Are You Getting High on Self Help?

Are You Getting High on Self Help?

Did you know that buying a new book can release the same endorphins as if you were having sex?

A recent study showed that purchases of material things give momentary highs, while purchases of experiences give more lasting highs. But whether they fizzle out quickly or linger longer, both give you the sensation of fleeting bliss.

A similar experience happens any time you’re attempting to make a personal change.

I’ve known people who are addicted to buying books yet they’ve read less than 20% of what’s on their shelves. That’s because buying a new book on happiness, productivity or money gives you the illusion of having a solution (releasing a momentary rush of endorphins).

However, nothing has actually changed.

The same phenomenon occurs when you read a self-help article on a blog, an inspiring quote on Twitter or see a motivational video on Facebook. You get a quick high. Your life feels better. Something is different. Now you’re going to go and take action!

That’s great, IF you use that to fuel action. That is where real change occurs — doing the work every single day to create positive habits and beliefs.

It’s not sexy, it’s not a constant high or peak state of awestricken excitement. But it’s what destinies are made of.

Books, articles and blogs can actually get in the way of you transforming if you kid yourself into thinking that they’re creating real change. You can end up chasing the next epiphany or the immaculate blueprint for success.

Can knowledge inspire you to change? Yes, absolutely. But remember, the real change happens when you get busy doing the work.

I love hearing your experiences. Have you ever got caught up in chasing the next solution, when you really just needed to get working? (God knows I have.)

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

1: Source: The Journal of Positive Psychology

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68 Comments on "Are You Getting High on Self Help?"

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Trevor
Guest

That’s the story of my life. Moving from one great change to the next. But never actually accomplishing a damn thing.

Like you say, it wasn’t until I got busy doing the actual work that I began to see results. But of course, it’s just so much easier to read about how to change than to actually implement that change. So we follow the path of least resistance . . . more self-help books, more personal development blogs, less and less work.

No results.

Better to follow the hard path. Get started. Do the work. You’ll never change until you do.

Cheers!

Camila
Guest

Nothing really to add to this excellent comment. Except, getting high on self-help is beneficial when you don’t have a clue about how to work towards to the goal you want. When do figure out some actions you can do, to keep reading self help is just distraction and avoidance. It’s the brain protecting our ego (from fear, from failure). The hardest thing is to rip away from the safety and comfort of reading, and actually taking the first step.

Cedric
Admin

You’re right Camila. You have you use that inspiration to create something. If you do, awesome. If not, than you’re better off not having read a thing in your life.

Vincent Nguyen
Guest

Personally, I’ve never had that feeling of knowing I should take action and then just sitting there doing nothing. When I’m inspired, I take off. However, I know tons of people who are exactly like that. They buy the material, they hype themselves up, then… Nothing

I think they’re hoping that the excitement just builds up higher and higher and that their bodies will just go on auto-pilot but they don’t realize it still requires conscious effort and discipline.

Cedric
Admin

You’re a rare breed Vincent.

Jess
Guest

I have literally just bought two self-help books online. One about manifesting things into my life and one about being my own boss.
It definitely does give you a temporary high. After hitting the ‘purchase’ button I had an instant feeling of making a difference in my life. Then, I wondered, would I just keep doing what I’m doing, plodding along, until the books arrived and I started living the way the books told me to?
Hmph.
Instant high… Gone.

Kola
Guest

great post, Jonathan! you’re exactly right.

Ii think that the ease of accessing information sometimes belies the heavy lifting that is required to benefit from that information.

It’s easier to buy books and think that change will happen by way of osmosis

Galina
Guest

Yes Kola..Until recently I wasn’t even aware that buying a book/ course can’t solve my problems. I started daydreaming and imagining I already had the results described in the product. So it didn’t lead to real action.

Phoenix
Guest
I’ve read so many self-help and entrepreneurial books over the years. While it may have seemed unproductive at the time because I didn’t act on much of the advice they gave, those years of subtle shifts in my perspective did offer a lasting benefit. If I had not read these books before my world fell apart, forcing me to change, I would be worrying over what jobs to apply for, living confined by the perceived limits of my education and abilities. Instead, I know without a doubt that I have many options, in fact, so many that I can’t take… Read more »
Rebecca
Guest

Phoenix, your words have inspired me and reminded me. Well put! Thank you.

