Prior to working as a writer and editor for an online self-help superstore, I spent several years working as an Operational Manager in the publishing department of one of Britain’s largest mail order retailers. In a nutshell, my job was to make sure things happened on time, to budget and to the standard laid out in our many service level agreements. To that end, it was my remit to review our operational processes and improve them.
What has this got to do with self-help books, motivation products and inspirational systems?
Well, it was during this time that I learned about paradigms. And paradigms are central to why most self-help books, motivation products and inspirational systems fail.
So, what is a paradigm. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a paradigm as: a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.
In other words, a paradigm is a habitually-ingrained way of perceiving something.
Paradigms emerge for one simple reason: human beings like to feel comfortable. We like the familiar. We like to tread that well-worn path and know that all is right with the world. When we go to bed at night, we want everything to be the same, nothing out of place, when we get up the next morning and trudge into the shower. We like our routines. No news is good news, right?
Self-help books, motivation products and inspirational systems are by their very nature paradigms. Even that brand new self-help book, motivation CD or inspirational DVD, fresh off the shelf, represents a paradigm waiting to happen. To be fair, it’s unavoidable, as these products are designed to encourage you to look at things in a new way. In the process, you will doubtless lose some of your own inhibiting and potentially destructive paradigms, but you will simply swap them for another set of paradigms, ones which are just as prone to making it difficult (maybe even impossible) to tackle new problems and confront unprecedented situations.
Thankfully, during my pre-writer/editor days, I also learned how to deal with and remove paradigms.
The key is not to become reliant upon any single solution. In order to survive, the modern business cannot afford to cling slavishly to the tried-and-tested. Instead, a suite of solutions is always kept on hand, a bristling box of problem-busting tools.
Likewise, the modern seeker of self-improvement cannot afford to become reliant on a single solution or to simply swap one paradigm for another. A suite of solutions is required, mixed-and-matched according to the particular set of problems or issues that need dealing with at any given time.