Self-Help in a Different Guise

I wrote this in my personal journal back in May and because it relates to online reading, thought it might be useful posted here.


Read an article yesterday(?)/recently on someone who keeps a gratitude journal, writing down 3 things he’s thankful for everyday. I’ve read about this technique before for keeping a person grounded & happy. I’ve also been reading a ton of articles on Fast Company & 99u & I’m sure there’s another site or several about professional self-improvement. How to make the most of your time, how to have a good (productive) meeting, how not to boff an interview & how to get along with colleagues. Yadda yadda.

The fact that I keep reading such stuff, even though @ this point it’s getting repetitious shows a couple of things: My earlier obsession w/self-help info has now taken a slightly different form (used to have a New Age woo-woo twist) & these sorts of articles must be incredibly popular w/readers because there are so many of them written & so many websites devoted to sharing this kind of material. Who needs self-help books when you can get a quicker answer on the web?

The whole gratitude journal feels prescriptive to me, kind of like writing 3 journal pages everyday as suggested by The Artist’s Way. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the people & things in my life. I’m enormously grateful (husband, children, extended family, pets, writing & reading @ top of list), it’s the idea that it has to be done everyday. My goodness, if I did all the suggested everything these self-help articles put forth, I’d get nothing else done.

Last night I read an article that suggested refocusing your efforts every hour (1 minute in time) to make sure you’re doing what you want in life — making every minute count toward your largest goals. Fuck, if that were the case, I’d never do dishes or clean cat pans again because these practical things aren’t the grandest goals I have for my life. But they have to get done — which is where these articles miss the point. You need time spent on the mundane parts of life — or on wasting time & doing nothing — in order to appreciate working on the goals you do have. And sometimes (often) these periods between focused work provide ideas for your important/meaningful life’s work.

Sure, a lot of people slide into complacency by frittering away time on inconsequential shit, but they’re also not likely to be reading self-help or productivity articles online. Fast Company & the like are preaching to the choir & it’s up to us readers to not get so caught up in improving ourselves (taking all this advice) that we get out of balance.