Bruno Coelho
Guest

My biggest high was when I picked up my credit card at 4 AM on the Trailblazer webinar that you did last year. My wife was sleeping so I couldn’t discuss this decision with her. But I knew that it was time to take action.

Best decision I’ve ever made. She supported me off-course! :D

Knowledge isn’t power until is used!

Honor each breath by walking in full alignment with who you are and what your purpose is. Only action can enable you to fulfill your mission!

Come on!!! WE NEED YOU TO DO IT!

Only you can.

Daniel
Guest
Yep, just like a drug addict, I got high off of that stuff after realizing I could forge my own path. Still in the process though. I wasted over $400 on numerous products (I did get some money back though :P), on for example: Jonathan Register’s Gravity Formula for Internet Wealth Blueprint Empower Network by David Wood and David Sharpe American Writer’s and Artist’s Inc. Numerous Fiverr.com purchases for my Empower Network blog. All amounted to nothing, no progress, and it sucked. I know Paid to Exist this time will help, although I wish there was still a free spot… Read more »
Tom
Guest

Totally valid addiction. Everyone always thinks the solution to their woes is behind an easy fix. Dont get me wrong, there are easier ways to do things but everything worth it at least requires a little effort.

Cedric
Admin

Yep.

Jeremy
Guest
The reason I know this post is the Real Truth is that I know it is true, and it also doesn’t make things easier. In other words, it’s a tough truth to wrestle with. Yes, there is an addictive component to self-development. But there is also real wisdom to it, on two levels. First, general background wisdoms you might have to hear several times, or in just the right tone, or when the moon is trine to Neptune. These can be fodder for future growth, but can often be found in cheaper resources (e.g., Marcus Aurelius at the Gutenberg Project).… Read more »
Cedric
Admin

I like the way you put this Jeremy. Perhaps it’s better to improve our filtering processes in the first place.

Shannon Lagasse
Guest

So THAT’S what it is!

Haha.

I have definitely done this. I own mostly books that I have not read (seems that I only read the ones I get for free from the library – what’s up with that?) ;]

Melissa
Guest
Yes, I have experienced this high SO many times that I actually built up a tolerance and don’t even get the same high anymore! But this doesn’t completely stop me from seeking. I am always on the lookout for a book, article, idea, philosophy, guru who can give me that high again. I know, but I know deep down I’m chasing the dragon! Something I read recently about the whole self help urge and how this effects us; the constant need and desire to change ourselves, to transform ourselves and the feeling that we can never be satisfied. The article… Read more »
Lauren Black
Guest

Just watched Jason Silva’s The Mirroring Mind. Feeling stimulated from this new pursuit of information.

Luke
Guest
I feel this is a common thing in the online marketing and self help arena. There is an overwhelming amount of information, books, courses, trainings workshops etc. I don’t think the problem lies in that the information is bad or doesn’t help rather people get caught up in a launch or believe this will solve all there problems, purchase the course and then are left alone to figure it out and take action. Most people need accountability, support, encouragement, and guidance to really make a change in their lives for the betters. I feel the ‘magic’ happens in a combination… Read more »
Susan O'Connell Wolfe
Guest
Susan O'Connell Wolfe
This is something I have struggled with quite a bit. It happened when I started getting ” trained” to be a Real Estate Investor ( wrong thing wrong time :2007), and it has happened with Internet Marketing – not to mention my real passion: to be a Social Entrepreneur. You do not want to know how much I have spent on products and training! While I have made money (even a profit) in Internet Marketing – I still suffered big time from shiny object syndrome. To make matters worse, so many of these gurus (especially Internet Marketers) tell you something… Read more »
Galo
Guest

Guilty as the next. You basically end up chasing your own tail, with these highs. One habit at a time, is where success comes from. Slowly but surely.

