For the next several weeks I'm going to be doing a deep dive into all the ways the self help/personal growth world is setting us up to believe that self help/personal growth are the ONLY things one will ever need in order to create their dream life.
I'm going to break down why self help/personal growth manipulates us into spending way more of our time and resources on 'answers' to our problems that are in fact, not answers, and how the toxic positivity of the whole industry is harmful.
We're going to go through all the inconsistencies we can find in the industry when compared with reality with a fine toothed comb.
So if you've been trying to improve your life using self help - and finding that you're not getting the results you've been looking for - I hope this series will help you figure out what's ACTUALLY going on - that it's not you, it's not you failing and that the industry isn't 100% set up to support you.
This is important stuff if we want to be able to get what IS good out of the self help world.
So let's begin.
A Dream Life Isn't All Dopamine Hits All The Time
The TRUTH about following your dreams that personal growth/self help gurus won’t tell you about the realities of building a life that feels good for you/living your dreams:
It’s not all FACING YOUR WORST FEARS or FOLLOWING YOUR BLISS.
It’s not all high highs where you’re connecting with your purpose and feeling like you’re doing what you were born to do.
It’s not all extreme challenge where you’re being forced to look at your deepest fears and insecurities.
It’s not one of those things where you always *know* what you should be doing, and just have to find the motivation/push past your fears in order to do it.
It’s not all cutting ties with everyone in your old life who doesn’t support your dreams and passions so that you can find your TRUE ‘soul tribe’ - that group of people who just GET you and are there to be supportive and compassionate as you journey towards your mountain top.
It’s not a life filled with Oscar moments, or a life filled with the fire that you know deep down is burning away all that isn’t you, so that the real you can be revealed.
It’s not a life where you constantly have a story to weave about how everything is working out for you/falling apart for you in the EXACT way you need it to so that you will be able to expand into your fullest self.
It’s not a life where what’s missing is someone standing on a stage telling you how capable you are, telling you that facing your fears is the only way to success, telling you that the trials and tribulations are worth it.
It’s not a life where you need to be in a constant state of planning, visioning, imagining, map out, listening to others who have ‘done it’ and strategizing. Nor is it a life where doing the above things on a regular basis is the FOUNDATION for why you will reach your goals or get where you want to go.
The reality is, living a life where you’re reaching for your potential, where you’re going for your dreams, where you’re doing your best to figure out who you really are and what really matters to you isn’t a life of serendipitous events constantly happening as the Universe meticulously guides you on a hero's journey where there’s purpose and meaning behind every stepping stone and every set-back.
Living a life of purpose isn’t one where there is constant stimulation. Positive or negative.
Living a life of purpose, a life where you feel connected to who you are and where you’re working towards anything that matters to you - is a life that’s MOSTLY mundane.
It’s MOSTLY being bored as you do your regular life tasks in and amongst working on your dream. Because real life doesn’t stop when you’re living with purpose and a purpose filled life still contains all the same life maintenance tasks that any other kind of life is going to have.
It’s a lot of having to figure it out as you go, not really knowing what you’re doing, not knowing what the next steps are or even if there ARE next steps, and having to show up and do things over and over again when the passion has worn off.
It’s a lot of things changing/progressing SLOWLY. Painstakingly so sometimes - to the point of not knowing if they're changing at all.
It’s a lot of investing time and effort when you have no idea if your investment is going to pay off. It’s a lot of investing time and energy into things that end up NOT paying off.
It’s a life that will involve facing obstacles that you can’t overcome. Where the thing holding you back isn’t within your control and isn’t something you can fix with a mindset or personal habits change.
It’s a life where not everything is set up to support you so long as you have the right attitude. It’s a life where we do have to recognize the very real inequalities that come with being alive and how those things practically affect our capacity to heal/transform/achieve/become.
It’s a life where we look out beyond just ourselves so we can actually meet others where THEY are at, vs. meeting them where WE are at, and seeing what we can do to support the creation of a more just and equal world.
It’s a life of accepting the mundane, and maybe embracing it as being our life path - and finding the true joy in that.
It’s a life where hard things are going to happen, and where we need to learn to find balance in pushing forward and resting, recovering and self protection.
A life of purpose and meaning doesn’t look any particular way - and oftentimes it doesn’t look like ‘greatness’. Rather it’s a life of appreciating what we have working with what’s reasonable for us long term - and a life where we have to step OUT of the capitalist idea that we should always be ‘becoming more’ otherwise we’re failing.
