Monday, 22 June 2009

Self-Improvement Books? They Won’t Change Your Life, But This Will…

Chances are you’ve already read a ton of self-improvement books and attended lots of seminars and workshops. And did any of them transform your life? Unless you’re part of the 5% who eventually report experiencing significant results at some point in their lives, your answer will probably be a somewhat embarrassed “Ah…no… not yet.”

After three decades researching and practicing the personal development systems of the ancient world and about half that long doing coaching, counseling and pastoral work, I’ve come to realize there are some fundamental reasons why our physical and emotional lives are such a mess and why our attempts to “fix” them seldom work. So if self-improvement books aren’t doing it for you, you’re not alone. There are good reasons why you’ve failed to transform your life so far…

Obstacle One: Your Culture

As someone brought up in a Western (or westernized) culture, you’ve been taught a specific way to relate to your physical body, to your mind and to you own thoughts – you see your body and mind as separate and you identify your Self with your thoughts. And you’ve been thoroughly but subtly indoctrinated into interpreting the world around you according to the defunct paradigm of Newtonian physics – meaning you see the world around you as solid and real, and you give your physical senses a monopoly on providing the information you build your interpretations on.

This particularly dangerous combination gives rise to the unprecedented rates of neurosis you see around you (and perhaps within you) every day.

Obstacle Two: The Mentality of Specialization

Your culture has taught you to assume that every “problem” needs its own solution. If you look at your own life and start to list these problems - the things that aren’t working the way you want - you could easily come up with a list of twenty or thirty such “problems”. Of course, taking the standard “self-improvement” approach is great for the industry because it means you’ll be buying twenty or thirty new titles in a vain attempt to fix your life!

We’ve all imbibed this mentality of “specialization”. In other words, if you want to develop your willpower, fill your wallet or reduce your waistline, you assume the person most qualified to help you is someone who thinks about and writes about nothing else. Unfortunately, this blinds you to the fact that each of those problems is just a symptom and that until the root cause is dealt with, those problems or similar ones will simply recur. Know anyone who’s tried to lose weight several times?

Obstacle Three: You’ve Been Educated!

You’ve come through an educational system that also sees your mind and body as very separate realities. This system is based on the faulty premise of classical liberalism that if you feed people all the facts, they’ll make good choices in life. Alas, if only it were that simple!

In contrast, the best educational systems of the ancient world, from North America to the Mediterranean to the Orient, all focused on the acquisition of character development, values and integrity rather than just facts. And they all understood that the only way to master your mind is through your body, so their educational systems were very physical. And, unlike people who went through these ancient educational systems, you’ve come out mentally and emotionally fragmented and probably predisposed to making dozens of choices per day that make you weaker instead of stronger.

The Solution

The ancient world’s top traditions of spiritual life, health maintenance and martial arts all knew something we’ve long since forgotten: until a person develops physical, mental and emotional resilience, he or she will live a fragmented life of “coping” and low personal effectiveness. This will inevitably translate into feelings of powerlessness and victimization, failed relationships, poor health, financial problems and non-stop stress, among other things.

Fortunately, these traditions – all of which still exist, by the way – had a solution. They taught an approach we would call “holistic” (and they would call “bloody obvious”), an approach that gives those who practice it a deliberate, powerful and stress-free life of continual inner and outer achievement.

All of this rests on their understanding of how your mind-body organism was designed to function and what it’s really capable of – which goes far beyond what you’ve been taught to believe. And, paradoxically, that’s an understanding that modern science, with its recent forays into the study of consciousness, sub-atomic physics and genetics is more and more likely to support.

Acquiring resilience is the basis of personal power, which in turn is the basis of transforming your life. Until you have resilience, you can read all the self-improvement books you want, go to workshops, go to church, go on a diet, go to the gym and more, and none of it will transform your life in any significant way.

You see, all those nifty self-help techniques you learn are like seeds – how well they do depends on the quality of the soil you plant them in. And in this case you are the soil. So if you want to become soil that produces phenomenal results, you’ll need to adopt an entirely different, holistic approach to your life and acquire resilience.

Next time, I’ll talk about what you can do to acquire this resilience for yourself, so that your many of your challenges in life will dissolve on their own.

If you want to get off to a running start, just pop over to this address and grab a copy of my Special Report on resilience for free:

- Dr. Symeon Rodger

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