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Why Self-Help Usually Doesn't Work ... and What Always Does

How many times have you attended a personal growth workshop, or listened to a self-help audio course, or read a book, or viewed a set of DVDs designed to change your life?
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How many times have you attended a personal growth workshop, or listened to a self-help audio course, or read a book, or viewed a set of DVDs designed to change your life?
And how many times did you get a high when you completed the program ... that dissipated shortly, leaving you almost where you were before you started? Based on what thousands of people have told me, an awful lot of you.

Why don't these courses that usually offer such valuable information produce lasting change? Based on everything we know about change, they should.

But what if our assumption about what produces change is wrong?

The presumption implicit in most attempts to change behavior is: Information (I) + Motivation (M) = Change [C}. This makes perfect sense to most people who are trying to produce change, whether they are psychotherapists, training professionals, parents, or committed individuals. If you know what to do and how to do it, and if you are motivated (positively or negatively), isn't that all you need to take the appropriate action?

Obviously not, since the formula of I + M = C doesn't seem work a lot of the time. If it did, everyone would wear seat belts, which they don't. Everyone would keep New Year's resolutions, instead of letting them go after a couple of weeks. People suffering from cardiovascular disease would adopt low-fat, low-cholesterol diets. Corporate training programs would be far more effective in changing worker behavior.

Let's take a simple example. Say you're a procrastinator. You always leave work projects until the last minute. As a result, you're anxious much of the time and sometimes you turn projects in late, which subjects you to the disapproval of your boss. In fact, she tells you, "I'd like to consider you for a promotion and a raise, but I can't as long as you continue to deliver projects late."

Making Plans To Change

You decide you must change and you really want to change. So what do you do?
*You prioritize your activities, assuming that it will help you focus on the most important projects.
* You make a schedule that helps you allot time during the month for work on the most important projects.
* You put up reminders in prominent places.
* You create rewards to give yourself when you finish a project -- a special dinner or a new item of clothing.
* You ask your friends to support you.

So now you've gathered all the information and resources you need to get your projects done on time. And you have several strong reasons for doing it: a possible promotion, a raise, your boss's approval, and an alleviation of your constant anxiety.

But be honest! After you've done all this, plus all the other variations you've discovered, does the behavior pattern really change? Does the I + M = C formula enable you to do what you say you are going to do? And if it does today, does it continue to be easy month after month? For most of us, the answer is no.

If you think this isn't a valid assumption, consider all the times you've committed to some change in your life, buttressed by Information + Motivation, but for some inexplicable reason you failed to follow through. Why?

The Role of Beliefs

Maybe because the formula of I + M = C never deals with beliefs, so lasting change isn't possible. I + M = C isn't enough to change emotional and behavioral patterns because the beliefs that cause them haven't been eliminated.

Beliefs are nothing more than thoughts we have about reality that we are convinced are "the truth." They are, for us, accurate statements about reality. Therefore your beliefs mold your behavior, your emotions, and your attitudes.

What are some of the beliefs that cause procrastination? A few include: I'm not good enough. Nothing I do is good enough. What makes me good enough or important is doing things perfectly. Mistakes and failure are bad. I'm not capable.

Can you see that if you had beliefs like these, it would be easier to have people upset with you for not finishing something than to make a mistake (which is bad), which you know you will do because nothing you do is good enough, then people will discover you're really not good enough or capable, and you will feel anxious because you have based your sense of self-esteem on doing things perfectly (which you know you won't be able to do.

So if the personal growth material or the psychotherapy you've tried hasn't produced lasting change, you now know why. You were informed and motivated, but you never eliminated the beliefs that cause the existing behavior you want to change. Get rid of the beliefs that cause the undesirable behavior and feelings, and the change will occur naturally and effortlessly.

If you haven't yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

Copyright © 2010 Morty Lefkoe

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