How to Get Real Help from Self-help Hype
Everywhere we go – the internet, the book store, the grocery store check-out line – carefully crafted headlines fight to sell us on the implausible yet tempting idea that we can have, be, and do whatever we want by next month, this Friday, right this minute. All we have to do is simply stop trying so hard and swallow some simplistic regimen. A vacation home, dream job, soul mate, ageless body, or whatever else we’re after can be ours forever if we just read these three secrets or those five easy steps. “Yeah, right!” we seasoned adults say right back to all the quick-fix remedies competing for our attention. “Do you really think I’m gonna fall for that?”
As a woman who earns her living from helping people to clarify and cultivate their goals and dreams, I can certainly see that in this age of transformation and reinvention, empty personal improvement rhetoric is one of the most prevalent snake oils on the market. But what I also see is that real wisdom can be found in overblown antidotes if you take them with a grain or two of salt. The solution is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, but to turn self-help hype into real help by applying common sense to the pumped up promises.
Here are three examples of how self-help fluff can become solid counsel:
The hype: The outcome you want will manifest if you envision it.
Real help: Imagination alone will not make things happen, but it can definitely help. Picturing a passing grade when you haven’t studied for a test won’t get you very far. But ask any successful athlete and they will tell you that they win more than they lose because they vividly visualize the results they want as they train. If you focus your mind on what you desire AND work hard to bring your goal to fruition, you are more likely to be successful.
The hype: You can catapult yourself to the next level by talking ‘as if’ you are already there.
Real help: Saying affirmations – telling yourself you are capable and confident in this or that area when you don’t feel that way — will indeed move you steadily where you want to go. But here’s the catch: your affirmations can’t be too big a stretch. If you’re up to your ears in unfinished projects, your brain will reject “Everything is done and I feel great” but “I’m tackling my projects one rewarding step at a time” will likely bring about a sense of progress. Likewise, “I enjoy moving my body” will be more motivating than “I love working out six days a week” if you’re just decided to get off the couch and exercise.
The hype: Positive thinking makes life pain-free.
Real help: There is no question that glass-half-full people have it made. It follows that those who complain less than others are more fun to be around and attract better opportunities. But let’s be clear here: optimism will make you more resilient in the face of heartache, disappointment, and failure, but not immune to the curveballs all adults are dealt. Optimism is about taking in the whole picture, embracing the good and the bad, and choosing to focus on what’s going well over what’s wrong. Whether you’re sizing up the economy, the cyberspace dating pool, or a half-baked self improvement suggestion, you’re bound to fare better if you practice a hopeful perspective.
Amy Wood, Psy.D. is a Portland, Maine-based psychologist in private practice. Through psychotherapy, executive and life coaching, management consulting, workshops, and speaking engagements, she strives to help adults articulate and accomplish their own versions of success. She is the author of the best-selling, award-winning book Life Your Way, which covers ten powerful principles for living and working well amid the overwhelm of our fast-paced world. To learn more, go to www.amywoodpsyd.com.
57 Exchange Street, Suite 403
Portland, Maine 04101
Author, Speaker, Success Strategist