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.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

adamkstudio August 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

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 goes without saying that you can’t have one of these without the other.


JonathanMead August 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

@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 August 30, 2011 at 11:00 am

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 want to at all times. Both are works in progress :) I don’t need to continually travel the world and value having a home in an area I love. But travel is a very key value to us, and I want to provide that for us, with the ability to work in the most flexible way possible. If anyone has any resources to this, I am an open book. Thank you again!


Zsuzsa Jakab November 14, 2013 at 2:52 am

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 August 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

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 August 30, 2011 at 11:37 am

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 August 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

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 August 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

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 that yes it is 2.50pm, but it’s fine if I want to go and mediate because I don’t have a client for over an hour.

That and a nice sauvignon blanc anyway ;-)


GeraldZhang-Schmidt August 30, 2011 at 12:19 pm

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 ecology of happiness –


adamkstudio August 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

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 August 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

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 August 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm

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 direction. I hate plans – they restrict my freedom.

Thanks Jonathan. This post makes me happy.



duppyconqueror92 August 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm

“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 August 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm

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 show you that you can follow your heart and be grounded.”

(not following your heart=broken)

These statements would imply that someone is broken in some area or another, in which there’s nothing wrong with that. WE’RE ALL BROKEN IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER…lol…which is why I frequent sites like yours…to learn, be educated, and um….get help.:)

So, no, self-help is not dead, nor will it ever be.

donna dorrane


JonathanMead August 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm

@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 August 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

@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 August 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

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. hungry folks in Somalia do need their circumstances to change, or they’ll die). Even on the internet though (where the participants have enough money and power), it’s not a general trend. People believe in their brokenness, not-enough-ness and the need for their circumstances to change in order for them to be whole/ enough/ happy.

And because it’s not a general world trend, it’s hard to market a service/ product based in this foundational idea of innate wholeness. People believe in the need for their circumstances to change, so that’s what they want to buy. Coaches/ therapists/ social workers who sell personal development or therapeutic services then feel they have to link it to some sort of external circumstantial change that their “inner work” will help their clients get (like a successful business/ a new career they love/ a happy marriage, etc), and so they get drawn back into reinforcing the popular ideas of innate brokenness and the need to change your circumstances in order to be the person you want to be and feel the way you want to feel. (I’m very interested in finding another way that doesn’t reinforce this popular lie, but still allows for the creation of a sustainable business – would love to hear if you or @TimBrownson or charliegilkey or others have any ideas on this…)

Also, I’m holding out for the day when we all stop making freedom/ independence the most important value. I think we over-value this in the modern Western world – especially the online world, and I think we’re missing out on the value of intimacy and community. I think deep intimacy allows the greatest space/ freedom for each of us to be the people we want to be, to feel what we want to feel and to create what we want to create in the world. But unfortunately most of us believe that we have to have mastered “independence” and “freedom” first, before we can get to safe and mutually nourishing interdependence.

At the rate of the world’s population growth and with the problem of unequal distribution of food, political power, land and other important resources, peaceful interdependence is what we all need most – especially from the people who have the most resources/ political power/ money/ food, etc (ie. the folks with access to the internet). In my view, intimacy/ love/ connection is really the ultimate purpose of our lives (and the most powerful source of healing available to all of us), and the rest is just opportunities for creativity and learning.


rewirebusiness August 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm


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 to take the path of least resistance.

We live in a world now that is the most exciting time to be alive and each day I help more and more people realize that living on their own terms is, in part, defined not by a book or blog post or by me and certainly not defined by following what others are doing.



nateguggia August 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Thanks Jonathan. I just subscribed to Art of Non Conformity


TimBrownson August 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

@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 what you and JM say about not being broken. One of the things I got to great lengths to do with clients is assure them they’re not broken. Sure they may not be working as efficiently as they would like, but that’s not the same thing at all. The NLP presupposition of nobody is broken is one of my favorites and a mantra to live by imho.


CathDuncan August 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

@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 recognize alongside the grief that, even in the grief, we can feel peace/ joy/ gratitude/ love and all that other stuff we want to feel.


WaltHampton August 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm

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. Thanks for the great work that you do Jonathan. Walt


livingauthentically August 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

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 August 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm

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 August 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm

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 I hunt and gather anymore?

I kid…but then again…am I really kidding? When does one stop questioning the status quo? And more importantly, will I have someone to share my happiness with when I finally live on MY own terms? :S


mingzhuhii August 30, 2011 at 9:07 pm

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 as you research others in and around your niche, you’re met with template after template after goshdarned template. One is left thinking, “Oh, gee – should *I* conform to this, too? I mean – is that what I’m *supposed* to be doing?”

