Just in case you were wondering if I’ve always been a model of efficiency and forward momentum, I have not*. Furthermore, I’ve had experience on the other side of this scenario more than once, so trust me, no judgement. 

I’ve discovered a new occupational hazard of being a coach: People want to tell me about their favourite self-help books**. Putting aside the vast difference in quality and usefulness of these books, I can get behind anyone reading stuff that motivates them to make some changes for the better. 

But. 

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in these conversations. When someone tells me about the latest book that they are obsessed with, I follow up with these two questions: 

  1. What is it that you want to change in your life that compelled you to read this book?
  1. What actions have you taken to (insert answer to question #1 here) as a result of this book?

The response is often: *blinks*.

Now it’s not that we don’t know what actions to take. My clients come to me with a vast array of goals, for example, wanting to make a career shift, improving their habits and work/life balance, getting out of a rut, etc., but no one has ever been unable to come up with an idea for an action that could take them towards what they want. In fact, last night a friend joked that she once decided that her vision included curing cancer and replacing Oprah (amongst other things), and I know that if I had asked her what actions she could immediately take to get going on that she would have come up with something.  Think about this for yourself: Is there something you would like to change in your life? If so, can you come up with 3 actions (they can be minuscule) that you could take immediately that would drive you towards what you want to achieve? Here’s the thing: Taking in knowlege and building an intellectual understanding of what to do, what I call the ingesting of information, is of very little value on its own. But it’s relatively easy and can feel so good. Many people connect with self-help literature because they see themselves in the stories, and it makes them believe in the possibilities, like a feel good drug, but then they don’t follow through with taking consistent*** action and the high goes away. And a book isn’t going to check-in and make sure that you are following through on recommendations.  So why do people feel a sense of satisfaction from reading self-help books even when nothing changes for them? Would the feel-good feeling you get from reading them translate if applied to something that is easier to gage? Let’s make a really fun comparison. These books are generally about making changes in your habits and actions for optimizing your life. Physical fitness is about changing and optimizing your body. Now what would it look like if people approached physical fitness the way they do optimizing their habits and actions? Here are some examples of what people would say:
  1. The Planner: “I have fantastic intentions and I make incredible plans and schedules (sometimes colour coded) for optimal workouts. I’m not following through because the conditions are never 100% perfect, as they need to be, but planning has been going well and I am ready. I don’t seem to be getting any results.”
  2. The Inspired: “I read inspiring books about people exercising every week, and I’ve learned so much about working out. I can’t do what those people are doing because my life is completely different and I don’t have the time, but I think the books are helping. I think I see some results but hard to tell”
  3. The Tester: “I did a pushup, just like it was explained in the book, but nothing changed so I guess it doesn’t work for me. I don’t seem to be getting any results.”
  4. The Complacent: “I’m fit, I don’t need to workout anymore. Done. I don’t seem to be getting any new results.”
Right? I will spare you from the expected conclusion wrapped in a bow about the importance of taking action because you’re better than that. But I am curious, so let me know if you’re guilty of any of these! *Still not, but I have made tremendous progress **Also applies to podcasts, blogs, youtube videos… ***Note the word “consistent” – sometimes people “white knuckle” through some temporary changes
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