Generic self-improvement advice sucks.
“Follow your passion”
“Find what’s meaningful to you”
“Discover your purpose”
I mean it’s got all the right components, it’s just backwards in its approach.
Like the big corporations of the world take essential life resources—water, fresh vegetables, green spaces—generic self-improvement advice too takes essential components of living and puts labels on them, makes them sexy, and turns what was once had in abundance, into scarcity.
- It puts passion at a distance from the everyday
- It places meaning on a pedestal
- It champions purpose as holy and absolute
It is a sexy idea, but it robs us of the truth.
Generic Self-Improvement Advice Loves Your Circle of Comfort Nearly As Much As You Do
Generic turn-your-life-around advice usually gets underway with one of the following:
- Making a list of what you love doing
- Asking others what you’re really good at
- Asking yourself questions like, “If I knew I was going to die soon, what would I do?”
We love this—especially the list making part. It’s comfortable and arousing to explore a greater life and an upgraded version of ourselves, without ever having to leave our cubicle or couch or change our behavior.
You see, our bodies and minds love stability. They’re used to following certain routines and patterns and not standing out from the crowd. It’s part of survival. So if we left it up to them, change would be forever confined to the risk-free world of our imaginations.
It’s definitely a comfortable idea, but it robs us from the truth.
Generic Self-Improvement Advice Looks For Answers To The Wrong Questions
As you may have figured, the truth is often not very sexy or comfortable. And something which isn’t very sexy or comfortable is always going to be a tough sell.
So generic self-improvement advice continues to suck. And the truth sits in the shadows patiently waiting for anyone who makes the effort to go and find it.
Those who do, discover:
- Passion is not limited to one endeavor. Real passion is a strong and barely controllable emotion which should be let free in every part of life.
- Meaning can be found in anything. From suffering and doing the chores, to playing Tetris and curing cancer—meaning is everywhere.
- Purpose is a trait that defines a life of quality. I visited my grandma with the same level of purpose in which I wrote this article. I wrote this article with the same level of purpose in which I completed my university dissertation.
Don’t be bummed out that there’s no one special path to follow or big dream to chase.
The reality is, any direction your life goes down can be just as bright and meaningful as the next.
So whenever you hear, “What’s your purpose in life?” or “What’s your passion?”, and you look up with a blank face, remember, the real truth seeker is not a person who gives the right answers, but one who asks the right questions.
“Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”
Mort thought for a moment.
“No,” he said eventually, “what?”
There was silence.
Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”
—Terry Pratchett, Mort
Push aside all the sexy advice and ideas, tear away from the comfortable and familiar routines, and uncover the truth that lurks underneath.
It won’t be easy. In fact it’ll be painful and probably terrifying. Real truth doesn’t exist in the comfort of the generic and the everyday—that’s why so few manage to find it. Once you realize this and get into the habit of questioning anything that tells you how to feel, you will begin to free your own unique thoughts and feelings, approaching life on your own terms, and chances are, finding exactly what you’ve been searching for.
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Joseph is a freelance writer and student of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He believes a new approach to mindfulness is needed if it’s to have an impact on life in the fast-paced and hyper-stimulating digital age.