And frankly, much of the time I find it phenomenally uninspired. The precise antithesis of what it pertains to be.

There are some true, rockin’ online DIY iconoclasts out there (dare I say, quite possibly yourself included!), and a whole lotta people still searching for their unique expressions “themness”, who have somehow templatised the model.

Perhaps we all (and I unequivocally include myself in this suggestion) need to take a massive step back and re-imagine our online emissions, manifestations, iterations, expressions… blank-slated. From a place of raw creation & absolute willingness to go out on a very personal, very real limb and fail.

That would be cool.


intuitivebridge August 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

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 August 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

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 probably no one else has, and how do I get THAT?”.


Mark Fenton August 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

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 August 31, 2011 at 3:18 am

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 :-)



KateBacon August 31, 2011 at 3:20 am

@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 August 31, 2011 at 4:34 am

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 there was anything that actually needed doing. I love that my life now follows my own rhythm. But the most important thing is that I am now free to find ways to provide REAL value to people. It means choosing to work with people like you, people who are making great contributions to the lives of others by helping them discover and achieve their dreams. I believe that by joining forces we truly can change the world for the better — solving real problems because we care, because it fulfills us, and because working together to do so brings us joy.


mountaintopGrp August 31, 2011 at 4:42 am

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… is under construction (getting motivated by your Trailblazer course)


AvrilDavid August 31, 2011 at 6:19 am

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 August 31, 2011 at 7:46 am

@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 August 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

@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 August 31, 2011 at 8:37 am

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 and mindful living, which is entirely different from fixing a broken image of self.


Jon_Mills August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

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 my ears and eyes open to what others have to say, even if I take it with a grain of salt. Occasionally I will come across a gem


thefirst10000 August 31, 2011 at 9:29 am

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 like sticking an abusive relationship between covers, because for all the “affirmative” talk, the first assumption is that there’s something terribly wrong with you, and the next assumption that follows from that is, “You have to change your (self, life, family, etc.) and be more like me, or everyone will hate you.”

What the fuck?


alextababa August 31, 2011 at 9:46 am

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 today. Thanks johnathan.


sphenrie August 31, 2011 at 9:46 am

“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 August 31, 2011 at 9:47 am

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


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 9:47 am

@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 August 31, 2011 at 9:51 am

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. Look at little kids. They’re naturally happy and inquisitive and are completely happy and immersed in activities where happiness comes from doing the activity itself, not some goal to be derived from doing the activity. I think that’s something very important to look. We are such a goal-directed society yet what we find is that we typically have no greater happiness when some goal is reached. Even if there is, it’s typically brief and we tend to go back to our baseline condition and way of looking at the world. The more we can change and shift our mindset from doing because of what other people are doing or what we think we should be doing to doing from our own volition without worrying about external circumstances, opinions, etc, the happier we will be. And, I think, it’s from that place that we can find the connection and love that you speak of. In gaining a greater understanding of ourselves we gain a greater understanding of the whole, which naturally cultivates love and compassion. Then we can make some real and lasting change in the world.


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

@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 August 31, 2011 at 9:54 am

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 August 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

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.


PriyaFlorence August 31, 2011 at 10:00 am

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 August 31, 2011 at 10:16 am

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 your own terms within the domain of Love.


bearclover August 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

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 August 31, 2011 at 10:22 am

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 great. I constantly find myself feeling that some bloggers lack depth, context and true perspective despite the large number of people who follow them (present company excluded, of course). Like so many things in life, the internet is filled with people with big dreams, a vision and sense of knowing what works for everyone. I applaud you for reminding us to live on our own terms, with our own vision, regardless of what trend is popular at the moment. Cheers!


EleanorO'Rourke August 31, 2011 at 10:25 am

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…

Need advice/direction/inspiration!


JonathanMead August 31, 2011 at 10:36 am

@EleanorO’Rourke That’s a great question Eleanor. I think the people that are riding this as a fad will get tired and lose interest eventually. People will be able to see through their bullshit intuitively when they buy or interact with them. In general, I think people have really good bullshit detectors.


JonathanMead August 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

@atishaya You make a good point. I think because the barrier to entry is much lower now, with that comes a lot of people doing things that don’t necessarily have the experience to be speaking from a place of integrity. It’s one thing to advise people on something, it’s another to muse on it for your own purposes.


JonathanMead August 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

@PriyaFlorence Congratulations Priya. That’s an admirable thing to do when you’re faced with resistance from those you love.


Quimbalicious August 31, 2011 at 11:07 am

@razielonacid The money aspect of it is what gets me, too. Sooo ready to move on with life. Society, get with the program! I think by next year we’ll all be saying, “Lol, money, so 2011!”


