How the World of Self Help Died (and the new era of living on your own terms)

How the World of Self Help Died (and the new era of living on your own terms)

The old world of Self Help is dying like a slowly falling giant.

It was based on trying to conform and operate more effectively in an old paradigm. If you look at the shelves of the old Self Help section, they’re filled with books on how to win friends, achieve success, and get more done.

The majority of them were created to help people adhere to a world that was foreign and false. Instead of defining life on their own terms, they came to the conclusion that they were broken and needed fixing. So they went about the work of improving themselves, rather than creating their own rules.

Thankfully, the world of needing to fix ourselves is slowly fading away. A new guard of people radically embracing who they are and living on their own terms is quickly emerging as the dominant force.

The noisy period of 7 Ways to Improve Your Life Instantly! and How to Manipulate Get Anyone To Do What You Want  is expiring. And a quiet, confident era of self-ruling is coming into its own right.

More books, blogs, and courses than ever are staking their claim on the topic of deliberate life design; and the landscape is now dotted with their spires.

This is an amazing time to be alive.

However, there is one thing that threatens to poison this movement before it grows into full bloom.

If we’ve realized that living by our own design is a better answer, yet we blindly follow the path of design so many others are heralding, we’ve simply replaced one pattern with another. And that’s not freedom. Freedom exists beyond patterns.

If we follow the advice of “Do what we want,” but simply mimic the goals of others, nothing changes.

So many people claim that doing what you want involves traveling the world, quitting your job, and following multiple passions. That may be how some define freedom. But we should ask ourselves deeply and honestly how we define living on our own terms. If that happens to align with the cries of freedom of others, so be it.

Right now, a beautiful awakening is happening. The old world of changing who we are to fit in is fading; let’s not replace it with another flavor of the same. Let’s not start a world choir singing one ballad.

You live in an incredible time. Yes, you can do what you want. No, nothing bad will happen if you do. But you have to decide what that is.

Make your own rules. But God forbid, don’t make them based on a template of rebellion.

So, I’m curious to know: What does living on your own terms mean to you?

Leave a comment below.

photo courtesy of tuppus

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113 Comments on "How the World of Self Help Died (and the new era of living on your own terms)"

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adamkstudio
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You hit on it with this post, Jonathan. Yes, the old guard is almost irrelevant to a new version and generation seeking greater internal freedom of choice and achievement. The key to avoiding absorbing others goals for yourself is two-fold: 1.) Awareness. This scares people shitless and for good reason. Becoming fully aware of who you are and what your context for living is, will reveal a lot that needs removed or fixed. 2.)Adaptability. The key to true success is adapting systems and methods that have worked for your peers, and adapting them to your goals, aspirations, and dreams. It… Read more »
JonathanMead
Guest

@adamkstudio Yeah, I think it involves a certain amount of willingness to be unpopular as well. So many of us have gone against the grain in order to do what we want, but then shy away from doing it in our own newly found “against the grain circles.” We have to be willing to stand independently for our own definition of living on our own terms regardless of its popularity.

nateguggia
Guest
Amen brother! This post has needed to be written and you were obviously the one to articulate it. I couldn’t agree more. Yesterday it hit me. I finally get what I’ve been reading for years about defining my own success. For the longest time, success to me was all based on a monetary value. This set me up for continued failure as enough is never enough. I currently define success for me as: 1. Being an amazing partner to my wife and 2. Running a purposeful business that allows me to travel with my wife and work from wherever I… Read more »
Zsuzsa Jakab
Guest

Very much the same for me @nateguggia! I am still in the process of defining what success looks like for me, but I already know that it will have to involve doing something I love everyday, being true to myself, appreciate my friends and family, associate with amazing people, find a home base but have the freedom to travel, and never ever stop learning.