The Sales Pitch Of The Self Help Guru
Many of our self help/personal growth/spiritual gurus set us up to believe that a life of purpose is a life of extreme emotions, big joys, big transformation, a guided path where your darkest moments always lead to some dawn that makes it all make sense. We’re told that this path of finding your purpose is REALLY a path of healing our deepest traumas and learning to embrace ourselves in ways we’ve never been able to before and that we’re going to be ‘asked’ by life to be on an ever present ‘leveling up’ journey with a clear narrative.
This, to be fair, is *sometimes* how it feels to be living a life of purpose.
It’s true that we will face dark nights of the soul. That we will be challenged to overcome our deepest fears sometimes, that we will be brought face to face with what we value.
It’s true that we will sometimes have magical moments, high highs, great times where it feels like everything is working out for us.
This is true of any life - we must remember that.
But at the same time, it’s a dramatic over simplification/caricaturization that leaves a lot of us feeling like we’re doing it wrong, like we must be missing something, like we must be ‘made for more’ and like life is getting the script wrong when our days aren’t filled with soul searching, gut wrenching challenge or dramatic pleasure and a feeling of ‘alignment’.
The messages of the self help world tell us that a truly purposeful life is all about ‘alignment’ and that this alignment will make us feel magical all the time. The message is that when you’re ‘doing it right’ you’re going to be finding yourself in ever better circumstances, with more money, friends, love, feelings of ‘rightness’ in your work, impact and luxury in general. That your whole life should be coming together to be one large arc where all parts of your reality connect to all the other parts with a general ‘theme’ of you becoming this *THING* you’re supposed to become.
The message is that if you’re doing it right, life should be abundant in all the best ways.
Soul searching, dark night of the souling, facing fears leading to those high highs and breakthroughs that change your reality for the better.
THIS is one of the first delusions of the self help industry as I see it right now.
First things first, living a life of purpose doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to find a ‘job’ that makes you millions of dollars, has you feeling like what you ‘do’ is valued by society and that combines all the skills you possess/will work to cultivate so that you reach some sort of mastery. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a group of people around you who ‘get you’ and who are all working towards a common goal. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to change the world or even change the lives of those around you in some major way. It doesn’t mean that every challenge you go through will ‘make sense’ within some larger arc of your life and purpose, and it doesn’t mean that everything you go through will have some sort of ‘meaning’ other than it just being a thing you had to go through.
A life of purpose isn’t necessarily monetizable, it isn’t necessarily glamorous, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you grow into some ‘main character’ who has expanded and realized the meaning of life.
In real reality, all of us, no matter what, are going to go through things that are challenging, possibly devastating, that couldn’t have been predicted or avoided, that hurt and that didn’t occur in order to make us a better person.
There are going to be challenges we can’t overcome. That have NOTHING to do with us and our choices. That hold us back or harm us in ways where we don’t fully recover.
We’re going to have a life where some parts are just janky and have no ‘purpose’. We’re going to have mundane experiences - a lot. We’re going to be bored, uninspired, lacking direction and feeling listless multiple times.
In real reality, most of us aren’t going to have movie script lives - and that’s not a failure, that’s just real reality!
In real reality, of COURSE we can decide we are going to look at this as being meaningful in the arc of our lives. Of course WE can place meaning on it if that makes us feel better. Of COURSE we can use our challenges to see where we have the capacity for greater strength, belief, compassion, love and where we can open up to external support.
*If we WANT TO.*
But we don’t HAVE to. We don’t have to be constantly looking for ‘how this is for my highest good.’ Sometimes it’s going to be better to admit that life just sucks, that people suck sometimes, that events take place that just suck.
And that’s ok.
You can still live a life of purpose without believing that everything is being magically orchestrated to make you the best person you can possibly be.
Let's take a break here and come back next week for part two!
Remember, you don't have to do this self love path all alone.
Figuring out how to support ourselves, how to be on our own side, how to figure out what our emotions are saying, how to problem solve so we can build lives that work for us - it can be confusing.
That's why I've built the Mystery School - a three year self study program designed to take the guess-work out of this path, so you can start to really connect to who YOU are, what YOU need, and how to create a life that supports that.
It's a program designed to help you begin thinking in 'systems' so you can be a part of the positive change we need to see on this planet.
It's all about finding compassion and working with curiosity so we can understand ourselves and life in general better, and so we can use that understanding to create BETTER models for LIFE!
I’d love to have you as part of the community - remember we also meet as a group once a month for an exclusive live chat where we address whatever's most pertinent for everyone at the time. The course itself is self-paced so you can work through it at whatever speed works for you - starting whenever you like!