Photo by Shiromani Kant on Unsplash

Self-improvement is self-defeating. Isn’t it? Come to think of it, and you’ll realize the whole point is to reach a level where you no longer need any improvement.

After thousands of articles and hundreds of books based on productivity, the idea is somehow clear. The ultimate goal of self-help is to never need any help. It is about reaching a state of automation if you might. 

Perhaps, this state of productivity is the one where more productivity is the least of your concern. Ok, so what next then?

What is your goal of self-improvement? Why read articles on happiness and peace?

The bottom line to all the hours and eye-numbing sessions to personal growth is eventually reaching a state of bliss: the state where life is beautiful as is. 

The idea of opening a book or diving into a long article promising some magical bean once you consume them is our vulnerability screaming at the highest. 

Books, articles, seminars, or life coaches, whatever your route might be: it ends up at the same place. The desire or the endgame is to reach actualization. Everybody wants to tap into their latent potential and unleash the real ‘them.’

While the journey might seem all fancy and a ticket to some great show about to unravel, it is to stop trying to be all those things. Once actualized, you won’t need what you thought you would be needing. Isn’t it?

Self-improvement, in essence, then is self-defeating.

It’s like you when you think that you are now enlightened. The only thing is- with enlightenment, the thought ‘I am enlightened’ is meaningless.

Perhaps, we don’t enter into this mystic word with a notion other than betterment over a period. When I started reading everything under the sun about personal growth, there was no stopping. Down the line, there is a deep understanding of the flaws that we possess. Humans, through a natural flair of growth, have a unique sense of making things right. We constantly find avenues to improve and become better. The desire for more keeps us on our toes. We fiddle with the idea of what is more and seek. Ask someone the more he wants, and you’ll have vague answers. Imagine someone enquiring the level you aspire to reach in this journey or how much is enough for you to self-improve?

I am desperately short of finding an answer, and if you have it, my salute.

So, why self-improvement then? What is your reason to get on this bandwagon?

Tony Robbins runs a yearly show (heard the ticket is $6000). Internet and the world is plush with self-help gurus and pundits. The industry itself has reached billions and counting.

Is there hope for you, and why something self-defeating is popular to a cult-like extent?

So, why do it anyway?

The answer to the broad question is a tricky catch, and it depends on what are you in it for?

Self-improvement and you

So, you’ve been through shit and make amends in life. Is that what it is? We all have our reasons to take the route and expect something exceptional out of the journey. The irony is- how much is too much? People involved in the domain latch or jump onto the first thing they witness. Any latest book, seminar, and podcasts are consumed like a magic pill. 

A growing segment is the people who like self-improvement for the sake of it. After all, it is a cult now. The anxiety and fear of missing out on some trends drive them towards this exceptionally growing industry. Who wouldn’t love to brag about some latest book, meditation technique, or some chakra opening? 

I believe the industry is driven by a grand exposure to social media. Yes, a pic with your dog is cool, but one with Eckhart Tolle with his book in your hand does make you look good. Ain’t it?

Why read and consume and become better when one can do with a pic and tagging of some word bombs like #liveinnow or #peaceandcalm.

A nagging feeling that there’s still some magic pill or technique to elevate their situation becomes a reality. The actual work takes a back seat, and they wait for some miraculous opening.

The seeker

Self-improvement is a maze once you decide to play the maze runner. The more you consume, the messier it becomes.

“Wake up at 5 AM since the billionaire does it.” 

“Wake as you like because you have a different clock.”

You get contradicting bits of advice, and your head starts to blow over what to do with all the stuff. Some super-rich guy has a piece of advice, while a guy who’s been meditating with monks for years says something else. We keep shuffling as to what works best for us and pick bits and pieces from each guru. Though confused, the journey has to start somewhere.

The seekers are the ones who have had enough now. They take a plunge when there is an ‘all is lost’ type scenario. Unbearable depression due to departing of a close one, multiple failures in relationships, or a poor work-life balance due to job or business.

The seeker, therefore, with a leap of faith, tries to set things straight and makes personal growth a lifelong pursuit. 

This segment uses self-help material to fix whatever is troubling them, get them back on track, and find meaning in life. 

The conundrum

The self-help world is a world of awareness. It is a clear trade-off between realization and learning. The idea that you need help stems from the awareness that something is wrong in the first place. Once you accept the wrongs, you open up to this world. Perhaps, your existing ideologies and principles weren’t enough to sail you through.

The insatiable consumption of every advice and suggestion then backfires and messes you. Any read or podcast you come across provides a piece of advice. You start consuming TB’s of data and try charting your best path. There is only so much you can do or remember. 

Some organic shit replaces your regular tea, alarm goes off at 4 AM, meditation, journaling, mantra chant, and youtube videos. Everything changes in your life. Changes are then supplemented with other changes to keep a tab on the changes made earlier. One day the shit hits your face, and you are told you sleep, eat, piss, poop, invest and even walk the wrong way. A mountain falls on you, and you start questioning your existence. 

Have I been doing anything right all this time? You ask yourself.

Where does this end?

It doesn’t.

Not until you decide it does.

What’s the point anyway

Self-improvement is good, and it provides you with a fresh perspective. But, decide your boundaries and relationship with it. While there is no miracle advice or pill that you get, small gains over a period are effective. The clarity of purpose is of utmost importance to carve an effective strategy that helps rather than confuses.

Like anything in life, your relationship with self-improvement should hang in balance. 

It should be like regular medication where you find a cause and get it treated rather than drugs for leisure and falling into addiction.

Also read

Our Miseries Are Deeply Rooted in Our Pursuit of Happiness

It’s You Vs. Who and Why?