Self Help – 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

If you’re like me, you’ve probably read 100 plus self-help articles, tips and books in the past year.

Personal development is an uber popular theme because life is about growth. Just try to find a person that doesn’t want to improve an area of their life.

Go ahead! Try!

You won’t be able to.

Whether you’re moving towards a goal, discovering your passion, trying to change a bad habit, working on your relationship or developing a spiritual practice, you are seeking growth.

In the history of the world, there has never been a time when access to information has been so readily available.  In the personal development field there are a rich array of ideas, suggestions, tips, studies and creative approaches to tackle and jumpstart any personal development theme you seek to improve.

The internet is a personal development haven. And this is a wonderfully empowering thing! As long as you apply what you read.

As a self help junkie, I would readily consume everything I could get my hands on.  I have a collection of self improvement information I could use to wall paper my entire house.

If the topic of increasing energy or decreasing clutter came up at a party, I could recite an endless list of ideas and systems. The only problem was, I was not seeing any improvement. How could this be?  I had all the tips and great ideas, I spent time and energy reading and researching personal development strategies.  I was motivated to grow and change.

Yet I was experiencing very little progress, which I found to be utterly frustrating. Until, I took one step back and looked at what was blocking me from benefiting from my personal development repertoire.

I realized there were 5 key mistakes blocking my effective use of tips, suggestions and ideas:

Application– effectively applying the tips.  This is fundamental and super important.  You must plan to implement and apply the advice.  It’s simple; it will not work if you don’t put it into action. Make a specific plan for application.

Change that is too complicated.  When we are changing habits, trying something new, or adopting a new way of thinking, it’s important to start with something that is easy to implement.  Chances are, if it is too complicated, you will quit by day 2.  I try too look for ideas that are easy to apply and do not require too much time to start.  This gets the process started; if this works, I can build on this success and go to the next step.

The goal of perfection.  If the goal is perfection, you will always fail. You will get frustrated and lose motivation because every action and result will not seem like a step forward.  It is much more effective to view change and growth as a process.  You will make strides along the way but perfection will never be achieved.  The expectation of perfection will undermine your progress and motivation for change.

Not accepting the struggle.  The growth process requires struggle.  You are shifting from one set of patterns of behavior to another.  And this is not what you’re used to.  This will be uncomfortable initially, even if it ultimately produces a positive effect in your life.

Being too passive.  I love to read.  When it comes to reading. I get comfortable in front of my computer, book or magazine and actively search and seek ideas and information.  However, shifting from that mode of activity to an action oriented activity requiring output activities like planning and implementing has become more of a challenge.  I now start my day with activities that require output, planning and implementing.  I also try to never go more than an hour without switching gears.

Avoiding these self-help mistakes will help you supercharge your growth and benefit from the the many brilliant and highly effective personal development ideas you.


Sheila McCann is the creator of the Rainbow Framework a universal framework for life, love, wealth, creativity.  One look and you’ll get life in a big way.  Pop on over and get your free rainbow framework e-book and visual.

20 Responses to Self Help – 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

  1. Mohit Pawar says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Good thoughts.

    To act on what we read, stick to what works and leave what does not – is the path to take.

    Also your suggestion to avoid “change that is too complicated” is spot on. 
    People often do not stick to their new year resolutions – because they aim to do too much too soon.

    Setting small, simple goals and accomplishing those – reinforces the belief that “I can do it.” In such a state of mind – next slightly bigger goal – looks doable.
    May be in a future post – you can map your different suggestions with elements of Rainbow Framework.

    – mohit

  2.  Thank you Mohit!  Action in the form of small steps is indeed the path to take and I think the most fundamental thing in terms of change.  Yes, what a great idea, to put it in the context of the rainbow framework.  Practical application : )

  3. Over-studying is key here.  As you’ve pointed out, so many of us will sit down, get all nice and comfy, and spend hours reading this stuff. It allows us the opportunity to fantasize about living a different life — all the while keeping safely wrapped in our snug little bubble.

    It’s procrastiation at its worst. And it keeps us stuck.

    The only way out is to get uncomfortable. To seek out challenge. To actually *do* something for a change.

    It always comes down to action. Action is what breaks the cycle and gets us moving again.

    Action IS personal growth.


