This post is for people who have dug a little into the self-improvement industry. What I want to talk to you today about is self-improvement overconsumption.
You know the feeling you have when you read a great inspiring book, and while you haven’t even finished the last page you are already eyeing another book, that will elevate you yet to another level?
You are watching a motivational video and you already see another one you will play next.
You are reading an article while another three catch your interest and you can’t resist to pass the opportunity to learn.
I know. You want to learn. I want to learn too, and when I don’t read those three articles I think I am missing out on something.
But the truth is that I am not missing out. The truth is that I would be much better off if I just focused on applying what I have learned in the first book, in the first article.
Why am I consuming all this information if not to put it to use?
Also, let’s be honest, it isn’t all about knowing. It is also about feeling good about yourself. Another book on the bookshelf, oh, how productive I am. When in fact you should have been doing something a long time ago. By doing I mean something that has been long awaiting you, which is both putting the lessons you learned into practice and if this means getting out there and doing something, then freaking getting out there and doing something, instead of reading about losing weight, to actually stop overeating, instead of reading about gratitude, to actually express words of gratitude to the people who deserve it.
I will give you an example of how not to go about this. I get a new email from Medium, a recommendation of an article for today. It is Benjamin Hardy’s 10 Steps to Become a Millionaire in 5 Years (or Less). Although it sounds like the prince from Zimbabwe who just need my bank account to transfer his newly acquired inheritance, who wrote me the last time, I decide to give it a try. 19 minute read, okay, this might actually be serious. I get to the first step, “Create your wealth vision”. Good, great step, I go to the next one.
If I am serious about getting anything out of this article, not just merely consuming it for some fleeting feeling of self-satisfaction, I will stop here, right after the first step and put in the work to create my wealth vision. You might say you want to see all the points first and then start working on them. This can also be okay, but how likely is that you will actually get back to the first step and start working on it after you read all of it? Is it not more likely that there will some other interesting link like “3 habits of success you NEED to know today,” which will hit you right in the face, and you will be tempted to click on it?
Oh man, what if there is something I am missing? This is an understandable sentiment, however after you click you will have greatly decreased your chance of ever getting back to the original wealth vision creation. Isn’t it simpler to stop and do it at the beginning, ignoring other distractions even if they promise glistering insights?
I completely get it. I am often overwhelmed by the glitter of the possible insights, but if I don’t want to get stuck in the cycle of consumption I have to be much more deliberate. This may mean reading only one self-improvement article per day, listening only to one self-improvement podcast per week, reading only one self-help book per month, always with the intention to put what you have learned into use. It may be more or less for you but if you constantly chase the next article, the next book, the next podcast, this form of “learning” becomes a masturbatory device to feel good about yourself.
What about instead of reading another post on being better you go and help your partner or someone in need, or join a community in your area that helps homeless people, or clean up around your house, or encourage and appreciate the people around you, simply put, what about finally touching the world in a simple and yet meaningful way, instead of merely consuming?
It is better to take one lesson and to actually apply, to run the idea home, to change your behavior, then to learn ten lessons and never internalize them.
Do better rather than feel better, be productive rather than feel productive, create rather than consume, that’s what I want to tell you.
The reason why I am concerned with the overconsumption of self-help information is that it stops us from taking action. Instead of creating, instead of doing, we consume.
There had been countless times, when I decided to write, I designated good chunk of time to it, and then half of this creative time was spend reading advice on how to write better, reading other blogs, watching videos somewhat related to what I was writing about, instead of pressing the keys of my keyboard. I was then left disappointed that yet again precious time has passed by which could have been put to a creative use. That is not to say that I haven’t acquired great insights this way, but that also doesn’t mean it was necessary to know or that I wouldn’t have learned it sometime later.
This never-ending cycle of self-help consumption is maybe better than not doing anything at all but it certainly is not better than actually applying what you have learned.
I once heard a man say that he had to leave a conference after the first day because he had enough to apply to his life, hearing more would have been too much for him. He wanted to master what he came to know. He was deliberate and honest with himself. He knew how much he can apply at a time, and most importantly he genuinely wanted to improve, not just to feel like he is improving.
Maybe reading this piece was your yet another piece of self-improvement source for today, so in some sense, I am glad that you read it. However, I encourage you to stop reading now, go and do what you know you should be doing. Let this lesson sink in, let it run home so that it can truly impact you.
So for me and you, I say, let’s create instead of just consuming, let’s act instead of just receiving, let’s change instead of feeling good about ourselves.
Until next time.