Why Self-Help is not always Helpful…

People all over the world, including here in Trinidad and Tobago, are consuming in excess of US$9.6 billion of self-improvement or personal development products a year. These products are available to consumers as books, electronic books (or E-Books), CDs, DVDs, teleconferences and webinars, and are offered not only by well-known “gurus” like Deepak Chopra, Brian Tracy, and Bob Proctor, but also by entrepreneurs and small businesses trying to cash in the popular trend.

The challenge, most will tell you, is that there are so many products available, especially online, that it’s difficult for the average consumer to know where to start. I think the challenge is closer to home. It’s not overwhelming that’s the problem, — it’s the story we keep telling ourselves — our self-constructed box.

Experiments in neuroscience have demonstrated that we reach an understanding of the world roughly in this sequence: first our senses bring us selective information about what is out there; then the brain constructs its own simulation of the sensations; and finally we have our first conscious experience of our milieu. Our world comes into our consciousness in the form of a story already told, a hypothesis, a construction of our own making.

According to Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander in their book The Art of Possibility: “The frames our minds create define — and confine — what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.”

We usually reach for a self-help solution when we are experiencing something larger than ourselves that we feel unable to cope with or are simply searching for answers to make sense of our situation. When we are dealing with too many changes, we ramp up into hyper-solve mode. We tweak. We modify. We add or take away. We take what we know and we improve it a bit with the help of a person, a book, a DVD or a CD. While we are modifying some things we take what we’re used to, what we’re comfortable with, and keep it nice and safe — in our box.

This is the reason why after reading a particular book, listening to a CD or attending a seminar and attempting like once (ok — three times) to implement what is suggested we give up and say that “it” does not work. Another problem is that when things are changing, it is usually accompanied by chaos and manifests as disruption in our lives. This is the point where 99 per cent of us think that things are not working out, and we let go of our belief and faith.

This makes the phrase “Thinking Outside the Box” a strange one because there is no box — just the limitations you put on yourself. In this case, evolution requires revolution: Eliminate the box! Create another frame, tell another story, and your challenges will disappear while new opportunities appear.

Every story you tell is founded on a network of hidden assumptions. If you learn to notice and distinguish these stories, you will be able to break through the barriers of your self-limitations that contain unwanted conditions and create other conditions and narratives that support the life you envision for yourself.

A great question I get asked a lot is, “Why does the universe respond so quickly to negative thoughts in my life and so slowly to positive thoughts?” The simple answer is that you are more in tune with the negative thoughts; you have responded and encouraged them all your life. Every single negative thought that you have encourages it to come true.

Can you just make things up and have them magically appear? No. But you can shift the framework to one whose underlying assumptions allow for the conditions you desire. Ask often “What assumptions am I making — that I’m not aware I’m making — that gives me what I see?”

Once you realise just how powerful you are, you can begin to reframe and replace all the voices and influences that are not serving you. Everyone has the ability to choose what they think, and what you think is what you get. So what are you waiting for? Be prepared to experience the disruption of change and see what happens when your thoughts and actions spring from your new framework!

Graphic from http://www.creatavision.com
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