The Future of Self-Help: Personal Growth and You

Updated on November 23, 2017
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I'm passionate about health, wellness, social issues and relationships. I offer relatable content and solid advice.


The Future of Self-Help

"What will self-help look like in 2018?"

I was recently asked to answer this in a featured print article. Immediately, my mind raced to how sick I am of how generalized self-help has become. (Yes, I realize I write for this industry, but that can make me qualified to officially declare an overhaul in self-help.) I am, however, thrilled that people are interested in the future of self-help! This means a change is coming! At the very least, it signifies that people are as ready for a change as I am.

If we truly want to grow, self-help needs to change.

Break away from self-help that becomes a cycle of passive behavior
Break away from self-help that becomes a cycle of passive behavior | Source

What Needs to Go

First on my short list of things that need to go:

  1. Marketing. Self-help that is based on the idea that someone else has all the answers and you need their advice is bogus. Secret: their advice is best only because they would not be able to sell their book or program to you without you as the believer. "The latest—the newest—the only." Stay away from these, and watch how books, guides, and programs are marketed. The business site, LinkedIn, has opened up a world of self-help tips and great advice from the average person doing well. We are all experts in being the best human we can be.
  2. Gurus! Aaaaaah! Maddening. I hate this "title." Again, it's "the one," the makeshift messiah who has all the answers. Gurus who are experts in the field become like the doctors of today: too busy for you specifically, so their content is more generic. Take a number and line up for the release of their latest book. I stopped respecting the gurus when one admitted on Oprah that she was not even following her own advice!
  3. Rich, beautiful, and perfect people lead the way. Rich people know how to make money, but they aren't always happy. Same goes for the beautiful people. Perfect people don't exist. Unfortunately, these are people we look up to for life guidance. Rich people commit suicide. Beautiful people get divorced. Nobody is exempt from the nuances of real life. None of these categories make for a well-rounded, well-adjusted individual
  4. Advice that nobody follows. A lot of self-help books have good, solid advice, but people read them and nothing in their life changes. In addition, the burden falls on you personal: "It probably didn't work for me, because I didn't do it right." Another issue for the reader is reading or passively listening to an audio makes it seem like you are doing something, but you're really not. Reading a book can never substitute for taking action.
  5. One thought wonder. Every book or program seems to be based on one thought, theme, or idea. In general, the prevailing theme promoted in the self-help industry is positivity. The problem with that is research has shown, for instance, that positive messages affect different people differently. People with low-self-esteem respond poorly (with even lower self-esteem) to positive statements like "you are loved" and "accept yourself." Not everyone is the same, but much of the self-help is geared toward one or two themes. We could reach a lot more people by acknowledging the differences in people and human nature.

Researchers asked participants with low self-esteem and high self-esteem to repeat the self-help book phrase "I am a lovable person." The psychologists then measured the participants' moods and their momentary feelings about themselves. As it turned out, the individuals with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating the positive statement.

Do you read self-help books?

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Wisdom From Within

The forecast and focus on self-help in the future will literally be on helping yourself. The answer is leaders in the industry, books, and guides that will put you in the driver's seat and make you accountable for action. As people finally tire of getting advice from others, they’ll look inward. We are more connected to the world, and the universe, when we start from within.

Seeking answers from others doesn't exactly make us feel empowered. It actually leads to a vicious cycle of seeking rather than any real finding within. We are already desiring wisdom from within, and ways to cultivate it. We are not at the mercy of others' advice nor someone else's prescriptions for life.

We'll be keeping our eye out for leaders in the self-help industry to spark the answers in ourselves; to empower the individual and make each of us feel like the expert in ourselves.

1. Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are nothing new, but a new perspective on WHO meditates is changing.

Who meditates? Anybody and everybody; your neighbor, your dad, your kids! You, of course! People will start thinking, "Hey, I’m that person who meditates!"

Meditation is a one-size-fits-all self-improvement tool. With meditation, you could begin developing an intuitive ability about what’s best for you. In return, you will feel empowered. You will feel connected. You will overcome what I call “bad-brain days” when the fog never clears. Create clarity that moves you forward.

With meditation being introduced to us through convenient apps like Headspace, the variety of downloads available, and the plethora of guided meditations found on YouTube, access is granted to everyone! It’s virtually a meditation playground out there for you to explore! Some important questions will be answered beginning in 2018:

  1. How do we balance our busy lives?
  2. How do we go from empty to enlightened?
  3. How do we improve our health aside from treadmills and green drinks?

Meditation. That’s your answer! In a fast-paced world, slowing down is the new luxury, and meditation is a tribute to this. It has every reason to be a new addition to your life that you can look forward to this coming year. Starting with a few moments of stillness, you can relax and recharge today, and change the world tomorrow.

2. Take Action

I read this book called, Coach Yourself to Success, by Talene Miedaner. I can attribute it to my career change, and other positive changes in my relationship. What made this book different than all the other self-help books I had read before? Action!

Each chapter contains a section on how to implement the insight into your life. If you followed it, you got results. I love results! If a book or self-help leader focuses on action and results, they will be upfront about it. It will be announced in the book's blurb/description. Always look for that. It's not enough to get new insight or a new perspective. You must know how to implement these ideas into your life.

Mind-Body-Spirit | Source

3. Holistic Approach

A year ago I watched a health documentary called "What The Health." Then I followed that up with "Fat, Sick, and Almost Dead." They were both my introduction to a new vegetarian lifestyle (still contemplating veganism). It brought my awareness to a level that I could not discard from my brain, like when you say, "I can't unsee that." Same thing.

