05/17/2010 08:08 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Your Self-Help Is Mostly Shelf-Help (Part 1)

Americans spend over $11 Billion a year on "self-help" products. But I call it Shelf-Help -- because that's where most of it goes... on the shelf, along with all the other stuff you've bought.

If you're like most of my clients, you've spent anywhere from $5000 to $50,000 in the last few years on "shelf-help". But the REAL question is:

Why, with all this time, money and energy being spent on "self-help," are so few people actually living the life they really want?

Like most vexing problems, to answer this question, we must first ask a deeper question:

What Really Causes Human Behavior?

Here's the simplest answer I've found to that question. It's a simple answer, because I've found (and I'm sure you have, too) that simple solutions lead to the best results.

Picture a balance, like the Scales of Justice in a courtroom.

On one plate, imagine you have Your Why-To's. These are your motives or Reasons Why to do something. On the other plate, Your Why-Not-To's - your Reasons Why Not to do something.

For example, why are you reading this right now? The answer is: because you perceive that there are more Benefits of reading this, than Cost of doing so.

Your perceived Why-To's or Benefits of reading this might include:

  • I want to learn what the world's most successful people do, so I can do that in my own life
  • So I can stop sabotaging myself
  • So I can make more money
  • And finally get my foot off the brake
  • And this will make me happier, because I can live the life I've always wanted
  • And quit this job I hate
  • And take more vacations
  • And have better relationships
  • And lose weight
  • And find the love of my life
  • And buy a new car
  • And a new house
  • And get out of debt
  • Did I mention I'll finally get my foot off the brake?

And your Why-Not-To's or Cost might include:

  • I have a million other things I could be doing right now.
  • Who is this guy, and why should I listen to him?
  • What if it works for everyone else, but not for me?
  • Did I mention all the other things I could be doing right now?

Your mind is like an infinite weighing machine -- every moment, your mind is weighing your perceived Benefit against your perceived Cost of doing any behavior or activity.

Every decision you make is built upon your perceived Why-To's and Why-Not-To's:

  • Where you live
  • What you wear
  • What you eat (and how often you eat it)
  • What kind of car you drive
  • What you do for work
  • What you had for breakfast this morning

In fact, every decision you've ever made was based on your Why-To's and Why-Not-To's: the reasons you thought you should do the thing vs. the reasons you thought you shouldn't do that thing.

In Part 2 of this series, I'll show how your Scales of Success and Iceberg of Consciousness work together to unwittingly sabotage you -- and why they hold the key to getting rid of your head trash and removing your foot from the brake for good.

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Noah St. John, Ph.D. is the #1 bestselling author of The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness (HarperCollins).

Stephen Covey says, "Noah's Secret Code of Success is about discovering within ourselves what we should have known all along - we are truly powerful beings with unlimited potential."

Noah is the world's most-quoted expert on how to get rid of your head trash. Claim your free book excerpt at