Description: OK, I realize deeply and fully that we are most definitely NOT even close to being ready to consider even the thinnest of possible silver linings to the COVID debacle. So, just put that aside for now (I will hint at it very cautiously at the end of the second section below) and let’s consider something else. So, how about the self-help industry? Want a few examples? How about 110 of the Best Self-Improvement Books You’ll Ever Read or 100 Best-Selling Self-Help Books of All Time (no this list does not include classics like Plato’s The Cave). Or just Google self-help or drop by a large box bookstore or visit and search one online and you will see an overwhelming array of offerings. Now, consider that supply and demand are linked in that if there is a LOT of stuff in a consumer category then there it is a pretty good bet to assume that there is a lot of that sort of thing being consumed. So, are we that messed up? And does the self-help mega-industry actually help? And are self-help authors, coaches, tipsters, and hucksters qualified to be that? What would good qualifications look like? Are they regulated in any way at all or is it all buyer beware? One final question; given the increasing growth of titles, options, plans, resources and, in particular money spent in this area in recent years do we need more self-help these days that in decades gone by and if so, why is that? Think about these questions for a minute and then read the article linked below for a well-constructed consideration of what is going on in Self-help these days.
Source: Are we done with self-improving yet? Amitha Kalaichandran, The Globe and Mail.
Date: January 7, 2021
The most common sort of claim or statement made by sellers in the self-help industry is typically some version of “you can easily do way better then you are doing if you just use a few simple tricks and techniques that you do not know about that I can (for a price) teach you. Chances are pretty good that if you are reading, watching or hearing such claims you are already half hooked. After all, you ARE looking, aren’t you? The author of the linked article wisely talks about the importance of credentials, and we can add to that the importance of research. A self-help author/provider need not be a researcher BUT what they are offering SHOULD be based on much more than their personal experience or that of a few of their previous clients. As well, change promises offered should not be large, though that might be incremental (build towards larger changes) this is because large changes (like many resolutions) are almost impossible to make and to hold to. As a species changes happen in small steps that build or consolidate over time into larger outcomes. Now, where can you find answers to all of these quality control and value related questions in relation to the gargantuan self-help market item pool? Well, sorry to disappoint, but there are really no consumer reports for self-help products or opportunities. Except maybe there is. This is where the pandemic enters the filed of play. The pandemic has impacted almost all aspects of everyone’s lives by adding significant amounts of uncertainty to much of what we do and to much of what we had worked out in our lives prior to COVID’s arrival. Prior to COVID you had worked out or were working out what you were going to do and how you were going to do it in areas like education/career, political stands, positions on big deal issues (like health care, vaccination etc.), relationships and sex roles (how household/child responsibilities were going to be divided and shared). You were working on those things, or you worked on those things in the face of varying degrees of uncertainty and yet you figured them out (or were figuring them out) somehow. Now COVID has brought another tide of uncertainty to many many facets of our lives. What to do? Well, before you go searching for a self-help resource, look inside … reflect on how you made life decisions in these areas before. Did you just float along until something came along and then did that? Did you decide to do what you always knew you would do or what others told you that you should do? Or did you take a bit of time to reflect on what you had learned about yourself and then looked around for options and opportunities that might build on what you had already figured out? Did you engage your curiosity? Did you follow your interests? Did you talk with others about what you were working on? If you used one of the first two strategies that I have described here is a chance for a do-over and an opportunity to try out the third strategy that involves reflecting upon and exploring BOTH yourself AND the world that you are seeing around you NOW (a very useful anti-uncertainty strategy). As you do this you can look for self-help tips and strategies that will help you do what you are already doing rather than requiring that you try something brand new. And if you are using the third strategy already, well, keep it up. If you try this, you will be putting the ‘self’ back into self help and building a compass to navigate your post-COVID life much more effectively than if you bought into most of the self-help resources out there and you will be able to track how it is working for you as the you will have your own data to draw upon along the way.
Questions for Discussion:
- What sorts of things do self-help resources NOT do for people?
- What should people look for in order to more likely identify self-help resources that will be elective for them?
- How might treating our post-COVID, “pivot” circumstances as doing something we have done before help us or at least reduce uncertainty?
References (Read Further):
Here are some links to previous blog posts that may be informative/useful:
DiGiovanni, M., Weller, I., & Martin, A. (2021). Pivoting in the pandemic: a qualitative study of child and adolescent psychiatrists in the times of COVID-19. Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health, 15(1), 1-15. Link
Giones, F., Brem, A., Pollack, J. M., Michaelis, T. L., Klyver, K., & Brinckmann, J. (2020). Revising entrepreneurial action in response to exogenous shocks: Considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 14, e00186. Link
Blankstein, M., Frederick, J., & Wolff-Eisenberg, C. (2020). Student experiences during the pandemic pivot. Link
Godinic, D., Obrenovic, B., & Khudaykulov, A. (2020). Effects of economic uncertainty on mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic context: social identity disturbance, job uncertainty and psychological well-being model. Int. J. Innov. Econ. Dev, 6(1), 61-74. Link
Breakwell, G. M., & Jaspal, R. (2020). Identity change, uncertainty and mistrust in relation to fear and risk of COVID-19. Journal of Risk Research, 1-17. Link
Kruglanski, A. W., Molinario, E., & Lemay, E. P. (2021). Coping with COVID-19-induced threats to self. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 24(2), 284-289. Link