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Self-Help Advice Doesn't Have to be Complicated

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Oftentimes, the self-help industry is criticized for being inaccessible to everyday people. There are success guru's out there telling you how you can 'easily' make a 6-figure income, quit your 9-5, or invest in crypto or some such thing to be able to retire in your 30's. For a lot of people, this advice seems out of reach in their everyday lives. But it doesn't have to be like this.

Not everyone who offers self-help advice is on the scale of Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra. You don't have to listen to all those people who tell you that you have to work 4 hours a day at your side-hustle, or get up at 5am and take a cold shower in order to be more 'successful.' There is more simple life advice out there that can be used by everyday people like you and me to improve our lives.

According to Mark Manson, here are the 5 biggest problems with the self-help industry:






A lot of self-help guru's will tell you that if you buy their course or program, your life is going to be 1000% better in 30 days or some such thing. They tell you that they have some secret answer to life that they are willing to sell you at their conference, in their book, or through their online course.

Some of the most successful marketers are the ones out there teaching you how to market your own course, book or program, just like they do. It can seem like a giant circle jerk teaching you how to be successful by teaching others how to be successful. It can be confusing. It can make you feel bad about yourself. And, a lot of times, if you try to follow all of the advice perfectly, you end up finding a lot of successful people giving you quite opposite advice from each other.

I get it. Self help is confusing, and it can make you feel bad about yourself.

That's why some of us try to break down advice into simpler and easier to use chunks. You can quite easily find a blog post or YouTube video to teach you something like how to change a tire, make French Toast, hook up your new printer, or whatever else you may happen to be struggling with.

Self-help doesn't always have to be about finding the best side-hustle, or becoming uber-successful overnight. It can answer the everyday questions of life that everyone struggles with. So when you think self-help, it can be helpful to break down your questions into more bite-sized pieces.

Setting goals can be for anyone

Even though I have written a ton about setting goals in the past, and believe in having goals as an important guiding light in my own life, I don't believe that your goal has to be to become a millionaire by the time you are 30 (I'm 40- and I'm not). There are tons of other things that we all want to focus on in our everyday lives that goal setting can assist with.

I truly believe that setting goals can help anyone and everyone, no matter where you are at in life. Right now, I am starting over in my own life, after moving back to the US from Germany. Starting out I had simple goals: finding a home, car and job. Even these goals have been more of a challenge than I thought, and this last week I have been focused on finding stable housing.

Goals for the day, week, month or year don't have to feel oppressive. They should give you clear direction and be achievable.

You can make it a goal to eat one less candy bar, smoke one less cigarette, get up five minutes earlier, or find one healthy recipe to make during the week.

Lasting change takes time, energy and effort. The truth is, most New Year's Resolutions fail by February. The biggest reasons for this are that we make too many goals, they are too difficult, or too vague. That's why it is important to start small and be very concrete. You could start with making a list on Sunday night of 3 things you want to accomplish during the week.

Then, make sure to celebrate yourself when you complete your tasks. Do something good for yourself after completing your goals, this way, it mentally reinforces your new goal-setting behavior. Buy yourself a treat, take a hot bath, a nice walk, or a nap. Or, write down all your accomplishments in a list so you can look back at it later and see how far you have come over time.

Our brains like rewards. We like winning. This is why it is so important to make your first goals small - so that you get an easy win. After a few weeks of easy wins, then you can start setting harder goals, because the reward center of your brain has become attuned to feeling good when you accomplish a goal.

According to Fast Company, you can start super small with your new goals or habits, like committing to floss just one tooth:

The “floss one tooth” example is a classic of productivity, care of Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg, whose research into lazy-smart habit formation we’ve talked about before. Since the habit is so tiny–like flossing one tooth–you’ll feel ridiculous for not getting it into your day. Then, over time, that minuscule becomes a part of your day, rather than no part at all. You could think of that absurdly tiny habit as a skeleton for an extension of your routine–once it becomes “normal” to your routine, you’ll glide right into it.

Making lasting change in your life is much easier if you start small. I started with my own tiny health habits several years ago because my health insurance had a program to help save $20 per month. Not huge, but it worked. Things like, "take the stairs one time a day" or "eat a healthy breakfast" or "take a 5 minute walk."

Each week, the program would focus on just one habit, and you would track in the website that you had done it. If you did all 4 habits for the month, you would get the $20. Combining easy habits with a small reward was what made this program work for me.

Much easier than deciding to go vegan overnight, or earn 10K per month from a new side-hustle. Start small, then build over time. You don't have to make your life 'perfect' by tomorrow in order to be successful. Real success, and real change take time.

If you are really struggling

When you are going through deeply challenging times in life, much of the advice you get from so-called success guru's feels out of reach. They are marketing to people who already have enough spare cash to buy their program or whatever. It can be easy to get pissed off when you hear out of touch advice. I totally get it.

If you feel lost in life, or like you are falling off the bottom of the food chain in society due to things like poor mental health, poverty, relationship problems, lack of education, access to basic needs, you need a different kind of self help. One that meets you where you are.

This can come from different kinds of professionals who are used to working with people in a similar situation:

  • Therapists and psychiatrists

  • Addictions recovery clinics

  • County social services

  • Charitable organizations

  • Churches or faith organizations

In addition to established organizations that are meant to help people who feel like there is nowhere else to turn, you can always go to the public library. It's free. You can read books that will help you with your situation, or use their free public computers to research your situation. Sometimes, libraries offer useful classes, too. So, even if you don't have your own phone or computer to ask Google what to do, the library is a great place to go.

The US Department of Health and Human Services is a great place that can help you begin to locate services in your local area. You can learn about programs that provide emergency financial assistance, medical insurance, programs for children and families, services for disabilities, and more.

Once you contact your local Human Services office, there may either be an online or paper application to fill out. You can request help with the forms at your local office as well. In addition to the services they provide, they can provide additional lists of local resources such as:

  • Local food banks

  • Lists of emergency shelters

  • Help with rent or utilities

  • Help finding work

  • Help applying for disability

  • Phone and internet assistance

  • Mental health & substance abuse resources

Many of these resources will vary based on your location, which is what makes finding a local office so helpful. The representatives there will be able to refer you to additional programs you may qualify for in order to best meet your needs.

Self Help looks different for everyone

At different times in our lives, we naturally need different things. Although there are many organizations that can provide support - often free of charge - there is still work that we each have to do on an individual level. We have to go to our appointments, make the hard phone calls, fill out the forms. It can be extremely difficult at times, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We just have to keep going to be able to find it.

Let me know in the comments if this information is helpful, and what other topics you would like me to cover here on the blog! It is my goal to be able to meet people where they are, and provide as many resources as I am able. I always love hearing from you guys, and if I can't answer the questions in the comments section in a comprehensive way, I will address them in a future blog posting!

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