Why Aren’t More People Into Self Development?

Everyone who works in the coaching or personal transformation industry will have experienced this scenario…

You meet someone, they ask what you do, you’ve been asked more than once so you have an elevator pitch at hand.  The person you’ve just met responds with a look.  This sort of look:

I’m often tempted to ask, “What’s that face for?” but I don’t.  First of all I can’t read minds or even faces 100% of the time and also, you can’t convince someone with logic to change their opinion on something they didn’t use logic to believe in the first place.  The third and most important reason that I don’t rise to the “face bait” is that I don’t care if people don’t like what I do.  They’re not going to become a customer if that’s their attitude and I’d be a poor coach if I couldn’t control my own emotional responses.

It’s not only when confronted with an expert in self-help, I’ve found, and it might just be my geographical location, that self-help is regarded in much the same way as new-age philosophy or veganism.  Neither of which do I think are negative in any way.  What reasons could any person have to scoff at making themselves better?

What Aren’t More People Into Self-Development?

A lack of self-awareness.

In my opinion, this is the biggest reason that people don’t want to enter the self-help sphere.  They think they don’t need it.  It’s a mixture of ego and an external locus of control.  If they can’t do something, it’s nothing to do with them, it’s uncontrollable factors holding them back.

Here’s an example

I’ve known a lady for nearly a decade, let’s call her Lady X.  She has terrible trouble sleeping.  Every night she eats an horrific amount of junk food and goes to bed at around midnight.  She often wakes with a migraine and is tired throughout the day.  When I suggested, laying off the crappy carbs, going to bed earlier and drinking more water, she said, “That won’t work.”  She’d never tried to do anything like this and it’s not even particularly self-helpy.  She has terrible negative thoughts when laying awake in bed at night and they really disturb her.  There were more suggestions I would have made and when I mentioned that negative self-talk was a particularly unhelpful thing, she roundly poo-pooed me.  “Don’t start with all that life-coaching crap,” she uttered, “there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Nobody had ever told her that feeding your brain with negativity will have certain effects, so she doesn’t believe it.  It’s not modern dogma.  People don’t talk about it on X-Factor, nobody raps about it and everyone on Game of Thrones is super negative and yet is top shit.

I really persevere with Lady X.  She’s not a client, she’s a friend and I’d prefer she was in a better place, but you can’t make people get better.  You cannot change anyone.  That bears repeating.  You cannot change anyone.

People think that it’s a fad.

This is so common.  When you socialise with people and they tell you their problems, you subtly offer a solution and then they wave you off with a laugh.

“No, it would really help, honestly.”

“Don’t be silly, Rand, you can’t help who you fall in love with.”

Probably every day someone says something to me like, “It must be nice to be perfect,” or “of course you’ve got everything under control.”  I’m sure they’re just waiting for me to pick up 30 pounds magically or start having an emotional breakdown.  True as gold, when I respond with:

  • “Well, I prepared for this,”
  • “No, I worked really hard to be able to do this,”
  • “If you bolster your positive thoughts with evidence of times you’ve been successful, you can be super confident too.

alongside a million other utterly reasonable responses, I rarely get anything but a dismissive laugh.

They think that you’re telling them that they suck.

I’ve read and re-read How To Win Friends and Influence People.  I never tell anyone that they’re wrong directly, but we live in an age where people’s right to an opinion has somehow morphed to the right to be right.  If you dare suggest that someone isn’t correct the outrage is hilarious.  Especially if you challenge their “right” to be offended.

If you tell someone they:

  • Could control their emotions better
  • Are making themselves offended
  • Don’t have to fall into a whimpering heap when something doesn’t go their way

and then proceed to offer constructive advice so that they can help themselves, you might as well be offering them the business end of a red-hot poker.

It has become culturally tolerated, if not acceptable, for people in public to have tantrums, cry, raise their voices and display any range of emotion that they see fit.  I’m not really against that in essence, but I am against it when it’s not helpful.  Sometimes I have to have challenging conversations with people and sometimes they’ll cry if I’m holding them to account.  I don’t respond, it’s like I haven’t even seen them crying.  It works like a charm.  The reason I do that is not because I’m cold-hearted, but because pandering to uncontrolled emotion is not helpful to anyone and challenging it is equivalent to kicking a puppy off a cliff.

They might think you’re a con-man.

Many people do think that life-coaching is a con.  Or that you should do it for free somehow.  A quick look at the most famous life coach’s page yields this:

  • I like him but this guy has got to be a billionaire now. Let’s keep throwing money at him. You go peeps.
  • You don’t need to pay someone to make your life better.  It’s just common sense.

Every life coach will have some story about people wanting their services for free.  “You’re just talking, it doesn’t cost you anything.”

The sad thing is, sometimes coaches don’t know what they’re doing and are charging money for old rope.  My old gym buddy, Tim, used to say, “Never accept fitness training from anyone who’s fatter than you.”  He was right.

I look at some life coaches and I just think, “C’mon, man, you look terrible, you can barely string a sentence together, you live in a hovel, who the hell is going to pay you to tell them how to improve their life?”

On social media, I follow a lot of life coaches and often they’re having nervous breakdowns, crises of confidence, they detail their many fears.  You name it.  It’s almost like they’re normal people.  I employ more than once coach, but I would only ever pay one who had his or her shit together.

This is another reason that people might think that the industry is full of shysters; a good coach costs a lot.  On the one hand, an ignorant person might just imagine you’re just going to sit and listen to their problems and charged them $500 an hour.  On the other hand, why the hell would you want a cheap life coach?  You want someone who doesn’t get out of bed for $500.  His time is valuable and he’ll provide that value in the time you spend with him.

The last reason that they might be right is the coaching itself.  Many coaching models, GROW, OSKAR, etc consist of little but asking questions and letting the coachee figure their shit out themselves.  I’m probably going to be banished to coach limbo for this, but I wouldn’t pay someone for that.  I offer my expertise, my experience.  Of course I use questioning to drill down and even sometimes to reveal solutions, but not as my entire strategy.

As coaches, and entrepreneurs, and self-aware human beings we should be holding ourselves up to a terrifically high standard and that’s how you can tell a great life coach, that he or she actually lives the advice they give to clients.

So what do we do to help those people who aren’t into self-development?

Is it our job to do anything?

My opinion is that, since we can’t make anyone do anything, gently nudging is absolutely fine.

  • Not very self-aware?  Keep gently plugging away.
  • Think it’s faddish?  Check back in another ten years.
  • Get emotional when reminded of fallibility.  Don’t enable their behaviour.
  • Think you’re a con-man.  You know who you are, and they’ll learn by your example.

Suffer from any of those misgivings yourself?  If you managed to get this far, you might be open to thinking a little differently. Reach out to me; the only risk is that you might become successful.

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