula

OK, here goes. I have a confession to make ……

I have a vice. No, it’s not drugs, or alcohol, or gambling. For me, it’s probably more powerful than those things.

I am a self-help addict. Whew! There, I said it. 🙂

I am interested in, and fascinated by, all the great literature, leading speakers and successful ideas that have come from the field of self-help.

Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich). I’ve got most of their books, and I make it a habit to read them regularly.

Now if you’re skeptical, let me suggest that at it’s core, self help is based on a simple concept. The basic premise of self help is this: Success leaves clues.

We have been on the planet for centuries, and we’ve been dealing with most of the same human nature problems over that time. The answers to most of these problems have been worked out centuries ago. As Jim Rohn likes to say, “There are no “new” fundamentals”. Fortunately, we now have that information at our fingertips, if we choose to learn the lessons and practice the behaviors.

But I’ve recently come to realize a dirty little secret in the industry, it’s something no one wants to say, but it’s true …..

About half of what is published in the Self Help literature doesn’t work. That … is a fact, but there’s a logical explanation. Let me make my case.

Consider this example:

One guy is a perfectionist. Give him a problem and he’ll analyze it, study it, develop a comprehensive plan to attack it, have the plan reviewed and updated. Everything but actually get started doing something.

On the other hand is impulsive guy. He can’t wait to get started. His idea of a plan is 2 points jotted down on the back of a napkin, and that’s 1 point too many. Forget planning, full speed ahead.

Perfectionist guy needs to hear messages like “fortune favors the bold”, “seize the day” and take action.

Impulsive guy needs to hear messages like “look before you leap”, “failing to plan is planning to fail”, etc.

Buy wait a minute – This is confusing! Those two messages are diametrically opposed.

And if you ask me which principle is correct, I will tell you…. IT DEPENDS!

It depends on what problem you have, on where I am on the continuium. What problem am I trying to solve?

If you are a perpetual procrastinator, you need the advice to take action.

If you tend to hop on every bandwagon that comes along and get started before you are even sure where it is you are heading, messages about planning, strategy and foresight are required.

But we tend to pick up a self-help book, read it and probably like it’s ideas, but if they’re not the solution to a problem we have, they won’t produce any change.

So you see, it’s really not that one approach or the other is wrong.

It just depends on where you are, what you need.

One size does not fit all; one piece of advice does not solve every problem.

The wisdom is not just in the message, but it know which message you need to embrace

That’s why it can be helpful to have a trusted friend, or spouse, or coach, or counselor, who can help us identify clearly which problem should be solved, so we come up with the right solution.


Even when we know ourselves, and we seek out and find the right message to change a situation in our lifes for the better, we still have to turn that idea into a habit.

And habits require repitition.

And we generally don’t stick with anything long enough to make it into a new habit.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

So my message to you is this:

1. If you choose to embark on a journey of self-improvement, be careful and choose the right messsage for the change you are seeking, and

2. Understand that having the right information is only part #1 of the solution. Part #2 is spending the time and energy necessary to make that thought, belief, or behavior a habit in your life, so that you can reap the benefits you were seeking.

I’ll leave you with this thought:

Comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famous lawyer who served as an :

“The great thing in the world is not so much knowing where we stand, as in knowing what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice on the Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932)

If you want to change the direction of an area of your life, get the right solution to your problem, and repeately hold the thoughts and behaviors in your life until they become habits, and self-help can enable you to make meaningful changes in your life.

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