Sal_Greco
Guest

Being able to SURF… ALL DAY ERR DAY… IS a life on my TERMS…

Congrats @nateguggia on your realization of success. Once you realize it is ALL what you make of it… A whole new world opens up huh…

Thanks for the inspiration today Jon!

jon.bennett84
Guest

Same here, Nate. I’ve never really been interested in the “world traveler” lifestyle that is common among freedom-bloggers, although I do enjoy traveling a couple times a year.Great post. Defining your own idea of success truly means to define your own idea of success. I’m glad the article mentioned that there’s no need to mimic others, even if we admire them. I’d like us to admire our own ideas, first and foremost.

heykatieben
Guest

Awesome post, excellent point! I’m watching some of my lifestyle design heros promise crazy things to people, like “massive traffic!” and “four hours to a perfect body” (hehe, not naming names of course :), when they turn around and talk about creating real value for the world. IMHO, capitalizing on the profitability of selling such claims isn’t adding real value. In my own lifestyle design, I want to do things differently. Thanks for the encouragement!

TimBrownson
Guest
Do you think it is changing? I’m not so sure. I’d like to think it is, but I think that there is a danger that because we are so immersed in self development that we don’t really know what is happening with the wider population. I do think there’s somewhat of a movement as you suggest with bloggers, but whether it’s just fad or a genuine shift remains to be seen. Living life on my terms means not seeing clients before 11.00am because I work the dogs, not getting stressed like I used to when working in sales and deciding… Read more »
GeraldZhang-Schmidt
Guest
I’d even go so far as to suggest avoiding to”design your ideal lifestyle” or the like, but the reason for that is in part a rejoinder to your admonition in this post: actually, you cannot live whichever way you want. After all, there are certain limits life as a human part of this world, both considering nature and culture/society, entails. For those who want to, and have the nerve to decide for themselves, the post is a good reminder. Just don’t forget that there’s more than you alone, or you’d also be following a set and detrimental pattern. Gerald, the… Read more »
adamkstudio
Guest

That’s actually a good question, Tim.

What about the populace “out there” who aren’t connected to the mircouniverse that is our online circles. Are we actively seeking paths to reach the people who resonate with the message?

Then that raises the question of whether the “new” self development message is even powerful or relevant enough to exist outside the safety of the online community.

emilyroseartist
Guest

I believe that we need to understand ourselves before we can truly live. It is certainly inspirational to see other people’s goals and achievements, however knowing what we want out of life will create our own goals and achievements. We are not all copy’s of each other, nor are our lives. I think that we are in the midst of a movement, I do not see it changing for the majority of people yet, what I do see is that we can influence our generation and the next generation will follow in our footsteps and the movement will grow larger.

JoeyWeber
Guest
Living for other people’s goals doesn’t really work anyway. You’re infinitely less likely to actually follow through if you’re not living your life on your own terms. Even if you are someone who can follow through on someone else’s life design, the chances are life will end up disappointing. I do think the self-help-y stuff does still have a place in our lives, but as tools not as life plans. For me, living on my own terms means doing what I’m good at and doing what I’m interested in. It also means not really making a plan, just choosing a… Read more »
duppyconqueror92
Guest

“Make your own rules”….

if i was able to live on MY own terms, there would be NO rules. (insert stoned face here)

donna dorrane
Guest
Hi Jonathan, luv, luv, luv, your blog… HOWEVER…, I totally Disagree with this article. Self-help is dead?!?! Not true, and it never will be. Actually what you’re doing/writing is exactly that. Although you’re using an on-line format, as your platform, someone could very easily catergorize your work as self-help, and would find your books in the self-help section. Here’s why: (quoted text from your site): “Welcome to your private training ground for living on our own terms.” (not living on your own terms=broken) “I started this blog to help others on their path.” (not on any path=broken) “I want to… Read more »
JonathanMead
Guest

@donna dorrane I don’t think “Self Help” will ever die, but I do think the old world of self-help is dying. And no, I don’t think anyone who I help is broken. However, I do think that people are often out of alignment with what they really want, and they need to return to that alignment. In my opinion, that’s not fixing or improving, it’s expanding from a place of wholeness.

JonathanMead
Guest

@TimBrownson Definitely a great question Tim. I think yes and no. More and more people are getting exposed to blogs these days. And there are a lot of people I talk to that read my blog that haven’t heard of other sites like Zen Habits, Art of Non-Conformity or the like. So, perhaps it is happening. But has it reached a mass-level? Probably not.