York
Guest
This is true. I have tonnes of books that I have yet to read and I took classes thinking the next class would be “the one”. A few great people woke me up from the spell. There are a lot of books out there….in the library. And after taking a certain number of courses, one can rely on self instruction. However, there is nothing wrong with having an unread book if you eventually read and apply it. That’s the important thing. Knowledge + application. We have all the time in the world and absolutely none at the same time, so… Read more »
Erik Richvoldsen
Guest
I am definitely guilty of buying more books than I manage to read. It started when I worked as a developer, and wanted to become the best developer I could be by reading and consuming all the information I could find on anything related to programming. Three jobs and one burnout later it turned out I wasn’t cut out to be a programmer; it was the learning part that got my juices flowing. I still order ten or twenty books a month, and yes, I get a kick every time (which often has passed by the time the books arrive).… Read more »
Patrick
Guest

I am guilty of this, and recently even more so. So now I am in TrailBlazer. So far I find that it is interesting, but I am still at that finding my idea stage, which is where I left off after reading many books that I really thought were helpful. We will see what I come up with.

This is a really interesting subject though. Like in many areas of life, there is just way too much out there. No wonder many people never start, the vast amount of information can be simply overwhelming.

Matthew Kimberley
Guest

Boy, I remember my first furtive tokes of the self-help herb. It rendered me useless in the end – a spiraling tunnel of addiction. I wrote about it here:

http://www.howtogetagrip.com/2011/how-addiction-ruined-my-life/

Ola
Guest
Thanks for this post – it was spot on. You are very correct with making the comparison with taking some drug. I am consistently purchasing books that I believe will help me to make that great leap into fame and fortune. And of course most of them do not. I start to read, very enthusiastically, but I seldom make it through to the end. But I have to admit that some of these books have really been sort of life-changers. Perhaps I had never found those very good ones if I did not do that massive search? For me some… Read more »
Evan
Guest

The rush means that something is going on.

What we want can tell us about ourselves. Note those things you find attractive, they can let you know your needs. Then you can set about meeting your needs.

Cristina
Guest

U know, self help helps me.
Not the you think and it’ll happen kind of self help, but some books about plan and do, and inspiring creative books help me keep going on everything i do.
I don’t buy compulsively, I have no more than five self help books and they’re the same since five years ago, I search for them when I need. Most of the times, five minutes of inspiration give me a week of action in doing what I believe.

Hope you all stay good,
Cristina

Iris
Guest

Bingo! This has struck a real chord. My husband and I have spent thousands of dollars on self-help but more so of the seminar variety. For over 10 years we go through a cycle of attending a seminar, making the shifts and changes only to find ourselves falling back into old habits and needing to go back again.

This is a great distinction: “It’s not sexy, it’s not a constant high or peak state of awestricken excitement. But it’s what destinies are made of.” Makes me appreciate that the constant peak state from seminars doesn’t have to always be there.

Fred
Guest
I’m not surprised at this research. I recently reached the crossroads where I realised that acquiring more self help stuff was actually a dead end street. It becomes an excuse to get that high and feel like I am actually doing something towards achieving my goals, thereby masking the real problem: I’m afraid/lack confidence/lazy. It leads to an endless cycle of despair and euphoria while nothing actually changes. There is almost always something else going on, which is why nothing will change until one addresses the root problem. This may account for the fact that people find the positive thinking… Read more »
Thom Walters
Guest

I wasn’t aware that purchasing a self-help book or reading quotes gave you the same high as making love. Totally makes sense though. Quotes can be the most “addictive”.

HM
Guest
It’s easy to look at things in black and white: BSO addiction vs doing the work. Hopefully it’s not an either/or situation. Everything has it’s place and context. As an apprentice, or someone wanting to transition, research is needed. Maybe that BSO helps jumpstart the process. Then, you move on to doing the work (the practice), before you achieve mastery. What we lack from mainstream education (especially at an early brain+character development level when it really counts) is learning+applying systems thinking, relentless and honest self-reflection (you know deep down when it’s just escape i.e. getting the high vs really acquiring… Read more »
Scott Stephens
Guest

Umm, let me think. EVERY DAY! A big way it’s manifested for me has been chasing new equipment in media work, and new techniques and “tools” in building websites and blogging. I move from thing to thing, seeing no real results for lack of time invested. Old wisdom is often best when it says things like, “Keep your hand to the plough.”

