The Charles Atlas advertisement appeared in nearly every comic book I owned. I wanted to send a dime to the company for their brochure, but my parents didn’t allow that. Even though I still came across his ads in “Boys Life” and other youth oriented magazines, after awhile, I lost interest in Charles Atlas. This was my introduction to self-improvement courses.
My first actual exploration of self-improvement started when my best friend, in high school, offered to share his Rosicrucian books with me. He had been using their home study program and said that it helped him understand and feel better about himself. Because we had both been bullied frequently in school, he thought we could both learn and benefit from the AMORC books. Both of us did find a little value in the books. At least, they were a distraction from the craziness of adolescence.
I eventually lost interest in Rosicrucianism but retained a hunger for knowledge and techniques about how to improve my life. I poured through the stacks at the public library and borrowed books from friends to learn more. Perhaps a few concepts stayed with me. Mostly, the books had become my genre of choice for casual reading. By my late 20s, I finally got tired of self-improvement books and courses.
Like romance novels, most of them seem to be written around a basic outline that followed a common theme. Presentation of the problem through anecdotal scenarios takes place in the introduction and first chapter. The need for solving the problem comes next. The promise of success if a special technique is followed, or the sales pitch follows that. Somewhere in the middle the reader finds out the basic steps of the technique. More anecdotes about success follow that. Often there is bait for more techniques from the writer at the end of the book. Generally, there is some set of questions to be answered by the reader within or at the end of each chapter.
A disclaimer is usually presented as an admonition that improvement won’t happen unless the reader writes out the answers to the questions. Sometimes we are given the “opportunity” to purchase special workbooks and journals that can be purchased to enhance the reading experience of the more cleverly marketed programs.
I mention the trap of self-improvement literature, because many of us fall into the allure of thinking that reading a book or taking a course will change our lives for the better. That said, I think there is some positive value to some of the material out there. A person can find solid advise and actually put it to use, if one keeps the risk of self- improvement literature “addiction” in mind.
The scope of the self-improvement industry is seemingly endless. It’s a gold mine of opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to get on board the latest bandwagon of popular problem solving. Careful consumers can take advantage of the bonanza of information to improve their lives. An important tool to use in mining this information, is skepticism. Investigate before you dig in.
After becoming aware of the nature of self-improvement and self-help, we discover how diverse it can be. If you browse the Web or stroll through a book store, you might encounter many self-improvement categories. You’re probably already aware of the major groupings.
Some of the most popular books and courses involve success, money and careers. This area targets people who wish to improve their financial status and utilize techniques to create monetary wealth. These titles are often found in the self-help and the business sections of a store or the Web.
The topic of Love and Relationships seems infinite. Not only are these writings in stores and the Web, they show up in newspaper advise columns, magazine articles, and broadcast talk shows. We live in an alienating, lonely civilization, so we can expect to encounter plenty of relationship self- improvement literature at our beck and call.
In a similar vein, religion and spirituality have been popular topics for people looking to find answers to their problems. The existential aspects of our minds cause us to be thirsty for meaning. If you’re looking for religion, there’s no shortage of people offering it for sale or for free. Spirituality is abundant in the publishing industry. We find links to spiritual teachers and institutions scattered across the social media. Whichever path you decide to follow, you’ll find plenty of self-help wherever you look. Be careful of where you go.
It seems like a popular sideline of psychologists and psychiatrists is authorship. Like religion and spirituality, self-improvement in the area of mental health needs to be taken with extreme caution. We find the road to mental fitness and health is paved with land-mines that can hurt in their efforts to help. This path forks into many dead ends that may leave us more frustrated than we were before we tried them. Again, use some basic skepticism and investigate carefully before you enter this area.
We don’t want to relax our skeptical minds when we investigate the road to health and fitness. Popular media is jam packed with websites, magazine articles, books and fitness gurus who want us to adopt their pet solutions for optimum health, fitness and maintenance of youth. The remaindered stacks of diet books contain every type of special eating plan a person can imagine. They’re called fad-diets for good reason. Many of us fall for the pitches and adopt them for awhile. Again, beware. Your health and your life depend upon how much faith we put into these plans. There are some sensible ways to improve your health and physical well-being, check with your health care provider for guidance in this area.
Some self-improvement takes the road of life enhancement. These books and courses come under the “lifestyle” category. You can relax your skeptical mind a little bit here. Hopefully you won’t take lifestyle improvement too seriously because this is an area that shouldn’t be serious. Here is where we indulge ourselves. This is the place we can explore photography, gardening, cooking, and other past times that we can take up for enjoyment and life enhancement. If you want to indulge or improve your life in fun ways, you’ll have no problem finding sources to help you. A little lifestyle enhancement can certainly be an exercise in self-improvement.
I hope you’ve gotten something of value from these meanderings about helping yourself on this self-improvement day.