The term “self-help” today is often viewed through a negative lens — a lens of false promises made by clever marketers for instant happiness, wealth, transformation, or miracle cures. Seminars, workshops, books, DVDs, YouTube and audios that offer to fix our problems and change us from “who we are” into “who we want to be” bombard us now with the same velocity they did when New Age became mainstream in the 1980s. But are the criticisms of self-help genuinely warranted? Albert Amao Soria, author of Awaken the Power Within, makes the argument that not all self-help is hocus-pocus. Indeed, at its core, self-help can truly help us shift unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs that could be negatively impacting our health, prosperity or happiness.
Self-help is just as it sounds — one helping oneself. At its heart, it is incredibly empowering and centers around the notion that we have everything we need to be able to change the things in our lives that are not working, and that many of those problems can be solved merely by changing our thoughts and beliefs.
As the self-help movement evolved, however, that fundamental message of empowerment has been lost. Today self-help is typically associated with someone telling us what we need to do to heal ourselves. Looking outward for help has the opposite intention of self-help because it makes us dependent upon others to fix our problems. At the same time, very often those promises don’t work. How can they? Who can know your thoughts and beliefs better than you? The result is that when we follow the guidance of others, we can often be left disappointed and disheartened, or endlessly bouncing from teacher to book to product, in search of a panacea.
However, if we remember self-help is about accessing our innate ability to transform ourselves, then all of sudden, many of the practices used by self-help teachers and coaches can truly begin to transform our lives, as we hone in on advice that encourages us to become self-reliant. Indeed, the best thing we can take away from any self-help guru is the encouragement to access our own inner teacher.
There are several self-help methods that are beneficial, some of which have been echoed by teachers, philosophers, and sages through the ages.
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1. Uncovering false beliefs or hindering thoughts
All those sayings that we are our own worst enemies, or that we are standing in our own way, refer to the notion that our thoughts and beliefs hold us back. It can be helpful to explore whether we have beliefs that we don’t deserve happiness, or if something happened in our past that has created an unhelpful thought pattern. When we start to question every thought and belief, we begin to see which ones are simply false and should be released.
2. Apply the power of positive thinking
Positive thinking can act as motivation, offering hope and encouragement and replacing some of the conditioned thoughts we have uncovered. It can elevate our mood which naturally puts us in a place of less anxiety. However, Amao Soria points out it is different from hoping for miracles, or wishful thinking. No chanting of “I am a millionaire” will make someone a millionaire if they just sit on a couch all day.
3. Listening for inner guidance
The right advice for someone else, may not be for you. Moreover, what is right for you now, may not be next year. The best thing we can do is practice listening for inner guidance, and feeling what action is best to take. What is it we are truly called to do regarding a challenge?
4. Taking action
“Positive thinking is only half the process of creation,” says Amao Soria. For personal and emotional growth we have to follow our inner guidance and complement positive thinking, by taking positive action.