Midliferebel August 31, 2011 at 11:11 am

Another great post Jonathon to get us to lift our heads and think differently. Personally I ‘m all for lifestyle design with a twist of individuality and hell what’s wrong with a spot of rebellion if the old ways don’t work, as long as your purpose is more expansive than making a million and being a celeb then I can’t see the problem with a rebelistic approach after all I think its those who choose to think then act differently that actually evolve consciousness for mankind as a whole.


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

@razielonacid Love the “hunt and gather” concept….I actually considered “barter and trade” as an option…I mean…ideally, why could I not trade a goat for web work? The goat gives milk, is a great companion, and provides entertainment…..Seriously though, I hear what you are saying about “the money thing” – – I think the way I’m dealing with it is to reduce the things that are costing me the most money and change what my idea of “how much I need”


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 11:17 am

@JonathanMead@donna dorrane Hey Jonathan, this is absolutely the truth – I just wrote on being broken and needing to be fixed…we have this idea in our minds (I did anyway) that we need to be fixed and that our behaviors are somehow wrong. But when i finally accepted that I was not broken, and I mean truly accepted it and believed it, then I freed myself to make different choices – – and that is the key…by choosing to not feel broken, I essentially “fixed myself” :)


Emilie August 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Great article. I just wanted to add that I don’t believe following many passions to be the answer for everyone. Puttylike is really only meant for multipotentialites– people who have struggled with this particular issue their entire lives, people who have been made to feel that they must limit their exploration and pigeonhole themselves to be accepted.

Embracing and building a life around multiple passions absolutely isn’t the answer for everyone. I actually have a major issue with people who make the absolute statements. I believe you should do what works for you, always.

Plus once you reject the notion that you must be “one thing” and embrace your multipotentiality, what does that look like? It’s radically different for each person. That’s the kind of freedom I want to help inspire. I want scanners to stop fighting their true nature and start thinking for themselves about what they want their lives to look like.

As writers, we can only share our own experiences and the lessons we’ve learned. And if those words resonate with others and help, that’s great. But along with providing our own suggestions, we must empower our communities to make their own choices and not merely be reliant on us.


eugeneyiga August 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm

So true! We’re constantly bombarded with stories of people quitting their jobs, selling all their stuff, and running off to some exotic location (why is it always South-East Asia?) to live out their ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ dream. Whimsical tales like these, when told to people with mortgages and/or kids, can feel a little insulting. Fact is we really don’t have to go to these lengths to do what we love. If we want to and can, we should go for it. But we shouldn’t treat this template as the only way.

Another problem with much writing on this subject is that it often reeks of condescension. Anyone who continues to be a slave to ‘the man’ is derided as a weakling and failure. I’m all for independence, but going with the flow doesn’t automatically make you a slave nor are all corporate jobs are soul-sucking beasts that must be vanquished so we can pursue our dreams. We should definitely be following our own templates, not being rebellious because everyone else is too.


wagefreedom November 28, 2011 at 6:37 am

@eugeneyiga Two great points Eugene. I was thinking about buying a domain and making a site satirizing SE Asia/business in a backpack/etc. websites, as we see so many of them nowadays. Anyway, Jonathan’s point of not buying into anyone else’s dream absolutely has to be said. Dreams are where you make them (come true). Ironically maybe: I write this at my place in Bali….

Jonathan, having come of age in the 70’s and read my share, I’m not sure that we can paint all ‘self-help’ books with the same brush. When they reflected themes of personal responsibility and a hundred wise ideas that are as old as the hills they could be catalysts for positive changes in the direction of your choosing. Reading ‘Your Erroneous Zones’ at 15 set me on a path of my own devising, knowing that my life and I were all my fault, and to my credit…

JonathanMead August 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm

@eugeneyiga Thanks for your comments Eugene. You’re absolutely right, a lot of it does feel like condescension.


JonathanMead August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@Emilie Thanks for stopping by Emilie! For the record, when I linked to you I wasn’t calling you out or anything, I was just giving an example of what some people jump on as a trend. I absolutely think what I write about here people jump on as a trend as well.

Also, I think there are a TON of people that need to hear what you have to say. I’ve met quite a few of them in my coaching programs. :)


ellobo August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thank you. Thank you. A little provocative that some people will take the wrong way but overall a message that I’ve felt for a number of years. And not until recently, have there been new inklings of signs of a new version of self help that allows people to determine the life THEY want to lead, that’s important to them as individuals, and meets their priorities.