  4. Dan Erickson says:

    I’ve read a lot of self-help over the years.  Honestly, I don’t think any one self-help source has been of any significance in my personal journey.  However, I do think that bits and pieces I’ve gleaned over the years have sunk in and helped, but only when I had the motivation to move forward first.

  5. Thank you Trevor.  Yes, action is key.  That’s why I love when people write an  action step in the comments.  It’s so effective in terms of accountability.  I use the rainbow framework to help me take action in different parts of my life.  It’s a simple yet highly effective visual for growth and development.

  6. Hi Dan,  
    You make a good point about being ready to  move forward.  I’ve always been fascinated by the process of breaking through blocks and the pattern that precedes the growth.  I do think it’s great to have a rich array of ideas to pull from and apply when that moment arrives : )

  7. Onder says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Great article,

    I can relate to what you’ve written completely. It’s the reason why i spend most of my time in my work room and less time in the living room watching TV with my family. It’s because of the negative influence i get watching it and becoming more and more sensitive what what i consume in the time i have in the day time.

    I think once people become more and more aware of what their investment gives them in return, they’ll be able to spend more of it doing the things that are more productive and soul developing.

  8.  Thanks Onder!  It takes a while before we become consciously aware of our patterns.    Controlling your environment is very effective when we’re trying to change our habits.

  9. Aaron Morton says:

    There is a case of overwhelm that is present when dealing with self help. You read one book and then another. Of course the act of reading is different to the act of moving which you point out in the passive section.
    I tell my clients to use self help books as a guide but then formulate their own unique plan. This does two things:- They take ownership of the situation.- People are more motivated and place more value on something they have created themselves.Self-help has its advantages but it has its flaws. Your article has done well to provide pointers on how to avoid those flaws.Aaron

  10.  Absolutely Aaron! Great point about importance of creating your own unique plan.  Then they are more engaged and active in the process.  Actually that is what has has worked best for me.  Thank you! 

  11. Laura Weldon says:


    I like your take on the pitfalls to self-help!  Those 5 mistakes are so overlooked!  Your article took me back to high school when we talked about our futures and goal setting.  Teachers always emphasized smaller goals within a larger goals, which seems like a no brainer.  

    However, as an adult with a family and everything else going on,  I forget about the struggling,  not being perfect and especially the being too passive part!

    Thanks again!

  12. Your welcome Laura!  I experience that as well.  There’s so much going on taking care of the family, I can get lost in distraction.  There’s no growth or change without  some struggle, it’s a process.  Thanks!

  13. Luna says:

    “I have a collection of self improvement information I could use to wall paper my entire house.” that made me smile, I can completely relate!  This was a really enjoyable article to read, not only because it was easy to follow, but I think it will make a real difference to my life.  In particular, I liked the point about “accepting the struggle”.  I haven’t done that yet, and whenever I begin to struggle, warning bells pop up, and I start going into a panic.  Perfectionism is also a big one as well :-S  Thank you

  14. Jayden Lucan says:

    I agree, the best system of productivity is the one you use, remember the milk is much better than GTD if you actually use remember the milk and only read about GTD

  15.  I agree Jayden and I think simplicity always helps in terms of application.

  16.  Thanks Luna! You’re comment made my day.  Struggle and imperfection are a part of the life process and yet we think we should not encounter it in times of change.  I always tell my kids about watching them while they were learning to walk and how they fell down but kept popping right back up.  This usually helps them through any challenge or period of change.  And btw it took me a long time to embrace struggle.  The path of least resistance used to be my motto.   But no more, I now go through the struggle, put in the work and accept imperfection and this has changed everything for me. 

  17. Thanks for a thought-provoking article, Sheila.

    I think that there’s something that sits across all 5 mistakes: the fear of failure.

    Not only do we look for a solution that is simple and quick to implement, we want a solution that’s guaranteed to work. If there’s any doubt about a solution’s efficacy, we have a reason to go look for another solution.

    After taking action, failing/making mistakes as we learn to implement the solution is the means by which we achieve growth.

    I hope that makes sense :-)

  18. Absolutely Jehangir!  Fear of failure and Fear of success will prevent us from taking action or following through. 

  19. Pingback: Self Help – 5 Pitfalls to Avoid « The Thoughts of an Old Fart The Thoughts of an Old Fart

  20. Carpe Diem says:

     It’s very easy to find people who don’t want to improve any area of their lives. Almost as easy as finding people who make false, broad generalizations to prove a point.

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