Why Do So Many People Fail at Self-Help?

This question came in from our Success 2.0 Webcast last week.

“So many people buy into self-help, and participate in the listening, the reading, and some even the live seminars. But the amount who actually live the life they want or think they want is so small. How do you go from being genuinely interested in improving to actually improving?”  Bobby

Bobby, Dad’s Be, Do, and Have philosophy is the answer here.  You have to Be the right kind of person first.  You become the right kind of person by listening to and reading the right kind of information, and by building relationships and learning from the right kind of people.  Then, you need to Do the right things, before you can expect to Have the things in life that really matter.  Many people fail because they don’t realize that Being the right kind of person is the most important step. You have to have character, integrity, honesty, etc., before the Doing part really pays off.  Sometimes people will get focused on Doing, experience short-term success, and then lose it all because the foundational Being part is not in place.  Or, they will get focused on the Doing, not achieve short-term success, and give up.  When you focus on the Being, then Doing the right things in the right way will become a habit, and this will lead to the Having.

In short, many people who “fail” in the “self-help” stuff are looking for a magic formula of things they can do to be successful, instead of focusing on becoming the right kind of person first.

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6 Comments on “Why Do So Many People Fail at Self-Help?”

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  3. Billy Cox Says:

    Nice Tom.
    Very interesting that I wrote an extensive article over change and why it’s so hard on my way to Charlotte Friday. Then I saw your post on this today. The being part is the foundation but it’s also the hardest part because it’s so easy to fall back into the old habits. I’d be interested in hearing ziglars philosophy on how you make the be part an all the time thing. How do you be part a permanent part of your life?
    Thanks for a great and timely post!

  4. Brandon Says:

    I asked a librarian where the ‘self-help’ section was located. She said, “If I told you, that would defeat the purpose!”

  5. AJ B Says:

    I used to focus all my effort for change on the proper inputs into my mind, trying to Be the right kind of person, so much that I didn’t hardly change what I was doing. Obviously, that didn’t work. I feel like the dramatic changes that I’ve read and heard about being the result of a good mental diet haven’t happened for me. I usually just get the nice warm feeling and, like your Dad says, I could get that by taking a hot bath.

    When I focus on changing only one major area of my life, that’s unfulfilling and hurts the other areas, but trying to change everything at once with a “balanced goals program” leaves me running around like a chicken with my head cut off, getting nothing done very well and quickly running out of energy. How can I become what I want to be without focusing on doing the right things? Can Be and Do really be separated? And I agree, just focusing on doing the right things isn’t the answer either.

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      AJ, Dad says, “You can make radical changes in minute steps.” We got a question this week about what the number one discipline would be to achieving success, and Dad answered, “Consistency coupled with tenacity.” I understand your frustration because real change does take time and often you can’t see or feel the progress while you are doing it.

      The key to becoming the right kind of person is the combination of being and doing. One of our team members, Bryan Flanagan, says success is “an inside” job. In other words, you have to put the right information into your brain until it replaces and overwhelms the old bad stuff. The good news is it doesn’t take hours and hours every day to accomplish this. The bad news is it must be done consistently and daily, if possible.

      The being part, or internalizing the right thoughts until they become you, is dependant upon where you spend your thinking time. What you listen to and read, and who you associate with, will, to a large degree, determine your thought process. Don’t leave this to chance. The doing part should be an outflow of your thinking. If you believe setting goals is important, then you are far more likely to set goals. If you believe giving 100% is important, then you are more likely to give it your all. If you believe finishing what you start is important, then you will finish far more things. Unfortunately, these beliefs do not come automatically, they are really muscles that need to be exercised and developed. And, until we believe they are worth the effort to develop, we are unlikely to exercise them. This is why success is “an inside” job.

      To simplify this, think of it this way: In order to change and do new things, I have to believe it will work, or trust someone I believe in who says it will work. In order for the believing part to take hold, I have to have the hope that by making the change I will be better off. Without the hope part, there is little internal motivation to keep me focused. Hope is created when your mind gets new information and says, “That makes sense, I can do that.” If you never give your mind that new info, or if you stop feeding it the new info, the motivation to keep going dries up. So, hope drives the reason to change the beliefs, the new beliefs result in the doing part.

      Now, back to your question and a simple action plan. Since consistency is the key discipline to achieving success, and you need to build your “success” muscles, I would suggest that you focus on two or three daily goals that each take you only five minutes or less, and do them every day for a week. Then, on the second week, add a minute or two to each goal, and so on for the first month. Make one goal either listening to or reading good information. Make another goal a physical goal that replaces a negative with a positive, such as having a glass of water instead of a soft drink with your meal, or taking a five-minute power walk instead of a high-carb snack during the day. Your third goal could be a professional goal like creating your daily priority list, or a relationship goal like writing a loved one a note of encouragement. Remember, the key is consistency.

      I hope you are seeing the hope in this concept, and the belief that you can do this. In the second week of this you will start to think, “what if I could..?” and this is where it takes off! When this happens, spend your reading or listening time with an expert who knows how to do what you want to learn to do. Thanks for your great questions!

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