Or what is the Best Self Improvement System Ever?
Answer: None of them. All of them. Take your pick.
To help explain that answer, bear with me for a slight diversion. Many years ago I read about studies on the relative effectiveness of various counseling and therapy techniques and of different types of therapists – from psychiatrists to lightly trained laymen. The results were rather surprising. Therapy worked, but it didn’t make a whole lot of difference what degrees or credentials the therapist had or what type of therapy was used.
One explanation is that people who were motivated to get better were those very people who chose to get help from a therapist. If you were motivated enough to seek help and do something to get better, you were likely to get better. There are many paths to getting better and so it didn’t really matter who or what you chose. I think this same phenomena applies to self improvement.
Over the years I’ve read many improvement books by gurus promoting their particular methods. The author usually describes the story of the their own life and how their method resulted in their own spectacular success. I don’t doubt these stories. I’m sure most of them are true. I also don’t doubt that many people who read these books and try out the guru’s method, have varying degrees of success including no success at all.
Jack Canfield, of Chicken Soup fame, tells his story of persistence in the face of failure and implies if you do the same you will succeed. Maybe, but I’m sure for every Jack Canfield, there are many who tried the same thing and failed. You just don’t know about them because they failed; they are not famous and you aren’t reading their unpublished books. I attempted a humorous description of this effect in The Last Monkey Jumping.
As just one example, I’ve tried many productivity systems. If you follow them they work; most of them anyway. The problem with many of them is I didn’t stick with them because they were too complicated. GTD is great, there is just too much to do. I got tired of working the GTD system. And yet following a productivity system works for me. I now do something more simple.
If you want to know what works for self improvement, it’s not complicated. You want to change, you are motivated to change, you commit to change, and you actually do something to change. What exactly you do is not as important. That’s my opinion anyway.
What I recommend
- Keep it simple. I consider this the most important factor of all. Whatever you do, keep it simple and the simpler the better. Spend less time on the system and more time on the change.
- Pick a particular system. Doing something in a structured way will keep you focused. Choose a system that fits your personality type or that appeals to you for some other reason; a system that is exciting or that motivates you.
This is all not to say I don’t think some things work better than others because I do. I recommend them on this blog. However, the method is very secondary to the action of actually doing something to improve. There are many paths to success and you shouldn’t waste time trying a bunch of different systems unless you want to be a professional self improvement student. Don’t go gaga over ever new thing you read or every new guru pedaling his own particular success method.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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