Five Lies Personal Development Gurus Like to Tell

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Personal development gurus tell some impressive lies in order to sell their products. That’s right. Lies. These convenient little falsehoods are effective motivators because they play on primal human needs and emotions. Shouldn’t people who promote personal growth for a living be uncommonly straightforward in their marketing? Sadly, this is far from true, even among the popular names in the field.

The good news is that once you understand these, you are free to grow and develop in realistic ways.

  • Guru Lie #1: You can have anything you want.
    It sounds so good, especially after you have been swept away by a motivational message that ignites your passion for becoming all you can be. You can do anything you put your mind to! There is only one problem. You can’t. You cannot have anything you want in life. When it comes down to it, this lie is so blatant that it is downright silly.

In high school I was a gifted tennis player with dreams of playing in college and taking my shot at the pros. I lived, breathed and dreamed tennis. I’m not sure I have ever wanted anything more than to play tennis for a living. Then my shoulders went bad. One rotator-cuff injury lead to another and before long my dreams slipped away. My body wasn’t up for it, so I never even had a chance to defy the one in a million odds of hitting the pro circuit. That’s life.

That is life. You don’t always get what you want and there are many desirable things that lie eternally outside the sphere of possibility. I want to go to the moon. I want to protect my teenagers from every lurking danger in life (as they go about pursuing those very dangers). I’ll never play basketball like Michael Jordan or write like Shakespeare. I don’t have those gifts.

This is actually good news. If you set out to accomplish something totally realistic like starting a new business or getting a promotion or losing 10 pounds or being a better partner, you will be much more likely to achieve it. And there are more wonderful, realistic things to accomplish than you can possibly get around to in a lifetime.

  • Guru Lie #2: Change is easy.
    I’m not suggesting that change is necessarily difficult. It just needs to be looked at from a different perspective, like this one: All change requires sacrifice. That line doesn’t make for good sales copy though, does it? Nevertheless, it is true. Sometimes the sacrifice is relatively easy, which makes it less noticeable. At other times the required sacrifice is overwhelming. If I want to lose weight, I need to give up the donuts. If I want to stop arguing, I need to quit indulging my temper. If I want to improve my financial situation, I will need to spend less (sacrificing whatever I was spending more on) or make more money (sacrificing my time and energy doing whatever that takes).

Even when change is merely a matter of learning new skills, it still requires sacrifice. If I want the job promotion that requires additional training, I need to get that training and sacrifice the time, money and effort necessary. Is it worth it? Of course! It may be even be fun. Sacrifices are only labeled as such when they are difficult.

What do you need to sacrifice in order to get what you want? The more willingly you sacrifice, the greater the chance of success. This approach doesn’t sell as many books (as a study of the history of book sales will reveal) but it puts readers in a position to actually succeed.

  • Guru Lie #3: Mastery comes quickly.
    My expertise lies in the realm of interpersonal communication. I have spent 25 years studying how the mind works and how people relate to each other. In that time I’ve mastered quite a few concepts and put them into practice. I see things about people and situations that untrained eyes are blind to. It is fair to say that I have developed a degree of mastery.

It came slowly but surely over years, two steps forward and one step back. I didn’t take a crash course. I took dozens of crash courses, several long-term programs and a decade-long mentorship. I tell people who want to become masters of interpersonal communication that they need to be willing to spend at least a year studying and applying some basic yet little known principles and then practice regularly for the rest of their lives. This is what masters do. Why pretend otherwise?

  • Guru Lie #4: Your mind can be programmed for success.
    You are not a robot. No one can punch your mental buttons and reformat your brain. There are no magical mental codes that will set you free. You set yourself free by the choices you make, the things you learn and the character you develop over time.

What to make of all the personal growth strategies, techniques and protocols? They are wonderful. Everyone needs tools. There is no inherent power in them, however. The tools are merely helpful, albeit sometimes very helpful. Yet they are not as powerful as your determination, persistence, honesty, self-awareness and passion. These are the resources that make all of the difference, driving you to overcome obstacles and succeed. Don’t put your faith in somebody’s protocol. Put faith in yourself.

  • Guru Lie #5: All you need to do is…
    We all crave certainty and are willing to pay dearly for it. The insurance industry exists because of this, as well as many of our cultural institutions. So, when the gurus show up and, with all the confidence and charisma in the world, assure you that your life will change if you just follow their instructions, it is nearly irresistible. Here it is folks, all you need to succeed in one neat little package with a bow on top!

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. And why should you limit yourself to one neat little package when there is so much more to learn? Don’t limit yourself to somebody else’s methods. Learn them all! Seek answers in every book, mini-course, and seminar. Develop your intuition and spiritual power. Seek answers within and without. Don’t settle on anything that will stop you from learning more. If there is an all you really need to do is solution, it is this: Leave no stone unturned until your dying breath.

Should we stop buying personal development products from people who are unrealistic in their marketing claims? Probably not. That might eliminate the entire market. I’d suggest making your decision to purchase or not based on something beyond the phony claims.

Written on 1/03/2012 by Mike Bundrant. Mike Bundrant is the director of the iNLP Center, an online NLP training center. For a free personal development mini-course, visit iNLP. Photo Credit: renaissancechambara

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