I’ve had it with self-improvement literature.
This is not because I consider Improving Oneself an unworthy goal. Rather the opposite. Ultimately, I think that it’s the second most important goal you can pursue.
The most important goal, of course, is Improving the World.
Sometimes the goals intersect. If you’re a cruel jerk, certainly learning to be kinder is going to improve the world – especially for anyone close to you.
I did figure out what it is that a lot of self-improvement literature, especially crap written by 30-something male bloggers, revolves around what I can only call status seeking behaviors involving a better body or a bigger wallet without giving even the slightest thought as to why you’d want it.
They have titles like Crushing Excellence and How to Achieve Your Dreams and Be the Most Awesome You or some nonsense.
They never, not once, ask you to ask yourself why you have the dream you do. Having achieved decades-long dreams that turned out to be damn nightmares, I think this is a real flaw in the process.
If your dream is money, why? Seriously why? How much do you need and why do you need it? Money is not a unilateral good. It’s the lack of it that sucks. So, knowing why you want a specific amount is a good thing.
A lot of times personal excellence will revolve around physical fitness. Anyone who has met me knows full well I am a big believer in exercise. Thing is, it’s not a moral thing. Being a better athlete doesn’t mean you’re a better human. Being strong or having a lot of endurance is nice, and if you’re healthy enough that exercise will give that to you, it’s wonderful to have, no doubt. But it’s hardly a moral value.
Which, I think, brings me around to my objection to a lot of “success” literature.
A lot of the literature doesn’t talk even a little bit about character. Are you kind? Are you honest? (No, kindness and honesty are not diametrically opposed) Are you the kind of person who thinks that making small improvements to the world around you is a Good Way to Live? (Quick test for the able-bodied: In what condition do you leave the shopping carts in the parking lot?)
The idea that developing one’s character isn’t even on the radar of a lot of these writers makes the whole Crush Your Goals mentality seem like a lot of cotton candy nonsense. Might taste pretty nice, but I don’t see that it has a lot of substance.