CathDuncan
Guest
I agree that in the “self-help” world there’s a general trend towards recognizing that we don’t have to change the external circumstances of our lives or achieve or “fix” anything in order to be whole/ happy/ be the person we want to be. This is great, because then we can skip the middle-man (that goal we thought we had to have in order to be happy) and get what we really want right now (happiness). But I don’t think this is a general world trend. It’s a message that applies more to people who have “enough” money and power (ie.… Read more »
rewirebusiness
Guest
Jonathan, I like the approach you are taking here which isn’t really to say there isn’t a need for self-help (I certainly see it on my blog) but, rather that there is a shift taking place from the old way of following templates on how to live on your own terms to following whatever that means to you – for the sake of your own personal growth/happiness. What one has to come to terms with, is the rather uncomfortable feeling of defining what it means to them and following that — and it’s uncomfortable because we find it far easier… Read more »
nateguggia
Guest

Thanks Jonathan. I just subscribed to Art of Non Conformity

TimBrownson
Guest
@CathDuncan I have just finished writing a book on values Cath and in it I take a swipe at some values that I don’t think are really values. Security for example doesn’t exist in nature so chasing it is an illusion and will only cause misery. I also talk about what I think are meta values and one is connection (which I’m linking to what you say about community). We are hardwired to desire connection yet a lot of people try and deny this side of their personality for various reasons to complicated to go into now. Anyway, I like… Read more »
CathDuncan
Guest
@TimBrownson I’ve always had a strong focus on values in my one-to-one coaching work. I’d love to read your new book when it’s ready. Also, I’ll drop you a line with a copy of my new book, about how I’ve used the perspective of “we’re not broken” in my own grieving/ healing journey. People approach loss and grieving as though it’s an illness or brokenness (and this can really get in the way of connection by creating shame!). Understanding that we’re not broken or ill has been core in enabling me to let the grief be felt and to also… Read more »
WaltHampton
Guest
Great post as always Jonathan. For me, it’s pursuing my passions of high altitude mountaineering, ocean sailing, distance running and adventure photography. And it’s staying engaged in my work of inspiring and empowering others to ignite their dreams. I think it’s easy to get caught in the paradigms of others. The key is not to get hung up on what one “should” do or get bogged down looking for “calling” or “mission” or “purpose.” The key is to get in touch with what excites you, what lights your fire, what rocks your world. And pursue that with all your might.… Read more »
livingauthentically
Guest

In brief: controlling my own time.

More detail: getting wealthy doing what I love working part-time and pursuing my other passions and projects to benefit the world.

Specifically: making my income from my blog, enjoying life with my partner.

SpartanBuddha
Guest

Crush your enemies. See them driven before you and… I’m sorry. For a second I thought you asked what’s best in life.

To answer your question I’d say: the freedom to live/die beautifully.

razielonacid
Guest
I’ve discovered the world of self-development blogs a few months ago. (yours is the most refreshing btw. Great work.) For all the soul-searching I’ve done and advice I read on these blogs I must say there’s this one mental thorn I just can’t seem to shake away….which is money. I don’t know what living on my own terms means to me….but there’s something inside my head that is still not happy with having to earn money for a living. Who says I have to a 9 to 5 job, right? Well who says I have to earn money?! Why can’t… Read more »
mingzhuhii
Guest
Holy, moly. Thanks so much, Jonathan. This is one of the most relevant articles on the concept of “lifestyle design” I’ve ever read. I believe it could even be “the” most. One of the things that shits me so dramatically about how inundated the interwebz has become by diy life-design & biz blogging, is not the market saturation, nor is it even the mediocrity of so much of it, but it’s the rampant (and almost inexplicable) copycat-ism. It’s super-difficult (and I’m writing directly from experience here) to know how to allow your own value & uniqueness to shine through when… Read more »
intuitivebridge
Guest

II would love it if the world of self-help died. I don’t think it is. It is hard to live one’s own life without living it in reflection to something else, but that’s what must happen, right? No templates needed, indeed!

