Ode to a Self-Improvement Junkie
The truth is, you’re an addict,
And you’ve been one for quite some time now.
Your goals are set so pure and exact that they could be passed as new legislature.
You listen to podcasts and audiobooks at 2x speed, thinking about getting to the next one.
Airport window displays show the books you must read,
they are titled How to Do This and How to Excel at That.
You read articles and journals,
You watch talks and seminars.
You believe that your greatest strength is your ability to consume information.
But you have a hard time stopping.
And so you live like this, jumping from hit to hit and bump to bump.
Always taking in new knowledge, new perspective, new tricks and new hacks and new tips and…
Only nothing feels new anymore, does it?
It all sounds the same.
You debate which article to read next:
“Seven Ways to Get Promoted” or “Seven Ways to Climb the Ladder,”
You decide to read both.
You reach, search, study.
Hoping for a new nugget of information that will give you an edge,
Something to scratch your itch.
But then, today, as you read this Ode, you reach the point when you must admit
That you are a junkie.
An addict of this Self-Improvement noise.
Even though you never take action,
You keep on drinking it up anyway.
Jumping from one high to the next.
You try to convince yourself that your constant learning is progress.
But it rarely is.
It’s time to detox.
Put down the book and press pause on the TED Talk.
Hear my plea.
From one Self-Improvement Junkie to another:
Take a break.
In between the books, articles and news,
Place buffers between the content.
If you must listen, listen to music or a story.
If you must read, read fiction.
If you must make goals, scrap the checklist and write out the person you want to become.
Eventually, my friend, you must break free from the pattern of constant consuming.
And so I urge you:
Take a Self-Help Sabbatical.
Sit in silence with your thoughts for a long time, or even a short one.
Pick yourself up and take action.
Instead of consuming, create.
Instead of learning, teach.
Instead of thinking, do.
Your ability to consume information is actually not your greatest strength.
No, your greatest strength is your desire. That’s what drives you.
But the desire for information can keep you from taking action.
The words and wisdom and tips and tricks can slip through your fingers
Like sand on a beach.
So now you must desire to break the chain of intake.
Stop playing with sand and go swim in the ocean.
Back in 2008, I read a book called See You At The Top by Zig Ziglar. This was the first book I ever enjoyed reading. Even as a young adult with little professional experience, this book fired me up and gave me a burning desire to be the best version of myself and to excel in a career.
But See You at the Top also brought on a new problem, an addiction for constant self-improvement. I became obsessed with always learning new things. This might sound like a humble brag but it isn’t.
Those of us Self-Improvement Junkies understand that this is problematic because we can easily get caught in a cycle of jumping from one business book to another without ever taking a break to actually implement the advice in the books. We get caught reading other peoples’ stories of success rather than creating our own. Eventually, every piece of advice we read or hear starts to sound the same.
In reality, we’re not obsessed with self-improvement, we’re obsessed with consuming information.
I finally realized that often my best self comes when I break the chain and step away from content. I first realized this on New Year’s Eve last year when I decided to stop setting such strict goals in my life. You can read about my epiphany here in my post called: Have a Plan for Your Life… And Sometimes Even Stick to It.
What I have learned this year is that in order to be the best version of myself I need to be, do, and live more than I need to read about other people being, doing, and living.
I’m not quitting cold turkey. Reading, writing, thinking, and goal setting are overall great hobbies and habits. But I will be making a conscious effort to parse out time in-between my “self-improvement benders” to step away, and I hope you will to.