Self-Help Courses as Entertainment

“Taking any course that cannot translate into a practice that you incorporate into your life is like going to a movie.”      Francis Wade

Francis Wade is a fellow philosopher, entrepreneur and a good friend of mine. He said the above quote in a conversation I was having with him about my philosophy of living life as a practice. I was telling him about the book S.H.A.M. – How the Self-Help Movement made America Helpless by Steve Salerno – which highlighted the cultural phenomenon of “there’s something wrong … especially with me, and there’s one thing that can fix it, all I have to do is find it.”

People are trying to get “fixed”

The book SHAM talks about how people go from course to course looking to get fixed and are always disappointed in the mid to long-term. For in the short-term especially during and immediately after the course, people are exhilarated, they’re completely pumped up because they think they’ve found what they’re looking for, they think they’ve found the magic bullet, only to find out that what they thought they killed doesn’t seem to stay dead, and over the days and weeks that follow the course, the “monster” of their lives resurrect with all of its attendant failures, disappointments and bleak outlooks that led them to the course in the first place.

… but people can’t be “fixed”

Mr. Salerno’s very cynical explanation for this phenomenon is that the people making all of the money in the industry e.g. Tony Robbins, Suzie Orman, Dr. Phil et al are directly manipulating their customers so that they keep coming back for more. Nobody ever gets fixed.

While I agree with Mr. Salerno that nobody ever gets fixed, I do not share his view that the whole industry is a “SHAM” as he so cleverly implies in the title of his book. I also think that there is nothing wrong with people going back to take more and more courses, in fact I think it is helpful as long as people are not taking these courses to “fix” anything that is wrong with them.

There’s nothing wrong with you

The fundamental point of the Practice of Your Life is that there’s nothing wrong with you, and that life is meant to have failures and disappointments, and that there’s no quick fix, or magic bullet that will solve all of your problems.

What’s usually missing is purpose, and a passion to fulfill on that purpose for your life. It is this purpose and passion to fulfill it, that lead people to invent and evolve the practices that live in the daily actions they take, that allow them to lead full and satisfying lives.

What’s missing is context

Essentially what’s missing in the Self-Help industry is the context of the Practice that all the courses are a part of, with all of the associated actions, exercises, coaches, team building, “games” etc. that go on in between the courses.

Francis and I talked about a major benefit of living your life as a Practice was getting that there is nothing to be fixed, and it’s all part of a journey.  It’s the journey where your life happens, the destination only exists to give direction and purpose. There is no “Happily ever after.”

The practices in your life allow you to move closer to your goals, to be in alignment with your purpose. It was at this point that Francis said “Taking any course that cannot translate into a practice that you incorporate into your life is like going to a movie.” Brilliant! This is essentially what is at work here; what many of the self-help and personal growth courses are experienced as: entertainment, just like going to a movie.

… and an understanding of the role of practice

What’s essentially missing is an understanding of what drives behavior and in particular change, but that’s a much longer and separate discussion. Francis’ brilliance was in identifying why many of these courses don’t “fix” anybody: they fail at having people implement and sustain the new practices that would allow the benefits of the course to live for their participants in their daily lives.

The good news is that I think people are usually better off for having taken these courses, because they see what’s possible in life, and even experience real happiness, joy, passion and love that may have been absent from their lives for so long that they forgot what these emotions felt like. This is always a good thing.

Hence “The Practice of Your Life”

What I intend with the Practice of Your Life is to create a new more powerful context for people to take these very same courses; a context that would allow them to stop looking at the attendance of the course itself as the magic bullet that will fix everything wrong with their lives once and for all.

The context of Life as a Practice would have people look for the practices they can create and maintain to actually have the course live for them in their lives ongoingly; and to make better choices of which courses to take based on the purpose they have invented for themselves in their lives.

If not, to at least take the course as entertainment.  After all, there’s nothing wrong with being entertained.

One Response to Self-Help Courses as Entertainment

  1. Congratulations on getting the website up. Wishing you every success.

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