The Danger of Self-Help

05/01/2015 02:18 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016
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I grew up during the last years of Communism in Romania with a deep poverty consciousness and not many hopes for the future. When I was a student living on about $100 a month, an unhappy relationship forced me to take refuge in bookstores. After spending seven years reading almost everything on the shelves on personal development I became really angry and frustrated with myself because I wasn't able to accomplish what some of the books and programs promised: ultimate success in 21 steps, a million dollars in 90 days, the three, the four, the seven things I had to do or not to do in order to be happy and successful. "What is wrong with me?" I thought. "What is wrong with me that I can't achieve what these books claim everyone can do in such a short amount of time? Why can't I apply the formula and get my financial abundance instantly?"

I began doubting my own self worth. "How can I earn a Ph.D. with honors in space sciences at a top university in Germany, do space simulation missions, receive awards for my research in satellite data science, travel alone on two expeditions to Antarctica and the North Pole and yet fail applying the instant formulas I was reading about in these books?" These questions shook me so greatly I started to investigate.

There are two critical lessons you need to know and don't want to learn the hard way about personal development:

Psychological studies reveal that we have a profound and dangerous tendency to believe everything we read and this includes carefully written marketing ads and titles for self-help books and programs. We have the tendency to automatically assume that others are telling the truth, even when they are lying. This tendency is called truthfulness bias. Simply stated, we are inclined to believe everything we read [Read more]. Unfortunately, if a theory is not working we don't challenge the ideas that fail to work, rather we challenge ourselves and our self-worth.

In today's society we tend to have a short-term focus approach to life, we look for immediate gratification and instant results. The emotional part of the brain that wants immediate pleasure (instant if possible) or the immediate removal of fear is the driver of all buying decisions. Think about it, what book would you buy -- "Find your soul mate in 90 days" or "Find your soul mate in 9 years"?

When we combine these two facts together we have a powerful marketing strategy: the tendency to believe everything we read combined with the messages that go directly to our emotional brain that demands instant gratification. Unfortunately, if results fail to show up, everything backfires against us because instead of challenging what we read in books, we challenge ourselves, our self-worth and capabilities. I'm not talking about instant healing or spontaneous remissions - I deeply believe they are possible and I believe in our inner power to create what science calls miracles. However, I am talking about making a million dollars in a few months when we start with nothing, instant success, dramatic weight loss, fulfilling our dreams in 30 days, etc. We don't overrule the steps of personal growth when we buy into these delusional ideas, we just throw our money out the window. [Read more]

The reality is that outstanding success takes a lot of time, smart work, continuous and progressive effort. We CAN do what our heart calls us to do, but we need to assume full accountability for the results.

More over, whatever we do, whatever we accomplish or fail to accomplish, we need to remember that we are perfect just the way we are. Our success depends on many external factors, but inner peace depends only on ourselves! The question is never "Am I worthy enough or good enough" because the answer is always yes. The question is: "Am I willing to invest my time, energy and effort until I find the way to make my dreams a reality". If we answer yes to this question, nothing will stand in our way because we will discover the way to transform what now seems impossible into reality.

If I could find my way from a scared boy growing up during the last years of Communism to live my most beautiful dreams -- can you imagine what YOU can accomplish?

Your friend,
Dr. Dragos