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What if I told you that self-help books are just one big scam? They do nothing more than tell you what you already know with some new polish. If you would stop making excuses and relying on external things to motivate you, you would be just fine. Your relentless pursuit of a life with only happiness is the real problem. Get over yourself.
Pretty harsh, yeah?
Well, Oliver Burkeman, in his book "The Antidote," makes the following points in his argument against the obsessive pursuit of happiness:
- When we look past all of the marketing and catchphrases, Self-help books are a waste of time, if not wholly false.
- The author explicitly mentions Two best-selling books: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and How to Win Friends and Influence People. The former tells us to figure out what is important to us and do it. The latter tells us to be friendly and use people's first names. Not very groundbreaking.
- Many books equate wealth and happiness, which he views as flawed, often citing the Yale study from 1953 where 3% of the graduating class said they had concrete goals written down. In the study. Researchers reviewed those graduates 20 years later; those 3% had more wealth than the other 97% combined. The problem is that the study never really happened.
- This wealth equals happiness equation also fails when looking at international studies, specifically citing a survey where Nigeria, where 92% of the population lives on $2 a day, came in the first place.
Burkeman advocates for an alternate view where we:
- Confront our fears for what they are, nothing more.
- Accept that there are negative things in life.
- Live in the moment without worrying about what might happen.
- Stop worrying about what you don't control.
It sounds like a self-help book telling me not to read other self-help books. Still, Burkeman makes a good point: pursuing a life without negativity wastes time.
This concept works great when our thoughts are balanced and reasonable, but we all know that isn't always the case.
That's when that little voice inside becomes a real jerk.
We all have self-talk reels playing in our minds. Sometimes it gets us pumped up or assures us we are doing great. But it can bring negative.
That voice tells us that everyone will laugh at us if we dance (maybe that one is just me). The same one says you are terrible at presentations, you will never get promoted, and you are awful and building partnerships.
Those reels are your inner voice trying to protect you from failure. But it also prevents you from taking the high risks that help you grow.
A few powerful reframing mechanisms keep us rooted in truth instead of fear.
Go deeper with additional reading and resources at the end of this article.
Thoughts create emotions, so learning to control our thoughts is a good investment. You may have been exposed to this if you have spoken to a counselor as part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- All or Nothing thinking. Always and never are rarely valid.
- Discounting the positive. "I got lucky."
- Jumping to conclusions. "They got the job because of whom they know."
- Emotional reasoning. Coming to an unreasonable conclusion based only on emotion - not reason.
Those are the red flags. When that voice in your head triggers one, here are some things you can do:
- Recognize you are having the thoughts. It takes practice to pause and become self-aware, but this is where it starts.
- Look at the facts. Remove all of your feelings and put on your reason hat.
- Be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as you would a friend or family member, with forgiveness and compassion.
We all have the same battle in our heads between reason and emotion, the risk-taker and the protector. Although seemingly automatic, it is not uncontrollable, and with practice, we can identify and reframe those thoughts into reproductive ones.
Take control, build the skills, and reach farther than ever toward your potential.