Ironically, when I first read some of your articles like the one about quitting your job and going into business for yourself, I was a little afraid you “didn’t get it” either. You had some awesome articles for people that indeed had the same priorities as you, but you seemed to imply that everyone should want to quit their day job and go into business for themselves. I stuck around because you had a lot of good articles and tools that worked or that I could adapt. And now I see you’re not as different from me as I first thought.

Not everyone wants to quite their day job, or even if they do, it doesn’t mean they want to go into business for themselves. Although, I see the possibility of going into business for myself some day, I don’t have the desire at all. I put some importance on stability, not having to deal with the hassles of running my own business, and in my case more ROS (Return on Stress level). In my case, I’m learning a lot about leadership, mgmt, industry, what to do, what not to do, and I get to do it relatively stress free. I put some premium on flexibility which is why I have turned down a lot of similar jobs for less money especially if they don’t help me build any skills or experience that will help me move closer to what I think I want to do next.

For me, the most important thing is fulfilling my desire to maximize my impact on the world, in a certain way. It’s more important than money, flexibility, time spent, and to some extent even work life balance because I’m so passionate about it. Also, being challenged and intellectually stimulated is a high priority.

But, continuing to perpetuate this message that started (or that many of us were thinking, but not saying) will be important until a quantum mass realize they can really live any life that THEY feel is most important. I had a friend from another country lose his job recently and he was devastated as he would likely have to move back home. Ironically, my friend had been miserable in his job for years, had been thinking of moving back home for years, and didn’t seem to be motivated to change anything. I encouraged him to take some time to think about what he wanted and what was important to him but he felt compelled to go through the motions and apply for as many jobs as he could. He said he’s wait until he was back home to do some thinking and that he had to spend all his extra time with his girlfriend. Who ironically, he admitted he didn’t think would go anywhere long term if he did stay. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get one interview before leaving because he wasn’t clear on what he wanted, wasn’t focused, didn’t have a center, etc.

Even though I’ve known clearly what I have wanted for 10 years (with some evolutions and changes as I have changed), I still struggle with some of the issues of living MY dreams. I am to a large extent but I struggle with fear of failure due to others expectations and fear of success due to resentment of others (family) expectations who can’t understand because they think I have everything they want already.


juliettaj August 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I love this! I had the “throw everything in” moment, that is went and wrote in Italy (a book called Me, Myself and Lord Byron). I hope it wasn’t condescending. I was very aware that I had the luxury to do they trip because I am single, childless, mortgage-less. My point was instead of bemoaning what I didn’t have (husband, children, house) I needed to go and celebrate what I did have: the ability to go and live my dream. It was an intense time though. My book is far from a fairytale fantasy. It became a deep excavation of personal issues. And I came to the conclusion that true freedom is self-knowledge. Knowing yourself, being truthful with yourself, facing the sub-conscious demons and finding the things that truly inspire and nourish you because they resonate deeply… I’ve stopped trying to fix myself, but I do still know there are fears and fallacies which still veil my life view. So I will probably go do it again! Because I can. I’m grateful for that because I love the travel and rumination. It’s not for everyone. And you don’t have to run away to get down and deep in your stuff. Though the weight of every day life does make it difficult to find the space to do for many people. Anyway, I love this as mentioned! Just thought I’d say that. And a bit more, apparently…


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

@JonathanMead@eugeneyiga I agree that no one should be condescending but on the other hand, is it really condescending to truly believe that the corporation is soul-sucking and write about it? Perhaps there is a way to do it that is not so condescending.

But I, for one, do think that the typical workplace is absolutely the worst place in the world for a human to exist. I would not ever be condescending because I don’t believe in that – but for those of us that have seen the difference and sold houses and did everything we could to work for ourselves and found a better life, then I think it’s ok to express what we have found and help others achieve that, if they so choose. But that doesn’t mean we berate them or make them feel wrong.

It’s really just a choice in my mind and I say that whatever works best for each individual is the real answer. I’d rather help people just “succeed” and if that means succeeding at their workplace then it’s absolutely fantastic as long as I was useful.


sassydrcil August 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Living on my own terms…….hmmm. I have learned that recently.

Listening to others, but coming to my own conclusion and action based on what intuitively feels right.

Acting with the most respect and honesty towards others and expecting nothing less from them.

That is what I have at the moment.


Owen Marcus August 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Yes, one’s man freedom is another man’s rule.

We all are passionate about what we are into and want to share it with others. For some our path is their perfect path, for others it’s not. That said, often it better to get on a path than sit on your ass waiting to figure it out or for it to find you.

My motto and the tagline for my new book is – as men we aren’t bad or broken and we don’t need to be fixed! Self help came from therapy and therapy for decades told us that something was wrong with us with the drug companies there to sell us a drug to fix it.