Thanks Jonathan!

BrandNewTommy
Guest
I have only recently begun to think of freedom on my own terms. I have spent the last few years thinking things like “how can I be one of the new rich like Tim Ferris?” or “how can I minimalize my life like Leo”, or “how can I become nearly nomadic like Ev Bogue?”. They were ALMOST the right questions because those lifestyles are appealing to me, but inevitably I was never able to think of a way to achieve the success I needed to have their lives. Duh. So now I’m finally asking myself “What do I want, that… Read more »
Mark Fenton
Guest

I really wouldn’t be trying to copy Ev Bogue, were I you. The guy is a fraud. A quick Google search will show you that.

KateBacon
Guest

Living on my own terms?

Running my business to give me the freedom to prioritise my Buddhist practice in my life. Yes, I could do so with a 9-5 job being mindful is for every minute of the day! However working my own hours allows me to be on an 8 hour a week study programme, and teach a meditation class that I couldn’t do if I didn’t have this flexibility.

Thanks for the discussion :-)

Kate

KateBacon
Guest

@SpartanBuddha wonderful answer – I know what this means having been part of our sangha community that did 24 hour Tara chanting with our dear friend in the last two weeks of her life. Is anyone gave us a lesson in dying beautiful, it was Lesley :-)

meganever
Guest
Great post, Jonathan!! — I really admire your clarity around finding your own true path. I did it the hard way, spending decades looking for “self-help” because I believed there were an infinite number of things about me that were broken and needed to be fixed. — I am delighted to say I am now living consciously on my own terms – though it’s bumpy because I’m still figuring out how it all works without a regular paycheck. On the surface it means no longer “pushing paper” for someone else. Everything in me hated “punching a clock” whether or not… Read more »
mountaintopGrp
Guest

Hey @JonathanMead still so very invigorating reading your posts. Have you offered your WordPress Headway theme/skin customization available for others to download/test? Like how you’ve accomplished that. I’m playing around with EasyThesis right now… considering Headway… http://www.burningbushhk.com/wordpress is under construction (getting motivated by your Trailblazer course)

AvrilDavid
Guest

Great post! It’s about the freedom to choose, not a requirement to emulate a certain carefree, wandering lifestyle. It’s kind of like the women’s movement. Before women could only work in the home, then, people started hating on women who “only” wanted to be stay at home moms instead of working, so most women feel forced to choose. The purpose of a movement or revolution is greater freedom. To increase options, and decrease shame and guilt. You can do whatever you want.

JonathanMead
Guest

@mountaintopGrp I’m not the creator of Headway, but I think you can test drive it. You should talk to Grant Griffiths about that.

mountaintopGrp
Guest

@JonathanMead Cool. I understand that. I meant that some bloggers have created their own customization “skins” as downloadable “sub-themes”, which you can upload to change all the design options quickly to replicate a certain look. I know this is possible under the Thesis theme, but no sure about the others under WordPress.

livelovework
Guest
I love this topic! We are all perfect just as we are right now. By that I mean, neither you or I are less than, unworthy, or broken. Each of us has challenges and character defenses, and living a truly happy and courageous life requires awareness, acceptance and action, but I choose not to buy into the idea that I, or anyone else, needs to be fixed. There is no such thing as perfection, and no matter how much I grow I will never “have it all”. I choose to live my best life, and to do I practice healthy… Read more »
Jon_Mills
Guest
It can all be a little bit too heavy, I think if people got laid more, drank a beer once in a while, took life less serious and allowed themselves to feel the full range of emotions without judgement of themselves, knowing there is a time for everything. The world would be a little less attached to trying to perfect their lives, country and world. Now that is not to say that I don’t enjoy gleaning from others. There are many people who have visited places I haven’t, seen things I haven’t, learned things I haven’t so i always keep… Read more »
thefirst10000
Guest
The biggest issue with the whole self-help phenomenon, it seems to me, is that you end up living someone else’s idea of “the good life.” Then, when you’ve started working toward what is, in effect, someone else’s happiness, you still feel like a square peg in a round hole. And of course, the self-“help” author has already taken pains to let you know ahead of time that if their method didn’t work, it’s your fault and not theirs (it’s not their methodology that’s flawed, in other words, it’s you, but don’t worry, ’cause they have another book for that). It’s… Read more »
alextababa
Guest

