February 6, 2015

Don’t Buy the “Life-Changing” Lie.

Change your life - Berlin Wall segment

The term “life-changing” gets thrown around a lot these days.

Books, seminars, retreats, training courses—you name it, if it falls into the “self-help” category, it’ll supposedly change your life.

Don’t be fooled by this—it’s a lie.

I don’t mean to imply that your friends are lying to you if they say that something they read, or an event they attended, changed their life. If their lives did change as a consquence, that is definitely worth acknowledging.

But they are—mistakenly—crediting something or someone else with their own power of transformation.

That is to say, they may have been inspired to change things in their lives by something they read, or something someone said to them, or even something they experienced but the actual change came from within themselves.

This is a common error, as we tend not to give ourselves enough credit.

Publishers of books and organizers of events, however, could be accused of stretching the truth a little when they add “life-changing” claims to whatever they’re selling. Because the real and absolute truth is this: all change comes from within ourselves. (And, ironically, that usually begins with accepting ourselves as we already are.)

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ~ Albert Einstein

Nobody else’s words or actions have the power to change us. Certainly, they have the ability to inspire us to dig deep within ourselves and find the inner resources we have to achieve anything. But that’s a different thing entirely.

Inspiration means to be “in-spirit.” To be in tune with our own spirit. Things outside us inspire us all the time—if we’re open to it—but transformation in our lives comes from the combination of inspiration and action.

So we can read as many “life-changing” books and attend as many “life-changing” seminars or complete as many “life-changing” courses as we like, but if we really want to actualize change then we need to make a decision to do things differently—and then follow through.

And a lot of the time we can do this without spending a dime on literature or training.

I cannot tell you how many books I’ve read in the hope that they were going to contain a magical ingredient that would, indeed, change my life. None of them worked.

That is not to say that I have not been infinitely inspired by what I’ve read, because I have been. But I haven’t always followed through on the inspiration. And I know I’m not alone in this.

The things that have changed my life are actions I’ve taken, inspired by a variety of sources.

The single most effective action was committing to meditation as a daily practice.

After years of dabbling and not being able to apply myself, something changed: I attended a weekend course and I made the decision that I would set my alarm for half an hour earlier every day to get up and meditate. And I did it.

I could credit the teacher with this by saying it was a life-changing course. But it wasn’t. It was a course teaching an ancient practice. A course I now teach myself. I never use the words “life-changing”—and neither did my own teacher. Many people learn to meditate and practice it for a little while, or practice it on and off, but fewer people stick with it and integrate it into their daily lives. For those who do make it a regular practice, meditation often does become a truly life-changing experience.

For others it is yoga. Or running. Or writing. Or adopting an overall healthier lifestyle. An infinity of different activities have the power to change us. But it is the actual doing of them that harnesses that power. We may have been inspired by somebody else to start doing something but the transformation came from within themselves.

It’s the only way, ever. And it’s time we all start owning our power in this regard. Give ourselves credit for what we do to initiate positive change in our lives. And stop blaming others for our failure to do so.

If we read a book, or spend thousands of dollars on a training or retreat and afterwards we find nothing has changed in our lives, it doesn’t entitle us to demand a refund. Not even if the marketing blurbs actually claimed—as many do—that they would change our lives.

It requires us to examine why we would buy into such a lie because, deep down, we all know better than that.

There is no magic pill, no magic book, no magic course that will change anything in our lives.

Believe me, I’ve looked. And I know plenty of others who have looked farther and wider than I have. And if you ask any (honest) teacher who presents “life-changing” programs, they will confirm that until a shift takes place within us nothing significant will change in our external experience of the world.

There is a mind-boggling choice of systems, techniques and processes out there promising to deliver life-changing results and the consideration of the options can be bamboozling.

What to choose?

Which is better?

Is a free version any good?

The truth is, all of them might work for us, or none. It all depends on—along with finding something that genuinely appeals to us personally—being ready to commit to transforming the way we experience the world.

So gather up all your “life-changing” books and ask yourself, “What in here is inspiring to me?” When you find something that resonates, it is because you already know the truth of what the author is saying. You haven’t really learned something, so much as you’ve remembered what was deeply buried in your consciousness.

Now that it has temporarily resurfaced, mentally thank the author for their assistance and make a note of their words that have inspired you—before they slip back under your radar. Ask yourself what actions you can take to evolve these words of inspiration into actual life-changing habits. Identify what you can do to change your own life and commit to doing it.

And later, when you’re recounting the story of how you changed your life, remember that it was you alone who did it. Always acknowledge the source of your inspiration and the support of others who helped you along the way, but be sure to claim the power of transformation as your own.

By doing this you will inspire yourself to keep going. And you will inspire others to own their power too.

Because we are all perfectly imperfect as we are, but we also have work to do. May the force be with you.


Self Help is Bad for You.

Author: Hilda Carroll

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: Matt Brown/Flickr

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