At worst we just didn’t get to learn key skills.

What I see are people showing up to teach those lost skills. Often it is our friends, a blog or a free men’s group. We all are going open source, helping each other fill in the gaps. My hope is that we bring in our elders for their wisdom before they leave us. They have a lot to teach us… they can shorten our learning curve.


ethanwaldman August 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Living on my own terms (to me) means the ability to make a living and pursue multiple interests all at once. That means not having a 9-5 job, which I find to be too rigid to allow me to, say, write a song at 10am when I’m feeling particularly creative, or go for a long bike ride at 3pm when the roads are empty.


ethanwaldman August 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

@JonathanMead As someone who DOES need to hear what emiliewapnick has to say, I’m psyched that you linked to her! To me idea that we have to pick *just one* interest or specialty is another concept that can get lumped in the “outdated” pile with the classic model of “you are broken self help”.


rewirebusiness August 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm

@ethanwaldman That’s awesome ethan…I think that totally captures my thoughts…it’s more about what works for us individually rather than what someone tells us will work. I’m with you on the 9-5….does not work for me and I’ll take every risk in the world to never go back…it really means that much to me – but that’s just me.


KaraJessRondina August 31, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Great observation! What’s sad and scary about people who have become “free” (at least from the 9 to 5) is they start to feel superior, mock those in happy 9 to 5’s and make them uncool.


Allithia August 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti

This question comes to me perfectly timed. I am trying to discover a way to work in a world that operates along lines I have never agreed with. Freedom for me, comes when I am able to do creative and valuable service to the planet on my terms, and not in slavery to a paltry paycheque. Is it really possible to completely define the terms of your worklife in a world that is set up to enslave people? If you do not happen to have money to begin with, it seems to be a nearly impossibly tall order. I would so like to believe that it is possible. I have struggled in “the system” for so long now, never able to thrive. Always barely functional. Just getting by. I cannot do it anymore. And I cannot work for companies that care nothing of human value or the welfare of the planet. The machine is everywhere, but I maintain hope and vision for something infinitely better.


tophat-riot August 31, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Living on my own terms to me constitutes as such: I know this is corny, but I remember a movie saying “if you wake up in the morning, and the first thing you can think of is singing, then you are a singer”. And that’s how I feel about writing. Being career-driven, but also a broke-ass college grad with a useless degree, my best, and easiest form of expression is writing. I know it follows a well-known job template, but the way I see it is while writers still have to work for several hours a day to make a deadline or write a fourth of a novel, are they wearing tacky work uniforms? Do they have to report to a corporate meetings at 8 AM? Does work require that they have only naturally occurring hair colors, and no piercings or tattoos? Nope. Still a freedom, in my eyes. Me, I want to work from home and get the word out to younger folks about certain issues–reach someone emotionally, perhaps. And that’s why writing is what I consider living on my own terms; no physical expectations, and plenty of freedom with a pen.


KaraJessRondina August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Btw, “living on my own terms” is doing what i love(writing, photography, community projects and blogging – – to inspire people to be free), while being financially sustained through non-long term contracts.


mountaintopGrp September 1, 2011 at 12:17 am

Living on your own terms…

Taking action on dreams that have been put inside you for a reason.

Not letting people drag you down to just doing the normal/traditional/acceptable/safe things again.


JonathanMead September 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

@mountaintopGrp I love the way you said that “taking action on dreams that have been put inside you for a reason.” That’s awesome.


JonathanMead September 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

@Allithia That’s the perfect quote Allithia. Damn, I wish I would have thought of that!


PaigeBurkes September 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Living on my own terms, for me, means owning my life and my time. Living in a way that works for me and my family. My passion is showing people that there is another way to live – their way. I love working with people to dig deep and figure out what their passions are and show them the steps they can take to get there. Most people are shocked to see that it’s actually possible.

Living on my own terms means finding ways to add value to other people’s lives in a way that lights my inner fire. And my inner fire is lit when I see people’s eyes start to open wide, seeing what’s really possible for them for the first time. My inner fire shines brighter when I can tell that I’ve just lit up someone else’s inner fire.

I’m usually the first person who has told those I work with that their ideas and passions are awesome and something to be followed, no matter what they are. More people need the support of communities like this one where anything and everything is possible.

Jonathan – You’re AWESOME and I love what you have created!!


