Does Self-Development Equal Self-Obsession?

Posted on: October 8th, 2018 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

A journalist, Marianne Power, recently wrote a book about her year on self-help programs. She tried several different self-development methods. This is what The Spectator newspaper said about her book:

What sets Marianne Power apart, and makes her book an entertaining read, is the energy she brings to the project: one book a month, from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway to You Can Heal Your Life via The Secret and Daring Greatly and F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way. The intensity with which she implements their instructions ensures she’ll uncover the worthwhile guidance in each — but more enlightening for herself and the reader, it also brings her to an encounter with the intrinsic limits of such an approach to self-change. Throughout the process, she demonstrates a sound instinct for sifting wheat from chaff: it turns out that feeling the fear and doing it anyway is genuinely good advice, whereas a personal finance guru who insists on referring to unpaid bills as ‘invoices for blessings already received’ probably won’t help you clear your debts.

At first Marianne Power enjoyed herself but at the end of her self-development year she said she had become totally and utterly self-focussed and was even suffering anxiety because she never felt that she made progress or achieved what she was meant to. She said self-help made her feel inadequate.

I have to say that I wish she’d given my ‘prosperity mindset’ training a go. My intention is never to make anyone feel bad because of who they are, but to enrich their lives by giving them more. I encourage people to engage with the world – read voraciously, look at art, embrace learning. This isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself; it’s to make you feel good. My philosophy is immediate gratification. Read the biography of someone inspiring and immediately feel inspired. Go to the gallery and look at beautiful art and immediately feel happy.

You deserve life’s riches

I just want people to know that they can have – and deserve – riches, blessings and joy in all areas of their life. Rather than feel inadequate and undeserving, I want to say that every individual is precious and special, and you have every right to good things so go for it. Work hard and aspire to be wealthy. Be brave and aspire to be loved. Practice your instrument or sing or write creatively and aspire to be appreciated. Live without fear.

Yes, I do advocate prayer or meditation or self-focus as a way to centre yourself and feel grounded, however I dislike many self-development apps and courses that are constantly calling on you to stop and think about yourself, stop and check your progress, stop and plan your next goal.

It’s impossible to be generous to a fault

At the centre of my prosperity mindset training is the principle of generosity. Remember to focus on others, not just yourself. If you give generously to others, then God and the world will give generously to you. I’m not saying be wasteful with your money, but from time to time buy yourself a gift because you deserve it, buy your friends gifts or pay for a great dinner when you’re out. Also make sure you give generously to charity.

Never lose sight of people who are poor, or have experienced misfortune, or illness or pain. I don’t believe the young woman who wrote about her dreadful year of self-development would have become anxious or depressed if she had been encouraged to focus on helping others. Volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter or visit a nursing home. Benevolence and generosity is at the heart of happiness. Focus on others, give generously because the joy you generate in others is contagious and soon you will feel it.

Australia halves foreign aid spending

Do you know that in the last five years Australia has halved its spending on foreign aid? The government has cut the amount of money it gives the world’s poorest people by half. At the same time, the pet industry has become the fastest growing segment of the small business sector in Australia. Australians love to pay other people to walk, groom and pamper their pets (mostly dogs). Want to hear something even more shocking? The amount Australians spend on their pampered pets now equals the amount our government gives to the world’s poorest people. What does it say about our country?

Where does Aussie aid go?

Do you know what sort of aid projects Australia invests in in the developing world? Well, please allow me to tell you about a couple of things I have been reading about. Australia has been spending half its budget on countries near Australia, countries in the Pacific. Our government recently supported the antibiotic treatment of 26,000 people in the Solomon Islands against scabies and trachoma. Scabies are a tiny little mite that burrows into people’s skin and causes itching. People with mites itch so much they end up with sores. Children itch so much they end up with huge open sores that prevent them from attending school. Scabies are actually stopping children in the Solomon Islands from getting a proper education. Trachoma is an eye infection that, if untreated, can damage people’s sight. It’s spread by bacteria. The Australian government helped support the roll-out of a mass treatment program of 26,000 people to eradicate these two terrible diseases from the population. I think that is money well spent.

In 2012 the Australian government also entered a cost saving arrangement with Fiji to vaccinate children against pneumococcus, the dangerous bacteria that causes pneumonia, sepsis (a blood infection), and meningitis. Pneumonia is still the most common cause of childhood death in the world. More than 650,000 children under five die from pneumonia each year. But now, thanks to Australia’s financial backing, the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services is vaccinating 90 per cent of children against pneumococcus.

Celebrate paying tax

Next time you look at your finances, study how much tax you have paid and remind yourself that you are paying to protect children in poorer countries from deadly diseases and be glad that you pay tax.

In what other ways can you give? Do you have a neighbour or friend, who has recently faced tough times? Could you drop in a home-made meal? Do you have elderly relatives in need of company? When did you last visit?

There is nothing wrong with self-development. Self-development, if we commit to it, will lead us to become bigger, better, braver humans however the last thing I want is for you to become self-focussed that is why I’ve always had a philosophy of giving to yourself and whole heartedly giving to others.


Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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