Juliette
Guest

Perception is one huge key. Change perception especially when it’s the hardest to do so. That’s creating your own reality and rewiring the brain. Retail therapy is just another drug to escape how reality feels. Kindof a self medication. quick rush leaving you empty holding somethingyou think you might use later. i quit years ago ultimately due to being poor . also do to the fact that it leads to hoarding. holding things more sacred than people!

Juliette
Guest

Reading only gets you so far… application is the trick!

Sean
Guest

Great article and yes I went through a period of about 5 years where it was all about the next book or program, and while I did apply some of the principles I was learning, in hindsight I realize I was simply looking for the next “answer” as more of an all-encompassing “quick fix” than the next step in my development.

Sumitha
Guest

Wow, you hit the nail on the head!!!! Just last week I found myself on audible with several books in my cart. Just before hitting the purchase button though, I took a quick inventory and found 6.5 unread (unheard?) books on my phone. I abandoned the cart and put my account on hiatus for 3 months. (I think I may have followed that up with a purchase on amazon though…. Sigh!!!! :) )

Cedric
Admin

At least that’s some kind of progress. :)

Hermine
Guest
Oh my god, this is so spot on. I know I’ve fallen into this before, the shiny object syndrome. In fact, I was there for years and it wasn’t until I had stopped buying and searching for the next new thing about making money online or changing my mindset that I was able to start applying some of what I had learned and actually start making money. Kind of ironic isn’t it? I think that self help materials definitely have their place and I think they can be helpful, but they should be used in moderation. We all have moments… Read more »
Ellen
Guest

Yes. Yes I am. I do believe that there is a certain beneficial ‘brainwashing’ effect that comes from all the reading I do. However, it is HIGH time to get moving.

Hannah
Guest

This is so true. I can speak from experience when I say that nothing shifts inwardly (and consequently outwardly) until you actually put that book down, go out there, and implement. Implement is a really unsexy word, but that’s what it comes down to.

If only it were as easy as reading a book… ;)

Cedric
Admin

Wouldn’t that be something. Just read the magic words, and bam!

Emily
Guest

If it were that easy, I would be a multi-millionaire working 4-hour weeks in some fantastically tropical country. I’m really, really not.

Jess
Guest
I can definitely relate to the high from a great self-help/motivational book. My issue in the past was that I would be motivated, would take action, wouldn’t get the results I expected quick enough and then the idea might die on the vine. Then a while later, I’d try another idea. Usually, I look for these types of books/materials to take on a vacation, the high is amplified then because I’m in a very relaxed and receptive state. Lately though, I’ve been following through more and only look for new material to hone what I’m already working on to try… Read more »
Chiara
Guest

Yes,it is a constant challenge to distinguish between motivational fuel and emotional porn (or motivational junk food)

Cedric
Admin

Haha, motivational porn. I’m going to have to use that! I love it.

Janelle
Guest

Hell, yeah. I think we’ve all been guilty of this. What matters is whether we get past it.

“It’s not sexy, it’s not a constant high or peak state of awestricken excitement. But it’s what destinies are made of.” I love that line. Living an amazing life requires action and risk. But to be real, it also requires tons of boring as hell steps to even GET to the amazing part.

Emily
Guest

What a fun and probing question to ask – especially since your readers are likely prone to self-help medicating (as are mine). Here’s my question: Armed with this knowledge, what are some steps we self-help blog writers can take to help our readers take the leap from the momentary high to sustained change?

Samantha
Guest

Gosh! That’s exactly how felt minutes before I read this article, I was over-hearing someone talk about the thing they do aside work. It made me realise that I’ve been doing none of things I’ve set aside to do except finishing books on how other people have accomplished wonderful things. Honestly, all these books leave me feeling like I have really long path to bush-whack through.
Thanks Jonathan! I needed a wake up call to just get started with some doing.

Deacon Bradley
Guest

So true Jonathan! A while back a Jim Rohn audio program really convicted me on this point. I’ve always been great at learning new things and I consider myself pretty good at it.

