I’ve talked a few times about self development myths on this blog and rather unsurprisingly I’m going to talk about them again.
The proliferation of self development blogs has created a need for people to create material to feed to their readers, but unfortunately most blogs don’t have editors, researchers or fact checkers.
So some bloggers think it’s cool to run a post based on some vague memory about a stat they think they once saw on Twitter, Facebook or was it Jerry Springer?
Well it’s not cool.
It’s dumb and it breaches the duty of care we have as bloggers towards our readers when we’re posting on topics that we have no understanding of.
All of the examples I’m going to give you, I have seen at some time or another in a blog post or on social media, and most on numerous occasions.
And pretty much all of them have had me metaphorically and sometimes literally banging my head on my desk in frustration.
I know I’ve covered a couple of them previously, but I also know readers come and readers go so I make no apologies for doing so again.
1. Depression Is A Limiting Belief
This was actually a bullet point in the post that triggered today’s semi-rant. I’m not going to name the writer because I like him, but on this one he’s flat out wrong.
Being down for a day or so may be caused by a limiting belief. Being grumpy because you didn’t get that pay raise, job, or lottery winning ticket may have been caused by a limiting belief.
But clinical depression is not a frickin limiting belief, it is a diagnosed medical condition and is genetic in a great many cases.
It’s also more common in women so are we to presume women have more limiting beliefs?
We cannot treat mental illness so lightly and be so disingenuous to the people who have it.
We’re trying to break down the stigmas attached to it, not build them up by implying it’s the sufferers own own fault.
2. You Just Need To Let Go Of Fear
This is the new kid on the block and hasn’t so much grown legs as bought a Ferrari and is now touring the self development world and being invited in to speak via red carpets and showers of rose petals.
The phrase “just let go of fear” is twee, crass and unfortunately ignores the way the human brain is wired up.
Fear is a deeply hard-wired primeval response because your entire survival depends upon it.
Next time somebody tells you to just let go of fear, thank them for their advice and then ask for a step by step guide on how you should do that.
If that guide doesn’t involve either spending 60 years meditating alone in a jungle or surgery to remove the limbic system part of your brain, tell them they’re talking bollocks.
3. Self Development Doesn’t Work
I bet I have had this or a derivative of this aimed at me over 100 times since I started Life Coaching and it never fails to amuse me.
It’s quite obviously wrong and I have seen scores, maybe hundreds of clients change the way they think about things and improve their lives.
And if my admittedly anecdotal evidence doesn’t convince you, go and read a few autobiographies of some of the most successful people on the planet and see how many of them crafted their lives.
My guess is the people who holds this view have either never bothered to try and change because they were scared to death they may fail.
Or, they tried and did fail because they lacked the right information, the tenacity and the belief that change was possible.
Positive change becomes infinitely harder to achieve if you come from a starting point of not really believing it’s possible.
4. You Can Have Anything You Want, As Long As You Believe You Can
On the one hand you will have people telling you self development doesn’t work, and on the other there are the ‘guru’s trying to sell you the dream (usually for a lot of money) that anything is possible.
I’m all for big fat hairy audacious goals, and if you sign up for my newsletter I’ll even send you an in-depth e-book on how to successfully set them, but let’s try and be sensible for a moment.
No matter how hard I believe I can get booked to sing at Carnegie Hall, I can’t.
I have the singing talent of deaf chimp on helium. And at 49 no amount of belief or work will change that.
You can have a lot, you can probably have a better life and hit some huge goals if you really want to, but you cannot have anything you want, nobody can.
5. Hypnosis Will Make You A Better Person
I had a 30 minute consult with a lady the other day in which I explained to her what I could and couldn’t do.
Near the end she paused and then asked me if I could use hypnosis to cure her issues?
And before I could answer that I no longer practice hypnotherapy she went on to say she thought she needed past life regression to sort things out.
I sighed because I get this at least once a month (minus the past life regression) and to be honest it’s not the fault of the person asking because there’s such a mystique surrounding hypnosis.
I’ll backtrack somewhat here by saying hypnosis may under the right circumstances be able to make you a ‘better’ person.
If that is, you being more relaxed or quitting a bad habit qualifies you to say you’re a better person.
