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Self-help's big lie?

Comments on an interesting article in the Sunday, Jan 1, Los Angeles Times titled “Self-Help’s Big Lie” (link):

Nonetheless, with such highly visible exponents of latter-day empowerment as Robbins, Winfrey and Winfrey’s principal protege, Dr. Phil McGraw, fanning the flames, a generation has come of age on the belief that a positive mental attitude will carry the day. Far from helping his disciples, the empowerment guru does them a disservice by making them “think positive” about a situation in which the odds of success are exceedingly low. As top management consultant Jay Kurtz argues: “The most dangerous person in corporate America is the highly enthusiastic incompetent. He’s running faster in the wrong direction, doing horribly counterproductive things with winning enthusiasm.”

You cannot have a life plan predicated on the belief that everything is equally achievable to you — especially if that same message has been sold indiscriminately to all comers. In the grand scheme of things, knowing one’s limitations may be even more important than knowing one’s talents.

I think that the author is missing the point on the true message of self-empowerment. It’s not about “think it and it will come”, a passive view of life that tends to laziness or “entitlement”.

The true power of intention is unleashed when one’s foundation (clarity, commitment, confidence, courage), is aligned with the skills and the systems, and proactively put into action to produce results.

Success comes from enthusiasm (that comes from a strong foundation) PLUS competence (the skills and systems).

Creating the results I want is simple, but not easy. Actually, “attraction” is VERY hard work. It means literally changing who I am, to be in alignment with those results. It means making choices, sometimes very hard choices. Is what I want in alignment with who I am at my essence? Is who I am in alignment with what I want? Each choice closes off some possibilities and opens up others.

Positive Mental Attitude is important but not sufficient. Willingness to change, to risk and perhaps to fail one, two, or ten times before getting there – that is the other ingredient. PMA is what sustains the momentum through the difficult times.

The “big lie” is in believing that entitlement comes before effort. Not everything is equally achievable by everyone. We are each tuned in a certain direction. By putting in the effort to discover who I am, to build the foundation, skills and systems that move me forward in life, I end up tuning into the success that I seek.

The value to me of the success I really want is measured in the price of blood, sweat and tears that I expend in reaching this treasure. To have it handed to me on a silver plate, without effort, like winning the lottery, robs it of any meaning and I will lose it just as quickly.

So the true meaning of “self-help” is in developing the courage and the confidence to do whatever it takes within me to transform myself into the success I want. By knowing my limitations, and overcoming them, I then attract what I seek.

Now roll up your sleeves and get to work creating the future you really want!

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