M ary June 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I enjoyed your comment!!!!!

seascape007 September 2, 2011 at 8:11 am

Living on your own terms is a place to come from, not a place to get to. Like Happiness, it is also a place to come from, not get to. The search for either is the trap for never finding it. One of our greatest pitfalls as humans is we think we have to believe everything we think. Our “searching” thoughts leaves us either in the future or past and not in the present. Living on our own terms is a moment by moment way of being. It is choosing it now and now and now. When we master this we can be in any situation or be dealing with any circumstance and know that in that moment we can choose to have it and hold it inside the context of life in our own terms. I heard this great quote the other day. “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”


remainfearless September 2, 2011 at 8:22 am

Very well said seascape. It’s certainly a learning process. I think sometimes we get caught up in our heads with thoughts and concepts. We read something and say “yes, totally, I get that….live in the present, that’s correct,” yet we don’t take the time to train and work with our mind. I think it’s extremely important to practice what we preach. Notice when thoughts come up that pull us away from the present moment. Notice when we get caught up in them. Explore that with curiosity and non-judgement. It’s certainly a lifetime practice that never stops and we must be diligent with the practice. Of course, there’s no better time to start than right now :)


the90thatmatters September 5, 2011 at 7:30 am

Freedom for me has everything to do with acting on your first thought when you wake up without restraint or pressure to do so. I told someone recently that “I think the work that my company does is important, but I just do not think its important that I do it” so I will be leaving in about 2months and ever since I picked a date I feel great about it! Will I work again? Absolutely! However my next assignment will involve me bringing unique value and looking forward to Sunday nights instead of dreading them because on Monday I am less than enthused about the work.


antwondavis September 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

Living on my own terms is living what I call an Epic Life:

“To be true to oneself and to be content with one’s life.”

Living on my own terms is about creating a life that I believe in, and loving the journey. It’s about staying in constant alignment with what I value and what I love.

I value autonomy and authenticity. So having the freedom and independence to explore and discover all of what life has to offer is very important to me. Also, being true to self and always being comfortable with questioning things is what keeps me aware and present in the moment.


JanMechank September 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Brilliant article. I recommend reading the book Get Me Adjusted. This is the type of book that is NOT self help. It’s about attitude in general, which has a huge influence on what we do and how we see things. This book does not tell you to do this or that or tells you how other people sorted themselves out. It explains how attitude works and once read you can ‘get on with radically embracing who they are and living on your own terms’ This is where I got the book:


iamjakeocallaghan September 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Thank you for saying what I have been thinking for a while. Gone is “how to win friends and influence people” and in are being yourself,. And if people don’t like you, so be it.


justinmiller06 March 16, 2012 at 10:15 am

Living on my own terms means the extinction of the personal boundaries that I put upon myself. Or any of us for that matter. Those thoughts of ” I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, I don’t have the resources, etc…” opening up to the possibility that we as humans might not be limitless but our spirit is.


alinekatie April 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm

“Be that self which one truly is.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard


ZenHarvests May 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

It’s not so much the patterns themselves that are the problem. For the majority of people, it’s an attachment to particular patterns, combined with a desire to fit in and always be liked, that really mucks things up. And for a smaller number of folks, it’s an attachment to never having any pattern that causes the trouble.
The way I see it, freedom means being able to let go of patterns and go free-form when your life calls for it, but then be able to work with patterns when your life calls for that.


Kaylee August 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Ha! I was just thinking about this… I realized that what I’m doing with my blog is pretty much based off of everyone else. What “they” say to do, how to write, design, etc. While there’s definitely validity in learning from others, I think it’s become a bit stifling.

Once I realized that, this idea just flooded my mind. It was thrilling and energizing and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Of COURSE, doubt crept in – that’s not what I’m supposed to do with my blog, y’know? Well your reminder couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to bow out of the blogosphere for a minute, put my head down and get to work on creating my passion my way.

Thanks for reminding us all that this whole lifestyle-design thing is about how *we* want to create our lives. Not someone else’s template. You rock, Jonathan.


Carol Walczak October 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Yes the world of self help is changing, as human consciousness changes. I have had a hard time blogging consistently about anything in the self help area for the past couple of years because I myself am a work in progress, so I don’t have “the answer”.

I think now that perhaps freedom is the answer. But to have true freedom, I need to go beyond fear. That is a very personal journey.

I’m getting increasingly unable to tolerate lack of freedom, and increasingly confident in being myself. I suppose I’ll just make the break one day and that will be it.

Freedom is about being able to express who I am, without fear. In big things and small, simply by living as I choose.


