I of all people understand the thrill of buying another book I think will improve my life. It is an amazing feeling when you read something and think, “Oh that was some good shit right there!” It’s almost as if I’m powering up every time I read a new piece of information, method, or wisdom. The problem with this is that when you read too much self-improvement books, tips, and tricks, it is actually doing more harm than good.
I am by no means saying that the new information you take in is wrong or harmful in itself, but things start to get complicated when it's stacked onto the arsenal of other quotes, positivity techniques, and ancient knowledge
you learned in the last two weeks. When you overload yourself with non-congruent or varying ideas of self-improvement, it becomes almost impossible to structure these methodologies in your life effectively. Most of the time, this just leads to more confusion and overthinking.
Have you ever had so many things to choose from that it took you forever to actually make a decision? Ever seen a menu with 14 pages of entrees and ended up going with what your friend got or what the waiter recommends? Ever designed a character in a video game for 3 hours straight because of all the modification options? Ever think that you could do anything you want with your life, if only you knew what you wanted to do?
This phenomenon is called overchoice. Overchoice is a cognitive process in which humans have a hard time making decisions when given too many, often very similar, options. This isn’t to say that people have trouble making decisions as soon as the number of choices alone goes up. When there is a clearly dominant or more preferred option, things obviously get easier. If there are 13 different steak options and you don’t eat red meat, then you’re probably going to get the chicken. The difficulty come when there is an overabundance of many very viable options to choose from. You know where I’m going with this.
When you have Tony Robbins, Buddha, Don Miguel Ruiz, Jesus, Grant Cardone, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, Robert Kiyosaki, Lewis Howes, Tim Ferriss, Plato, Confucius, Deepak Chopra, The Dalai Lama, and your mom all rolling around in your head while you’re trying to choose whether or not you are going to punch some asshole in the face, things get difficult. What’s missing is structure. How do you gain structure? Let’s talk science.
If my 6th grade science teacher Mrs. Franklin pounded one piece of information into my head, it was the scientific method of experimentation. One of the, if not the most important, procedures in conducting experiments was the concept of constants and variables. Keep everything else the same except the thing you are testing. Constants are what stay the same. The variable is what changes for each test. You can’t test two variables at the same time because you would not know which one caused the results you observed. Once the results for ONE variable are recorded, the variable can change to something new.
Imagine you are baking cookies with 1 egg, 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla. This is the constant recipe. If you change the amount of eggs and sugar, you will not know which change made the cookies the way they are now. That’s why you change one at a time, and see the corresponding results.
(overkill on food analogies. Probably a wake up call)
NO CRASH DIETS
The point is, if you are constantly running with with 6 new self help methods you are trying to implement in your head you will not see the effectiveness of any. No matter how awesome something seems when you read it, you have to give it the appropriate amount it time to test in your own life. From there, you must continue with the same one method if you want to instill it as a habit. Otherwise you will put yourself on overload. DON’T CRASH DIET YOUR SELF-IMPROVEMENT. Crash diets never work.
RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT
A good way to approach new self improvement methods is with… another method (I know, right?). The red light green light method. GREEN LIGHT: This is what you’re already good at. You look at yourself and possibly see something you want to improve. You look for books, articles, or whatever you can find to improve yourself. You find something good. RED LIGHT: Once you find something good and want to implement it, focus on that. Stop researching for the meantime. See how proper implementation of whatever you learned is affecting you. If you like the results, keep with it. If it doesn’t seem to be for you, now you know that specific method doesn’t work. GREEN LIGHT.
This way you will be making more lasting changes in your habits. Plus, you will be able to more effectively build a structure of values in which you lead your decisions. People with a very firm and unwavering set of values have a less difficult time making decisions. It’s hard to say that difficulty in decision making will go away completely, but having structure and set values definitely makes things easier.