Coaching Personal Growth

Why “Self-Help” is Misleading


The principle at the core of all personal growth (a.k.a. “self-help”) literature is:

Your life is your responsibility.

Your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions are under your control.

If you wish to grow as an individual, you must take responsibility for your success, and do what’s in your power to accomplish your goals.

This is a very liberating idea.

Rather than see yourself as the victim of circumstance and other people’s decisions, you can focus on your own abilities and the opportunities open to you to achieve happiness. People and circumstances can’t dictate how you feel. That’s a choice for you to make.

“Self-help” literature is intended to equip you with the beliefs and practices that make your life journey easier and more enjoyable.

However, it can also make things much more difficult for you.

“Self-Help” is Misleading

I’m not talking about the harms of bad advice, dangerous practices, or an unhealthy obsession with self-help books. These, and many more, are potential harms that we need to be aware of.

But what I’m talking about here is our understanding of what self-help means, and how to go about improving our lives.

The reason why self-help is misleading is that it gives the impression that you have to approach personal growth – and your life problems – on your own.

After all, you’re helping yourself out and taking responsibility for your own life, so why rely on others to do that for you?

For many years, this was an impression that was firmly ingrained in my subconscious, even though I would consciously reject it. One of my earliest posts here was about the value of coaching, but I’ve always refused to get a coach because I thought that I can – and have to – do things on my own.

It’s in the name: self-help!

But recently, I discovered what I’ve been missing out on all this time, and how getting a life coach can be a life-changing experience.

Life Coach or Magician?

Blogger and life coach Tim Brownson recently offered free life coaching for the winner of a contest he was running, and ended up picking six winners to try out his coaching at no charge.

I was one of the winners.

So far, I’ve had only 2 sessions with Tim.

They consisted of friendly chats over Skype. About how I was feeling overwhelmed with all the ideas I had for this blog (and other projects), and what I can do about being overwhelmed. Most of what we talked about I already knew, but Tim picked out a few tips for me to try out.

The result?

I hadn’t written a blog post for over 3 weeks before my first session with Tim. During the week after my first session, I wrote 3 posts!

After my second session, I wrote 2 posts and managed to complete a guide that I’ve been struggling with for over 2 months… in a week!

Since the first session, I feel much more relaxed about my work and can focus much more easily.

I still can’t quite put my finger on what Tim did, but it worked!

Interaction with a fellow human being, especially one who can understand what you’re going through and direct your awareness to the solutions you can use, is a powerful approach to self-help.

If you feel like talking to someone or getting a life coach, don’t let the name fool you: Self-help isn’t about doing things on your own.

It’s about figuring out what’s best for you and pursuing the things that can bring your life forward.

Even if it’s to ask others for help.

Have you ever felt the need to do things on your own, and ashamed to ask others for help?

Do you have any life coaching experience you’d like to share?

If so, then please leave a comment below!

Photo credit: caesararum


How Coaching Works

Coaching can be an extremely effective tool in achieving your goals, but it is largely misunderstood. The common assumption is that you need a professional coach to guide you, but this is rarely the case.

Although there’s a great deal to mention about coaching, I’d like to begin addressing this topic here by first explaining how coaching works.

Thinking and Doing

To achieve any goal, you often have to think things through and get things done. But these are two different roles you are playing. Thinking has its own purpose and processes, and doing has its own purpose and processes.

Your performance might slow down while you are struggling to make sense of some ideas, or trying to come up with a comprehensive plan to achieving your goal. While you are busy thinking, you are delaying the doing.

This can be overwhelming at times, which leads to an eruption of unhealthy emotions, such as stress, worry, anxiety, fear, depression, etc.

So you are now dealing with 3 things: ideas you wish to clarify, actions you want to undertake and emotions you need to resolve. Juggling the three hinders your performance on all three fronts. You won’t be able to think clearly, you can’t get your work done and you can’t control your emotions.

Of course there are many ways in which such situations can be handled. Getting a coach is one of these ways.

Division of Labor

The reason why coaching is so effective is that it divides the labor between yourself and someone else: the coach manages the thinking and you handle the doing.

With this division, the negative emotions you experience will be reduced, because you no longer feel overwhelmed while oscillating between two different functions: thinking and doing.

You can then focus solely on single tasks, without worrying about the tasks ahead of you, or what your plan is. You simply get work done.

If you look at the way a football match is played, you will realize that a lot of thought is put into the way the players play. But do the individual players have to worry about coming up with winning strategies? Do they need to think of how the other players should work on the pitch?

No they don’t. This is handled by the coach. All the players have to worry about is playing their part and doing the best they possibly can.

Coaching can work in a similar way when it comes to achieving personal goals.

We’ll look more into how coaching is carried out in future blog posts!