Gaby Smith December 6, 2012 at 6:34 am

This is so refreshing, thanks Jonathan. I’ve been wanting to dissect and articulate my hangups with the whole self-help world for a while. I do say, you pretty much sum up my thoughts on the topic. Strangely, I am still attracted to this area of the bookstore. Why? Because even though I know (intellectually) that I am okay and don’t need fixed, I–and I think many others–still operate from a needs-fixing standpoint. It’s deep and habitual. I agree that many of the self-help fads have changed; instead of wishing to be more “successful” and “win” the values have changed to “authenticity, “courage” and the like. There isn’t anything wrong with any of those values, it’s just that there is still an unnecessary amount of “fixing” going on, in my opinion. This often shows up as a conversations about improvement, or the very notion that someone else is the AUTHORITY on your life. Sometimes, this allows up second-guess our own inner wisdom, experience, and intuition.
My point is that the self-help genre still takes a more, better, faster approach to most things worthwhile. There are exceptions, of course–thankfully. I think we are leaning into a direction where people are starting to say “F*#ck it”, I want what I want, and sometimes I want less…sometimes I want more”.
Thank you for speaking out about this interesting topic. Cheers, Gaby


Tal Gur December 30, 2012 at 6:44 am

Great post. “What does living on your own terms mean to you?” – Waking up in the morning and deciding in that moment what to do with the rest of the day :)


Brandon Cook February 8, 2013 at 6:51 am

Great blog man! I’m loving what you’re putting down here. To me, living on your own terms means providing value to the world in a way that allows me to express myself through the mediums I truly enjoy (music and writing.) To be able to enjoy and take advantage of a sunny day when it arises, instead of being cooped up in an office. haha


Jean February 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

Potato, potatoe… it is still all the same high carb self-absorption.


Batya Yaniger February 19, 2013 at 5:02 am

To live on your own terms you have to know yourself, respect yourself and be true to yourself. You have to be totally present for what’s going on around you and what you’re experiencing inside you. It means doing what you care about. It means being in the driver’s seat of the car that’s your life.


Carrie Dale April 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

brilliant..just effing brilliant. this is the best thing I have read in awhile. now i will go burn all my self help books.


ScrewtheSystem Joe April 20, 2013 at 10:22 am

Great observation Jonathon!
The paradigm is shifting, and as a part of that shift, it’s great to see people defining their own measure of success. As you said, the old self – help world was about suceeding WITHIN the system. The new world recognises that traditional measures of success may not actually make us happy. Therefore, we have to define what consitutes success and if it exits OUTSIDE the boundaries of the system (which in most cases I think it will), then we have to be brave enough to pursue it.


E.H. May 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

GREAT post. I was literally just writing out my frustrations yesterday afternoon about the culture of self-help. Thank you for thinking through this topic and talking about it.


Naomi January 21, 2014 at 4:40 am

Hi Johnathan,

I agree about the self-help books. They can really be patronizing and just obvious.

I’m grateful for the current time. Now more than ever we are encouraged to live on are own terms. There are more entrepreneurs than ever and great websites like this one is what the people have been crying for.

As for living on my own terms… The freedom to work, parent and simply just live needs to be completely within my control… and I love it!



jeff brown April 24, 2014 at 6:54 am

Self determinisn, not conforming to ”norms” is key as self determinism is the key to freedom. Great post mate.


M ary June 12, 2014 at 3:07 pm

You are definitely on the right track. Self help is fine. I have studied it for years and it has helped me get through a lot of difficult times. I was never broken.. I just had to understand what was the matter with others… ha ha!!!
Yes there is a movement to live life on our own terms and I am definitely an example of this…. right now I have no income and I am working very hard to build a simple life on my own terms. Here is the proof…


Annie August 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm

I have a couple questions about this concept of “living on your own terms.”

Question 1: Because people do change through life’s experiences, what is your basis of “your own terms” if you have no knowledge through other people’s ideas and experiences? No one person has an infinite amount of knowledge, so information has to come from somewhere. Call it self-help books. Call it philosophical books. Call it this-is-real-life books. Call it whatever you want, but how do you know what your own terms are if you don’t know the options there are to choose from? Knowledge-based choices build a stronger character than simply reacting to emotions that a person experiences or blogs that excite people. Where do you gain pure knowledge?

Second: Unless you are totally isolated from all humankind, what happens if someone’s “own terms” destroys the lives of others? Are there no boundaries to what one person does to another person, if each is free to set their own terms in life? Having lived in an abusive relationship for many years, I had absolutely no clue there was a different way of living, until I read your so-called self-help books about codependency and the affects of coming from an alcoholic family. Which begs another question. If there are no limits to setting your own terms in life, what happens to the child of out-of-control parents who want to “live it up” in life? Where were those parents when I had to raise their children in foster care? Or teach those kids at school, who have no concept of boundaries, except to “live in their own terms?”

I’m curious where this “I do want I want to do no matter how it affects others” generation is going. And what messages they’re teaching the next generation. Guess you have to live as long as I have lived to understand.


