“No enemy is worse than bad advice.” ~ Sophocles
Are you a Personal Development Junkie? Do you surf the web in search of your next high, the next blog with the newest twist or next fix to your personal development needs?
There is a lot to choose from. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of blogs dealing with some aspect of self-improvement fill the blogosphere. Many will be abandoned by the end of their first year. Many more will replace them only to drop out of sight themselves over the course of their inaugural run.
Some are decent. Fewer are really good. Most fall somewhere below average. I’ll let you decide where to file mine. But only a tiny handful will work their way to the top of the field.
The point of this post is to suggest that some personal development blogs may be doing you more harm than good, or at least enough harm as to undermine the good. It’s important therefore to be aware of the signs that your personal growth is being undermined by the very resources used to pursue it.
5 Ways Personal Development Blogs can Ruin Your Life
1. You begin to feel your satisfying life is not up to par
So you always thought you had a pretty good life … until you started reading personal development blogs.
When a blog starts shouting at you about the need to live your life so far out on the edge that if you’re not climbing mountains or swimming with sharks or zip lining across the Amazon rainforest, then you’re not really living life, run away. You don’t need to feel like life is mediocre just because you’re not a 23 year old living a 23 year old life of high adventure.
No need to run with the bulls to feel alive. No need to give speeches to the swaying masses to have a life worth living. No need to walk on hot coals to wake up and live life to its fullest.
If such activities do it for you, fine. My point is only that blogs that warn us that life is not quite a life worth living without such high adventure may be undermining your happiness and personal growth.
An Alternative Approach: Whether it’s climbing mountains or any of the more subdued interests in life like music, playing with your children, poetry, performing acts of service or stamp collecting, go find something that floats your boat. Get passionate about something you love. Get into it. Let it lift you and carry you and drive you, no matter how unsexy or uninspiring or even downright boring it may seem to someone else. All you need is to enjoy it yourself. You don’t have to make money doing it either. You just have to love it.
2. You start seeing your imperfect family as an obstacle to “real” success
Some blogs advise us to walk away from anyone who stops us from truly living, from seeking our dreams, from living free and authentic lives, pushing our comfort zones to the edge in an adventurous rush of heart-pounding adrenaline.
They’re wrong. Growing a family is truly living. There is nothing more alive than raising and loving your family. There is nothing more “in the trenches of life” than leading children down the path to adulthood. There is nothing deeper or more adventurous than helping children through adolescence or wiping away a tear from the face of a lonely child or learning to communicate with your spouse at the deepest level, or forgiving another human being clumsily trying to be a good husband or wife.
There is no better gift you can give, service you can render or difference you can make than loving your family. (<– Tweet this!)
To be a successful parent and spouse is to accomplish something more important and more profound than any entrepreneur or inventor or mountain climber or hot coal walker could ever think to accomplish otherwise.
An Alternative Approach: Instead, see your family as the most important work you will ever be a part of. See your family as the highest goal you will ever set, the most accomplished undertaking you will ever begin, the best and most rewarding work you will ever do. Your family is not an obstacle to your goals. Your family is your highest achievement. (<– Tweet This!)
3. You start feeling guilty every moment you’re not 100% on fire, productive, turning the world upside down
Life is not only about productivity. Never feel guilty for putting your feet up for a while.
Those personal development bloggers who are best at what they do provide us with ways of improving our lives and using our time well (I try to do that here). They motivate and inspire and urge us to live a better life. You can sense their concern, perhaps even love for their readers as they nudge us forward. It is, after all, the personal development industry we’re writing in.
But a line has been crossed when it’s suggested we are somehow subpar for watching too many TV shows after the kids go to bed. Of course there are better ways to use our time and I will be first to tell you that.
But when personal development blogs imply that we are somehow failing life for letting time slip away without having done much with that particular package of it, perhaps it’s time to walk away in search of a more nuanced motivational method.
An Alternative Approach: Rather than a life filled with unnecessary guilt for going slower than some bloggers think you should, learn to enjoy the quiet moments while increasing your ability to pursue more meaningful goals at the same time.
