We started off this exploration looking at why self-help books don’t work. We then took the discussion to look at how our habits are built and how habits inhibit our ability to change. Habits make change more difficult. A more intractable problem is that of resistance.
Resistance is not a well-known concept outside of psychology circles but it is a powerful force that prevents people from reaching their goals yet are rarely aware of the process.
You can think of resistance like this.
In the previous post, we looked at how self-help books – whether personal, professional or diet – fail so often to help us change. We are drawn to Get a Promotion in 60 Days and Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days because that is what we want – quick, easy solutions. Reading these books makes us feel good. We’re taking an action to improve ourselves just by purchasing the book. We want to believe that change is easy.
But, anyone who has read a self-help book has learned, results are hard to come by. We may blame ourselves for not following the author’s suggestions well enough, we might decide the techniques do not fit us, or the guy’s a quack. We carry on as usual, as best we can, until the next book catches our eyes with the next promise to reveal the secrets of achieving desires quickly and easily.
One of the reasons these books fail us is not because we are flawed or inadequate. The problem is in the nature of our habits, ingrained in us from a childhood of lessons, explicit and implied, from our parents, our teachers and our friends. Many we are not even aware how they have become a part of our world view to such a deep extent we no longer even think to examine them. And some, with the passage of time and our own maturity, become self-limiting.
We’ve all read a self-help book from time to time. They inspire us, they allow us to see things inside of ourselves we were previously unaware of, they offer us tools to become more productive, more successful, thinner, smarter, younger, even rich beyond our wildest dreams.
When we begin a new book we start off enthusiastic; confident that the author’s vast experience, bolstered by their own research, paraphrased scientific studies and illustrated success stories, will inform us in a way previously unknown to us.