Jim pointed out that everything I’ve learned is really useless if I don’t act on it. Useless? Ouch Jim! Since then I’ve tried to be more intentional with what I put on my “read next” shelf. #workInProgress

Andrea
Guest

“…use that to fuel action. That is where real change occurs…” Could not have said it better myself. Great post!

Shawn
Guest
This is so true. What is even worse is when people buy self help programs like video tutorials and they don’t even watch them, let alone apply the information. Or even worse… They spend time watching all of the videos and don’t actually do anything with it! This is a really common thing that blows my mind. I have been a part of some group programs like that and I just don’t get it. I try to only buy the books and programs that I am actually going to finish and I know I will get something out of. The… Read more »
Alia Arlys Alford
Guest
Great article and I completely agree. It’s not the “seminar, book or process” that’s the problem. In fact, most of them have FANTASTIC information. The issue is what has been said here, the need for ACTION. I think the issue sometimes is simply that as humans, we don’t always know what action to take. Other times we may feel compelled to an action that seems to turn out not to be as beneficial as we would have hoped. The critical decision making process itself seems to be missing from so many modalities of self-help. My personal focus has been to… Read more »
Joe
Guest
Holy crap! You’re right. I found you, Jonathan, via Tiny Buddha this week, and it’s led me to an avalanche of awesome support in so many ways. So many new ideas and outlooks, new blogs, people and practices- all seemingly intertwined by this self-made movement. It’s all truly enlightening and motivating, but I was beginning to wonder if my new energy might become a short term facade. But!, like every other piece of my transformation so far, you’ve intercepted my worries with a spot-on tweet or email. (It’s like you’ve been here before or something) :) Now it’s up to… Read more »
Tyler
Guest
Self help books are an entrepreneur’s crack! We can’t get enough of them. I agree with what someone earlier said… We constantly feel like there’s something missing from our lives. Like we’re not complete. So we’re constantly seeking to improve upon ourselves. We don’t really celebrate our successes. And I think it’s due in fact to that we’re blind to them. My suggestion: take a step back and reflect on what you HAVE accomplished in the time you’ve been working towards this whole “better you” thing. Really reflect on what you’ve learned and what you’ve achieved. I’ve got 50 bucks… Read more »
Deborah
Guest

YES, in fact I am just now reading through my thousands of emails and found this again. I’m always wanting to learn from the “guru’s” and that keeps me feeling “less than” and not prepared to go out and share my wisdom with the world. When will I ever learn enough, feel confident enough and have the time to work on my own business if I continue to listen to others who are already on their path? Where is the fine line between learning and listening to others and trusting my inner guidance?

Aaron Morton
Guest
You know, you could read the same message in 10 different self-help books but only one hits you and thats ok because that is all you need. Reading self-help is a resource. It can help inspire new ideas, it can motivate you to act and it can create new understanding within a context of your life……but it is not going to do it for you. I have many books because I like reading…are all of them helpful? In different ways yes…but my successes have come from me making a decision to act and after each act asking ‘what next’. Thanks… Read more »
Don
Guest
Thanks, Jonathan. Excellent insights and interesting replies. I agree with a lot of the other comments. Often it can be a distraction, this feeling that, ‘there must be an easier trick, just round the corner.’ But its like planting a tree. You can keep exchanging your spade for a newer, sharpier, shinier one but unless you stick in the ground and dig… But I also think there is value is exposing yourself to a lot of self-help material. It can be like positive brainwashing which helps push against the prevailing culture (which tends to tell us to conform, aim for… Read more »
self help dating
Guest

Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your rss feed and I hope you write once more very soon!

Mark Hermann
Guest
Hi Jonathan, Really great post and something near and dear to my heart. You hit the nerve with me because I started asking myself these questions after taking a bunch of online training courses. Much as I thought I was going about learning about online marketing, I realized I was quickly becoming a victim of the Self Help mainline fix and was shocked that I became one of those people who bought the program but didn’t actually complete it. Kind of freaked me out until I came across Jon Morrow’s Guestblogging course. That finally gave me something real that actually… Read more »
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