I’ve been writing about personal development for more than a decade now. At times, I went overboard. I was so much into the next “system”, the next “program”, the next “challenge” that I lost the big picture, thinking I found some magic shortcut that can turn things around fast, without any consistent effort.
Of course, there isn’t any magic shortcut, it’s all just work, work, work. Sometimes there is also some luck, but only if we get… ummm, lucky?
Every time I lost track, I went into what I now call the “personal development junkie” territory. It’s a place where, just like a standard addict, you lose contact with the real world, intoxicating yourself with some formulas, and feeling like everything is going to be ok. For a while, things are ok indeed, as long as the intoxication is still going strong. But, the moment its effects are draining (and they will drain faster than you think) you get again hit by reality. And just like a standard addict, instead of turning around and doing the work, work, work you’re supposed to be doing, you start chasing for the next dose, for the next “program”, for the next “system”.
What follows is a short description of the main characteristics of this territory, shared with the only hope that, by making it recognizable, it will help you avoid it when you’re compelled to step into it. Treat these behavioral symptoms like warning signs that you’re on a deluding path.
1. It Just Works!
The “personal development junkie”, abbreviated as PDJ from now on, will function under the premises that, whatever he’s just engaged into, it will “just work out”. Wether it’s carefully crafted marketing copy, or cleverly engineered fake testimonials, the PDJ will buy into it blindly and assume that “it just works”.
News flash: nothing “just works”. As a matter of fact, nothing works, period. Unless you do.
2. The Next One Will Work Out!
After a big disappointment, the PDJ will function under the premise that he just tried the wrong medicine, and now that he knows what to expect, the next one will work for sure. That propels the PDJ into the next hunt, into the next chase of the highly addictive dose of personal development material.
Instead of betting on the next “system”, place your money on yourself. Failures and all. You’d be much better by building self-confidence while you learn from your mistakes, than trusting some never ending string of self improvement programs for that. It hurts more, but you’ll learn faster.
3. Be My Program Buddy, They Said! It Will Be Awesome, They Said!
A PDJ will always try to enroll other people into his current “system”. Sometimes they do this to receive validation, sometimes it’s part of the program itself, which requires some level of social engineering to function. Of course, most of the time, these self-improvement-buddies relationships will end abruptly and badly (just like their most popular counterpart, the fuck-buddies ones).
The PDJ is so blinded by its own projections that he can’t see the real benefits – if any – of the program, overpromising and, obviously, under delivering.
4. I’m Not Good Enough, I Need “Fixing”
The constant feeling of inadequacy is one of the main characteristics of a PDJ. The inability to derive some basic fulfillment from everyday life makes him unstable, yearning for the next sip of magic personal development nectar, to quench a never ending thirst. It’s some sort of hypochondria, deluding the PDJ into thinking he’s suffering from some “not enough” type of illness, which, of course, is just imaginary.
Feeling at ease with yourself is a very solid clue that you’re NOT a PDJ (although you should be careful not to spend too much time in that comfort zone).
5. Theoretically, I’m A Genius (Practically, I Have No Clue About What I’m Doing)
This is a gentle way of saying a PDJ is all talk, and no walk. They all know exactly how it’s supposed to work out, they can talk for hours about all the systems and mega-systems in the world, from psychology to spirituality, but if you ask them to change a lightbulb, they’ll pass out. Or, if they’re the stronger type, they’ll try to convince you that this is not their life mission, so they’ll have to kindly say no to anything that’s not fulfilling their path. Or some similar mumbo-jumbo.
Of course, I can go on and on and on with more symptoms, because, like I said, I’ve been into that place, and not only once. But, for now, I’ll just stop.
Because of its perceived comfort and false sense of security, that place is addictive, and just talking about it too much can be a risky bet.