Self Developments 10 Greatest Myths

I know I have talked about self development and Life Coaching myths before, but I wanted to drag them kicking and screaming into the light of day again, because some of the pesky suckers refuse to go away.

I will delve into a couple of previous posts from a year or two ago, so forgive me if there is some overlap, but worry not there are plenty of lovely juicy new myths to get your teeth into.

10 Self Development Myths

1. Meditation Is Hard

I know I’ve flogged the meditation horse to death the last few weeks and then followed the poor fella to the after life and flogged him some more.

But all for good reason, because it’s truly life changing for millions of people. Meditation is incredibly easy when you understand what it is. Quieting your mind to a standstill is ridiculously hard unless you’re in a coma*

However,  just because your mind hasn’t shut up doesn’t mean you’re not meditating, and that’s why it’s called a practice. Very few people ever truly master meditation, but mastery isn’t the point because there is no end game per se.

Interestingly enough, Bodhipaksa the Buddhist teacher who is leading a course I am currently enrolled on admitted he’d had a bad practice the day before we last met.

He’s being meditating for 30 years, so I think that tells us it’s a slippy sucker. *There are plenty of meditations that don’t require you to still your mind, but I used that as an example because it’s what many people tend to think of as being meditation.

2. The Human Mind Can Only Hold 7 + or – 2 Pieces Of Information at Once

This grieves me to ‘fess up to this one because the sucker is in How To Be Rich And Happy and I have spoken to many clients and cited this ‘fact’! My only consolations are that we only recently discovered that research performed in the1950’s was way too optimistic. And that the figure is actually lower so talking about it still makes a great point. With the help of brain imagining we now know that in fact the human mind can hold a maximum of just 4 pieces of information at the conscious level at ay one time. It gets worse than that though, as I explained in my post Cannabis Is Better For You Than Multi-Tasking, even trying to do 2 things at a conscious level severely degrades performance.

Forget multi-tasking because that is the real myth we are talking about here, and you can’t do it.

Focus on one thing and you will get much better results.

3. We Only Use 10% of Our Brain Power

This ‘research’ is almost 100 years old now and was debunked over 50 years ago, yet still it clings on for grim death helped by people Tweeting it ad infinitum and Law of Attraction followers in a lame attempt to defend their belief.

You use all of your brain at various times in the day and if you doubt that go to a neurology ward and talk to stroke victims. Those that fail to fully recover have lost the use of part of their brain and it’s that that causes paralysis or loss of speech.

4. I’m Weird

No you’re not! Well ok then, yes you are, but we all are. So by definition weird is the new normal.

  • Yes, you have crap to deal with, we all do.
  • Yes, your mind is going 1,000 mph, so is mine. It’s because we’re human beings.
  • Yes, you sometimes feel overwhelmed, we pretty much all do.
  • Yes, your family maybe dysfunctional, but pretty much all families are dysfunctional.
  • Yes, you hold yourself to higher standards than your loved ones, we all hold ourselves to higher standards.
  • Maybe you don’t even know what you want out of life. Worry not, millions upon million are in the same boat, that’s why people hire Life Coaches, seriously it is!

5. It Takes 30 Days To Build a Habit

I think this was the reason I shunned what in many respects was a great book in the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Covey got this part horribly wrong though and habits usually take a lot longer to form than 30 days, although we don’t even know what 30 days means.

Ask anybody that has taken up going to the gym regularly and then suddenly stops how they broke a habit so easily. Or ask a Life Coach called Tim why he stopped meditating after almost 4 years and if he’s honest he’ll tell you it’s because it never really became a habit.

6. Mind And Body Are Separate Systems

It seems bizarre to me that there are still so many people that think the mind and body are separate systems. Now I don’t want to get into a metaphysical debate about this because I do realise that philosophers have been debating this for centuries. However, from a lay persons perspective let me ask you the following questions: If the mind and body were separate;

  • How could placebos work?
  • How could suggestion work?
  • How could hypnosis work?
  • How could people cure themselves from illness?

Maybe I’m being way too simplistic, but I sure cannot wrap my head round the mind and body being separate entities because both cease to exist without the other.

7. The Next Pay Rise Is the One That Will Make Me Happy.

I actually don’t think this is so much a self development urban myth as an urban myth period. The problem with this specific myth is most people won’t admit to believing it, even when their actions suggest otherwise.

We know that somewhere around $75k per annum  the link between happiness and income starts to disappear, and at $200k it vanishes completely. And the reason is because of a process known as human adaptation.

Simply put, happiness comes from inside (hence the reason poorer countries rarely have lower happiness levels) and unless you are destitute money can’t help you to tap into internal resources.

Chase that next pay rise for all your worth if you really want, but within 3 months of getting your happiness levels will be exactly where they were when you started because you will adapt to your situation.

8. Happiness Levels Are A Product Of Our Genes

Mathematically there is a large element of truth to this because indeed about 50% of your happiness levels are set at birth by your genetics.

However, there’s enough wiggle room in the other 50% to be as happy as a clam that just won the lottery and scored a date with a hot lobster. If that is, you work at it. Interestingly people think the biggest impact on their happiness levels after genes is their environment.

By that I mean, where they live, their relationships with others, what job they do and how much money they earn. Sorry to say that only makes up about 10%. So a whopping great 40% is down to you and your attitude. So no copping out and blaming mom and dad in the future, ok?

9. It Takes As Much Energy To Think A Positive Thought As a Negative One

I have rolled my eyes on Twitter to this one on several occasions because it just demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what a thought is.

Thoughts are physical pathways in your brain and creating new ones takes up more energy (in the form of glucose to the prefrontal cortex), than it does to let your mind replicate old thoughts.

Therefore, if you have a strong tendency to think negatively, then unfortunately, switching that over will take more effort and more energy. Of course the flip side is true and for optimistic thinkers it is easy to replicate that optimism. A great reason to work on your reframing and teach yourself to think positively.

10. I Can Do It Tomorrow

I am just reading an excellent book called How To Train A Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays (al).

It’s a collection of mindfulness exercises, one for each week of the year and I was struck by this passage on procrastination: “One evening I visited a woman who was dying in middle age from cancer. She had been a respected scholar, translating ancient Chinese texts about Buddhism. Now she was a skeleton covered in skin, lying in a huge white bed. She had only a few days to live. After we talked and I was preparing to leave she said wistfully, “I always thought I’d get around to meditation later. Now there is no later”

None of us have the guarantee that tomorrow will ever come, so putting off epic shit makes zero sense when you think about it. And when I say epic shit than can be anything from starting your own business to playing with the kids more often. If it’s deeply important to you, then it’s epic shit and you should be doing it!

10A – I’m a Law Of Attraction Expert

Really? You’re a law of attraction expert. How cool is that! And you’re following me on Twitter, so presumably you want me to follow you back. Yet I have felt strangely uncompelled to do so. Yet that doesn’t make any sense because you’re an expert at attracting what you want. So wtf is that all about then?

Maybe you’re really just an expert in making some naive people believe you’re an expert?

Come on then people, I know there are more self development myths, share yours with me in the comments! And also, feel free to disagree, especially if you’re weird ;-)

Image: ‘Myth (Syphinx)’ Courtesy of Rick Harrison