4. The posts provide bad information about important subjects
There are untold numbers of people looking for answers to serious questions and guidance through real problems. Some of those problems may have medical components to them. But there are blogs that offer advice and information that is just dead wrong or so incomplete as to steer the reader down self-defeating paths.
Now it’s true that even professionals in any field with nice shiny degrees from leading academic institutions hanging on their office walls often disagree with their colleagues. So having THE right answer isn’t what I’m advocating. Still, some bloggers can really do harm swimming in topics they know little to nothing about.
Be wary of advice given by the inexperienced who have something to say about topics it seems they Googled earlier that morning.
An Alternative Approach: Don’t take the word of a blogger on any given topic without checking for a second opinion as you would a medical doctor. If second opinions are recommended for medical concerns overseen by doctors with PhDs, even more important to double check with a whole variety of people sending their two cents over the internet. This doesn’t mean wise people without degrees have no place inspiring people to live better and overcome real obstacles in their lives. But trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, check, but go with your gut, at least at first and especially if it has served you well in the past.
5. The blog tells you to attack all comfort zones simply because they are comfort zones
Machinery that runs on high all the time wears out and breaks down faster than those that are allowed to cool down and recharge and get oiled and lubed from time to time. People are like that too.
It’s okay to allow some parts of your life to run on autopilot. Its okay to enjoy a well running organization, family or life for a while without major self-imposed hurtles to jump.
Not every step needs to be taken in a sprint. Not every problem needs you to solve it. Not every comfort is a trap to escape. Sometimes sitting down is necessary. Sometimes it just feels good. (<– Tweet this!)
An Alternative Approach: Choose a comfort zone or two where you seem to have settled into a self-defeating rut and start to stretch yourself there. As you grow, choose other areas of your life in need of a good tug. But no need to go on an all-out assault on all comfort zones everywhere. You just may want to keep a couple nearby. They are, after all, comfortable.
Bonus #6: You feel your faith is under attack
The personal development industry is thick with those who have looked up and found no God in the clouds and have concluded the heavens must therefore be empty. Free speech is a given, so I’m okay with their right to express their beliefs.
But some feel compelled to make it their mission in life to turn others away from their faith. My point here is that if you are a person of faith, beware that this sub-motive exists in the writing of some bloggers.
You wouldn’t ask an electrician to fix a plumbing problem, so why ask questions of faith of the faithless? (<– Tweet this!)
An Alternative Approach: Challenge your beliefs, especially where they seem to be holding you back from living a true or noble life of deep conviction and purpose and meaning. But don’t throw your faith out the window just because someone else thinks it’s based on the absurd. Peer under the hood of most people’s thoughts, attitudes, fears, assumptions and beliefs, and you’ll find all kinds of things that seem a bit bizarre and illogical. Religious people have no monopoly on the apparently unbelievable (what believers might call the miraculous). Don’t let others convince you otherwise.
Having said all this, let’s turn the tables back to a favorite topic: Self-responsibility (the only way to ultimate happiness). Blogs are op-ed pieces. They are opinions. Some opinions are good. Some are not. But your life is your own. Use discernment and wisdom. Take what you read with a grain of salt and tread lightly, at least at first. Let the blogger/author develop credibility with you over time. Don’t jump off the deep end at the first article you read that tells you what you want to hear.
Remember, no one can make you lose hope or feel guilt or lose faith or anything else. Take responsibility for your own feelings. Take control of the ship you’re sailing. No one else can without your consent.
Ultimately, you are responsible for any of the problems listed above. You make the choice to credit the author with enough authority as to inspire your feelings and reactions as you read the posts the blog provides—mine included.
The best blogs don’t make these mistakes, or at least not consistently or for long. Be sure not to judge a blog by a post or two (unless those posts are truly bad). But neither should you fail to make some sort of judgment about the content the blog provides.
In the end, it’s your life. Live it without excuses!
So, what do you think? Agree or disagree? Have I overstated the case?
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Photo by Ed Yourdon