What is it with he revelations and realizations today? Great point. We must twist he super imposition and Find our authentic why’s . I wrote something similar on Alidark.com today. Thanks johnathan.

sphenrie
Guest

“Return to that alignment”? Not sure I agree with that. Most people were never aligned given how as children we are told to conform to parent’s desires, then those of the school system etc. I think there is a need to teach the value of alignment more than assuming a return.

alextababa
Guest

iPhone. Meant to be “we must resist” not “twist”

rewirebusiness
Guest

@Jon_Mills Love that Jon. I’ve honestly found that the best “self help” i’ve ever received was taking stuff less serious and just chilling out….I honestly act like a big kid most of the time and laugh a lot. It bothers people because they see it as immature but they are the ones unhappy and frustrated, not me :)

remainfearless
Guest
I think one of the issues is that talking about freedom is very abstract. You know, what does that really mean? Maybe it’s linking to a sense of authenticity…again, another abstract term. I find it extremely interesting that in a country where the quality of life is increasing at a tremendous pace, people seem to be increasingly apathetic and dissatisfied with their lives. I feel that all of the stuff we talk about here related to freedom is at the core of the issue. So many people don’t feel ‘free’ because of habits that have been formed throughout a lifetime.… Read more »
rewirebusiness
Guest

@thefirst10000 self-help is really an interesting thing all to itself. I have come to realize that it is exactly what the word is “self-help”….and it’s all about how you choose to feel. I don’t think anyone else can really “fix” anyone else because there’s nothing wrong with us….so yeah, I totally agree with what you said.

mountaintopGrp
Guest

Can you also tell me which WP Plugin you use for the Social Share (tweet, like, email) box that hovers at the right of each post? Pretty cool how that does that. Thx!

EleanorO'Rourke
Guest

Totally agree. The point about their lack of accountability – if the method doesn’t work it’s because you’re not visualising properly or you’ve got unconscious blocks prohibiting your progress, which (yes you guessed) you need another book, workshop, webinar for! Next on the list ‘on line self help marketers’…haha see attached. eleanororourke.wordpress.com

PriyaFlorence
Guest

What a timely article! This is exactly what I am going through as a non-conformist realising that there is nothing to conform (or not) to. I faced a lot of resistance from people in my life for the choices I’ve made, and come out of it stronger and happier than ever.

lanesue
Guest
Underlying the quest for happiness is the desire to experience the elements of Love. Now, based on a new science we know how to do that. Instead of self-help we have self acceptance and thru self acceptance to the acceptance of others. Service is the apex. It is the living of the Golden Rule in all the ways you can imagine and create. It is limitless in its expression. It is the new science of love. It is intentional and works only when the elements are freely applied, they cannot be coerced, demanded or legislated. It is truley living on… Read more »
bearclover
Guest

Great article and well timed. I think most self help projects tend to lead us down someone elses path. We all want to succeed and make money. But finding our own path is most important. Self-help needs to evolve to support the individual goals of a person. My goal is different from yours but we can use the same tools to get there. Support our individuality and not lump everyone into the same get rich quick scheme.

atishaya
Guest
While I totally agree with many of your thoughts and definitely with your conclusion, I don’t agree that the self-help movement is based on “how to win friends, achieve success, and get more done.” Rather than self-help, that sounds like books written for people looking to improve their success in business (I agree that those books focused on a paradigm that has already shifted). Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people writing today about topics that they are NOT experts on, regardless of their personal success or personal experience or how many followers tell them that they are… Read more »
EleanorO'Rourke
Guest

The thing I’m struggling with is the desperate marketing that is accompanying the death throws.

There are sites with great information and worthy aspirations (eg this one) but how do good people get their message out in an online world of noise and naff, formulaic marketing messages. Blogged about it here… eleanororourke.wordpress.com

Need advice/direction/inspiration!

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