I’m the first person to recommend a host of “self-help” books/articles/podcasts both personal and, even more so, professional. Particularly in my transition from corporate to funtrepreneur over the past two years, the wealth of wisdom in this category of knowledge has provided me with endless guidance, practical tips, insights and motivation to be a better version of myself. So, I don’t in any way mean to dissuade you from picking up the likes of Thrive, Lean In, Eat Pray Love or Girlboss (all of which I very much encourage you to read, highlight and absorb no matter what your life path – they are incredibly inspirational and even life-changing works). But I have recently discovered a strange impact they have on me beyond the help they provide to the point where they sometimes in fact do the opposite.
Some people have a problem with the premise of “self-help” literature and there is still some stigma involved in acknowledging that you might need help from some external source. I, however, have no qualms at all putting my hand up for the “bat shit crazy” count, plus I am totally comfortable in my own understanding of self-help books as not necessarily helping you fix something seriously wrong with you but just helping you unleash a better version of who you already are. But therein lies the problem for this A-type personality, mildly OCD, high-achiever (and any others of you who might be out there reading this) – there is always some way that you can improve, learn more, develop further and become a better “you”, so where does it stop?
In a crazy, hyper connected, fast-paced world, it is already made hard enough for us to find moments of stillness, reflection and peace. We are so conditioned to instantaneity and speed that our bodies have become uncomfortable doing nothing and our minds with stopping still. We are all too familiar with the agitation of a dead phone battery and some time to kill – ohhhhh the pain of waiting quietly! And yet, that’s what the world has done for centuries until now. A few weeks ago, I realised just how badly I had become wound up in that agitated connectedness – every time I went to take a break, I felt bad if I wasn’t using it to “better myself”, kick more goals or further my knowledge and skills in some way.
every time I went to take a break, I felt bad if I wasn’t using it to “better myself”, kick more goals or further my knowledge and skills in some way.
This was particularly evident with podcasts – I would make my time doubly productive by listening to something business-related while I took the dog for a walk or drove from A to B, without benefiting from either experience. Even on “holidays” which we rarely take to begin with, I’d pack “sensible” books for poolside reading and pre-download podcasts for the plane. I realised the convenience of podcasts was encouraging me to never have a mindful moment because it allowed me to fill every potential pause with sound and information. But I’d see that as a successful use of time because I “did something worthy” with it (or, more than occasionally, I did something not very worthy – i.e. a solid Insta stalk session – with the same ineffective-multi-tasting effect).
The flip side was that when I did try to mindfully walk in the park or spend time in nature, my mind was waiting for some stimulus and couldn’t just enjoy the moment. So, I’ve had to go back to basics and treat myself like a child – only one activity at a time. This includes the restful, quiet, introverted moments of peace that fuel the bubbly, excitable, goal-kicking moments that precede or follow. I’m not going to pretend I don’t still struggle with “rest guilt” or that “doing something for no particular reason” hasn’t been hard for me since starting a business I’m passionate about. But such are the challenges that accompany the perks of entrepreneur life and, since one cannot give of an empty cup, self-help and endless output isn’t always beneficial. Tempting as it is to keep pushing towards the goal, take it from a serial burner-outer-er (yes it’s a word) – slow and steady wins the race! You are exactly where you need to be right now – the present moment is all you have, the rest is just your past or your future. Enjoy it!