Annie August 4, 2014 at 12:10 am

I don’t mean to be condescending. And yes, I agree the old paradigm of success is changing for the better. And yes, success to one looks different than success to another. However, having taught school for almost 30 years, I’ve seen what the “me” generation is doing and how it affects the “we” in life. I don’t have the answers…. just the questions. I have also seen how the “I do what I want to do” paradigm, if used unwisely, can affect relationships, marriages, and children. People may not need to be “fixed,” just the way we treat each other may need fixed. Hopefully, “on my own terms” is used responsibly and with respect to others.

James de Garmo December 23, 2014 at 10:53 pm

I enjoyed this article, and the comments that have followed it. I am one of those who spent twenty years wandering in the wilderness, wondering why everything I’d learned from self help wasn’t helping. When I finally did make my fortune I understood that not a single thing I’d been told by conventional self help had really helped me at all. In fact, along the way I had decided that I’d collate everything I’d learned into my own reference manual, sort of a “best-of” self help book for my own use. As I went along I realized that these authors commonly borrow from each other, and I also saw that what had truly been responsible for my success had been a few gems I’d picked up from my own experiences or what others had told me.

In short, self help was of no help at all. I enjoy psychology books, and for the most part books such as Branden’s on self-esteem, but the rest of it left me cold.

So I wrote my own book, called The Right Question. It’s everything I ever learned about success in one sentence. I still have an enormous self help library, and I do take a book off the shelf now and then to have a look at it, but the truth is that I don’t examine them the way I used to, and I’m quite wary of so-called “new” self help just as much as I was of the old.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I’ve written a self help book based on how ineffective self help is! And I don’t mean to imply that the entire genre is a wash; far from it, but when I look at measurable, real results in my own life, those books and tapes produced nothing at all except a feeling of optimism and hope. You could argue that those feelings put me in a more resourceful state where I was better able to deal with my problems, but I disagree. I was broke for years, living on hope. It wasn’t until after I’d made my money and started writing my own self help book for my own reference that I saw the pattern in what success I had enjoyed; it wasn’t anything from any of those books.

I promise you, The Right Question is the best book in the genre. If you don’t agree, just promise me you won’t disclose the Question and I’ll refund your money.

I love articles like this one, that examine the genre, and I appreciate your contribution to the betterment of everyone.


minhazz February 26, 2015 at 6:30 am

Very interesting article and even more interesting comments . Self Help as a movement or in books or life-coaching as it is in the west is making inroads into India now. We have always had some way or the other of self-development (as I see it) in our religious, spiritual and cultural practices here..the cultivation of stillness, silence and going within are ingrained in most of us ..and we always look to evolve at a spiritual level beyond materialism ..though that is changing with the rampant consumerism right now

Anyways thank you for an inspirational read


Jason - KAC May 15, 2015 at 10:03 am

Wow, great question.

‘Living on my own terms’ is me making the decisions. Me calling the shots. Me taking full responsibility for my actions and my outcomes. Me giving myself the opportunity to blaze my own trail.

It’s important to note that to arrive at an answer to this takes great courage, and a daring to dream big. Unfortunately, our societies (and their expectations of us) make this difficult, so it’s up to us to be individuals and take ownership of our unique journeys.


Joshua Lisec January 11, 2016 at 6:39 am

Man oh man, this is good, Jonathan!

My parents were swept up in the Amway crazy of the 1980’s that piggy-backed on the Self Help movement of the time, where everyone had a copy of everything written by Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and so on…

By the late 1990’s, my parents threw in the towel, quit Amway, dumped all the books, and took the practical paradigm — “If your dream doesn’t revolve around holding down a 9-5 office job for 40 years and then retiring, you’re living a fantasy.”

Of course we all know that paradigm is less than a realistic one now Post-Recession, so there’s new rules, new world thing…totally my bag.

For me, I’d say living and working on my own terms simply means I’m in command of (1) the work I do, (2) who I do it for, (3) when I do it, and (4) for how much I do it.

Fairly simply, but a world of possibilities. Thanks again, Jonathan!


Carly May 12, 2016 at 6:42 am

Interesting perspective. I tend to see it a little differently; it appears to me as if the “self-help” industry is just shifting from focusing on “how to change yourself” to “how to live the life you want.” It’s still self-help, but the focus has shifted. I don’t think the industry will ever go away entirely though, as people will always want to improve upon and change their lives in one way or another (whether that’s by learning to influence/manipulate others, make friends, or live on their own terms). *shrugs* Still, I enjoyed reading your perspective and analysis of the situation! It’s definitely fascinating to watch this change occur – however you want to frame it! :)

FYI – your armory link is broken. ;)


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