Feb 212008

“Working it” column published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on 11/02/2008

I’m a natural sceptic, and nothing triggers that scepticism more than the swathe of self-help books that seem to weigh down the shelves of the business section in every book shop I venture in to. How many of the people who invest in these tomes actually use them to bring about real change?

Self help is an enormous industry, and has spawned some of the most “successful” self-styled gurus on the planet. With their audio programmes, seminars, books, courses and coaching services these people have become successful and wealthy beyond belief by offering others the hope that they too can achieve their own form of greatness both in their careers and in their personal lives.

But how effective are they? If these programmes, books, tools and philosophies are so great, then why aren’t there a a million Anthony Robbins (…or insert the name of your preferred self-help guru here) clones out there harnessing their “Personal Power” to achieve unlimited success?

Simple… because when most of us pick up a self-help book, course or programme the last thing we really want to do is help ourselves. We’re looking for help from someone else. We want someone else to fix our problems, someone else to give us an artificial bunk up life’s ladder. But of course that’s not the way things work.

You can’t knock the gurus. They’re living proof that the systems they’ve developed actually work, for them at least, and are often shining examples of what hard work, determination and unshakable self-belief can achieve. They’ve taken their own success, tapped in to the insecurities of the human psyche, and are now happily skimming off the top to line their ever swelling bank accounts. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that… good luck to them.

The problem with all of these things is that they don’t work unless we are committed make them work. And most of us simply aren’t.

Nothing will happen in our lives unless we first make a decision, and then following through with decisive action. Most of us struggle to overcome the inherent inertia we attach to both of these processes. We procrastinate, we pontificate, we come up with a million excuses for why that decision can be deferred for another day. Then, when we finally make the decision, we put off taking the action associated with it. And so while for a while we’re inspired, motivated and energised by what we learn, ultimately nothing changes.

I guess what I’m really sceptical of isn’t the material itself – some of it is probably very good. What I’m sceptical of is the motivation and commitment of the people who buy into it. I don’t care how effective the techniques being touted are, or how inspiring the rhetoric, unless you’re prepared to put it into practice (and how many of us really are?), the result will amount to a resounding nothing.

So next time you’re contemplating investing in a book, course or coaching programme, ask yourself whether you really are prepared to help yourself. Will you follow through: make committed decisions and follow them through with tangible action. If you’re not, then keep your money in your wallet, because the gurus have enough of it already.

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