Beginning with vegetarianism, I couldn't ignore other things in my life that were not serving me well. Behavior changes that I tried to make for years started easily falling into place because I had changed my lifestyle with vegetarianism. It only made sense to continue to progress in other areas of my life as well

People who exercise and eat well still report health issues, even heart attacks and strokes. Why? Stress. All components of health and well-being go hand-in-hand. If you are interested in self-help, self-care, and self-health should also be on your radar. You can't ignore one facet—you are a whole person with mind, body, and spiritual needs. Incorporate your diet ideals, your spiritual/religious ideals, and your mental wellbeing into your daily routine.

You'll see more focus on essential oils and functional medicine in addition to the basics of self-help, exercise, and healthy eating.

The future of self-improvement is beginning to lean this way and take notice as even "healthy" people have health issues. Some may even be on medication for stress and anxiety. Until we address ourselves as a whole person, we are not getting the best bang for our buck in our self-improvement endeavors.

4. Lack of Research in Psychology

Not all things are headed down sunshine avenue in the self-help industry. This industry gleams a lot of information and data from new research, especially in psychology, the study of the brain and our behavior. If you want to understand people, and ourselves better, we must study them. That is becoming more difficult because valuable research topics are now off-limits for studying.

Researchers can no longer gain data through questions that may make the other person "uncomfortable" or "interfere with how they think the world works."

Of course, the big one is sex and sexuality. One thing valuable about studying our innate sex differences is whether the lack of women in science and technology, for instance, is because of sexism in those industries, stereotypes, or perhaps women are not naturally inclined to choose or thrive in those subjects.

We can no longer study differences in the way that brought value to science in the past. The result is a future that encourages a "what ought to be" mentality instead of a "what is" truth. There are innate human characteristics that we measure our potential by. If we lack a way to measure real potential then we literally lack self-improvement. There is no human population on earth where traits and abilities are "equal." This should not interfere with the study of humans.

Women in science?
Women in science? | Source

5. Therapy and Traditional Counseling Is so 1995

For the last several years, counselors began sharing the field with life coaches and wellness experts while traditional physicians are seeing more patients seek functional or alternative medicine doctors and nutritionists.

The difference between a life coach and counselor is that life coaches help you move forward on your quest for specific goals; they may help you identify the goals as well. Counselors dive more into the past as part of an extensive "therapy." They can help you sort things out from the past.

When I attended school for counseling psychology, I wondered what delving into our past would actually accomplish? After all, isn't it all in the past? Sure, we find out some harsh truths about our past and then what? I became more interested in behavior and making change.

Traditional counseling can be quite passive . . . you and the other person sitting in a chair rehashing your childhood. If you can get a counselor who gives you "homework" (and a lot of tissues) to be applied to your life now, and can specifically connect past challenges with present and future solutions then you can make progress.

Many other therapies are gaining traction too, such as tapping or "EFT" therapy. There are alternatives to traditional therapy and we will get smarter and better at seeking true experts in those fields as well as confidently administering more self-care to ourselves, furthermore tying up any loose ends in our personal growth journey.

Happy and Healthy
Happy and Healthy | Source


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Very fascinating Jay C!

      I have heard a little about it from a mind body Welles summit I was involved in last year. You have sparked a new path I'll have to check into more.

      Thank you

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Good article. Have you ever heard of "The Association for Research and Enlightenment? (ARE)" ARE was started by a man named Edgar Cayce who became known as the Father of Holistic Medicine. ARE has Study Groups which teach Meditation and Dream Analysis. Cayce became known for his teachings on the Mind, Body, Spirit connection from 1930s to 1945.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      2 years ago from The Great Northwest



      I have been "influenced" by the self-help industry for many years, but it wasn't until this last year that I truly grasped the idea of all facets. What a difference it has made!

      Thank you for your comment!

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      2 years ago from The Great Northwest


      There are some excellent classics. Scott M Peck (The Road Less Traveled and People of The Lie) is my favorite, because he was a psychiatrist. He had a great understanding of people, more than the typical self-help guru.

      It is so important, as you mention, to have that time for stillness, reflection, and/or meditation.

      Never lose your zest Dennis!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 

      2 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Everything is cyclical except when it comes to self-help books. Yes, these types of books are still out there at Barnes & Noble and Book World, but as you mentioned, it is totally different now than it was for a someone in my age group. I matured to, "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale, "How to Win and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, along with Tony Robbins and my last self-help book, "The Secret."

      As someone in my late sixties I have not lost the zest to learn and expand my mind, body, and love of life. Consequently, I arise each day a few hours before my wife so I can sit with myself and meditate and take in the wonder of the new day in front of me. Any day above ground is a good day and today has been wonderful. Thank you for drawing me into your article.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 years ago from North Central Florida

      Well said..

      You can't ignore one facet- you are a whole person with mind, body, and spiritual needs. Incorporate your diet ideals, your spiritual/religious ideals, and your mental wellbeing. Your words....and you nailed it...hope many others read and hear what you have shared.

      Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Chitrangada ,

      Thank you for the comment. There are some great resources out there, but as consumers, we have to be wise and informed. We have to do some searching within ourselves as well to be certain about what we want, then we must weed through the self help advice that has become "all talk, and no action." The marketing of self help is tricky to see past. I hope the article helped!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great article with a new perspective of self help. You presented some valid and valuable points. I believe it’s a thought provoking article.

      I agree with you that many self help books or advice are not able to bring about the desired change, they should .

      ‘Advice that nobody follows’ and how true!

      Publishing self help books and preaching people about it has become commercial to a great extent. Here also lot of marketing is involved and the real purpose of ‘change’ is somewhat defeated.

      Thanks for sharing this insightful and interesting article!


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