But it’s not a panacea and cannot change your genetics. It also varies in effectiveness massively from person to person.
Bonus Lie: Past life regression. Don’t even go there with me, it’s a myth with no scientific substance behind it.
6. Positive Thinking Is Crucial To Self Development.
I almost had a full blown panic attack at Christmas when a client e-mailed me to thank me for the coaching and to tell me she was really going to practice her positive thinking moving forward.
She had mistaken (probably my fault to be honest) the incredibly powerful tool of reframing for positive thinking and I immediately e-mailed her back to explain the difference.
Positive thinking (and I’m also including affirmations), can actually be counter-productive to some people who aren’t naturally inclined to think that way.
When they don’t see the results they were hoping for they can become down and think there’s something wrong with them. There isn’t.
On the other hand, optimistic thinking is incredibly helpful and liberating. Optimistic people tend to be healthier, more successful and a lot more resilient than positive thinking people.
I’m not knocking thinking positively, but please don’t deny self evident truths like it seems half the people on Reality TV shows do.
If you want to read more on positive thinking versus optimistic thinking check out the brilliant ‘Learned Optimism’ by Martin Seligman
7. Multi-Tasking Improves Performance
Unfortunately if you do try and multi-task you will almost certainly end up degrading your performance.
For all but about 2% of the population of so-called Super-Taskers (study done by the University of Utah), none of us can do two conscious things at once without seeing a huge drop off in efficacy.
Of course the manufacturers of Smart Phones and tablets don’t really won’t you knowing this so they create the illusion that they’re helping you get more done.
8. Change Is Easy
On the one hand you have people who are suspicious of Life Coaching and self development in general and can’t wait to tell you change is hard or even impossible and don’t waste your time.
And then on the other you have the self development writers who can’t wait to tell you it’s easy and you just need to buy their product to succeed.
There’s no wonder people are confused and obviously the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Some people change with almost effortless ease whereas others spend years trying to change and never achieve the results they want to see.
I happen to think, and I have no data to back this belief up, that people fear change more than anything else and that in and of itself can make it much harder than necessary.
But it doesn’t have to be like that if you’re careful to chunk your change down as per the 12 steps approach.
Alcoholics in the 12 step program don’t give up for ever, they give up for a day.
And then another day, and then another.
This is the wisest and easiest form of change although I would never go as far as to say it’s easy or straightforward for most people.
It’s something that can be right and it can be wrong, in which case it should be delivered with caution and not as a blanket statement.
9. Taking Medication Is A Sign of Weakness
I nearly exploded when I read this on a self development blog a couple of months ago, but actually managed to calm myself to the point of not even commenting.
If you’re feeling a bit low then I wouldn’t encourage you to make anti-depressants your first port of call.
We all get down from time to time, it’s ok, it’s part of life and it’s normal.
Exercise, meditation and good nutrition are all closely linked to a reduction in mild depression as is doing charitable work.
And 3 out of those 4 are free!
If you have tried that approach and it’s had no effect, or if you have long-term feelings of hopelessness and/or thoughts of self-harm then get yourself to your doctors pronto.
But don’t accept the belief that you’re weak anymore than I am for having a dodgy back, and too much iron in my blood.
Taking medication is only a sign of weakness when the person concerned won’t do a damn thing to change his or her lifestyle and instead uses pills as a crutch.
10. We Only Use 10% Of Our Brains Capacity
I will never tire of telling people this is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I’ve seen it it posted about, tweeted about and voted up on Facebook by people that in actual fact may indeed only be using 10% of their brains.
This myth was shattered by neuroscientists decades ago but it refuses to die gracefully, because it sounds cool, and it allows us to drift off into la-la land thinking about what we could do if we engaged the other 90%.
If you see it loitering around in the recesses of social media please do me a favor and give it the damn good kicking it deserves.
Ok, so I’ve got that lot off my chest for another year or so when I’ll undoubtedly start flogging this dead horse once again.
In the meantime what are your pet peeves on this topic, and do you agree with me or think I got one or more wrong?
Tell me in the comments because everybody knows if you don’t comment on my blog you’re no fun.
Oh and it’s also a fact that you should tweet about it and Facebook it and just send me loads of money and stuff like that…..I think.