The 7 Universal Laws of Self-Help
This online copy of the book will always be here for you for free.
But if you are interested in supporting this site you can download the kindle version from Amazon for a dollar. I also made a book summary for you guys (which is also in the kindle version as well as some minor additional content), but do read the book at least once. Enjoy!
(By the way, the text of this book has a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, so you can take the text, keep it as is or change it, publish it under your own name if you want, and even charge money for it, unless you use the CSS on this website which can not be used for commercial purposes as I don't own it. Make sure to give credit to this site and the books and authors listed below.)
The 7 Best Lessons From All The Self-Help Books
Table of Contents
So a lot of people read a ton of self-help and never use it or at the very least never make proper use of it. Why? Information overload. There is so much out there so they feel the need to read the next book thinking it holds some secret that the last one did not. (And what they did learn in the last book they soon forget with "new" knowledge, so they act on none.) Truth is, all self-help books say the same things over and over again. All that "new" information can be found in the first two modern self-help books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill published way back in 1936 and 1937, respectively. (If you want to go even further back, a lot of religious texts say the exact same thing, though more cryptically. They were the real first self-help books.) If it wasn't for the fact that those two books are overloaded with stories and not tightly organized (they were written for a different era), I would just suggest you read those. (However, along with Zig Ziglar's material and religious books, they make for great audiobooks to listen to.) But that is the purpose of this book, to condense and distil all of the best self-help material in the world to curve your appetite for more information, to help you stop reading about how to live a great life and to start living one, instead. Here's the best self-help material out there in seven, easy-to-remember rules. But, in reality, this is really all the self-help material out there grouped into 7 categories.
There Are Universal Laws to Be Discovered for Your Advantage
"The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom." —Proverbs
You can replicate the success of the successful. Why? Because everything in life is cause and effect. Everything can be explained and duplicated. So all problems can be fixed. All situations can be turned to your advantage as long as you are willing to change your actions and thoughts. This also means there are laws of human nature everyone obeys, including yourself. Discover them. Become aware right now what you are doing with your life. Become aware right now what you've done with your life that put you here. If you don't become aware, you'll just keep repeating the same mistakes, the same habits. Understand by not taking advantage of these laws of the living you have gotten yourself in your current situation. And understand that your current situation could be much better if you took advantage of these laws. The grass is greener on the other side.
The truth is, we often make bad decisions with our lives, practice bad habits, or don't take action because we believe life is too hard to figure out. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we ignore our problems, tough it out, or blindly follow someone's bad advice no matter how much it hurts. But here's the catch, the laws of wisdom have a beautiful simplicity to them and they are easy to implement. That means the answers to your life are simple ones. The man who studies a little each day in his chosen field will eventually become a master in it. There is no complex riddle for him to solve to get what he wants. He just has to understand the simple law of consistency. It is wisdom, not self-help tricks, that will get you what you want in life. Find these laws, internalize them, and practice them. Life is not too hard to figure out, you simply need an open mind and a willingness to try new things. The first law of wisdom is to seek wisdom.
Discover the truth.
Be Consistent, It Compounds over Time
"All people are the same; it is their habits that set them apart." —Confucius
There is a reason why self-help books like The Compound Effect and The Slight Edge are some of the few, if not the only, ones out there with over 1,000 reviews and 5 stars on Amazon. Don't quit. Put in the work each day and over time you'll get results. It adds up, if you are consistent, to eventually make a huge difference. Put in the work each day (you don't have to work hard, you just have to put in the work) and you'll have more skills and knowledge than you thought possible. Practice makes perfect, as long as you give yourself enough time to practice. Want to deliver an awesome speech? Practice it once or twice each day several days before you give it. Want to create the next Game of Thrones series? Practice writing each day from an early age. Learn to enjoy the process. Get lost in the art. Be patient. Being patient is the central theme to putting in the work. If you aren't patient, then you will either give up, distract yourself from doing the work, or try shortcuts. All will result in your failure to be consistent. And often we are impatient because we feel like we are too old or that time is running out. But that mindset is the thing that is causing you to waste your life. But it's never too late to become what you want. Tell yourself to forget about those thoughts and just focus on putting in the work each day. Let yourself get caught up in the process. Learn to enjoy the hard part and that is when consistency becomes easy. But when time sinks (bad habits) come, remind yourself of what you really want in life, remind yourself of who you are doing it for. It's a narrow path and that is why few control their destinies. You must realize the world owes you nothing, but you can slowly earn what you want. Learn to be patient and put in the work.
And don't wait for someone to tell you to start, just do on your own. As Proverbs teaches, "Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter." Prepare yourself so you can take advantage of opportunities when they come. Prepare yourself so you can create opportunities when they don't come. But good things will eventually come if you put in the work. Proverbs again, "In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." In other words, you reap what you sow.
And don't wait to find your passion to start working on something consistently. You become passionate about the things you are good at. And you become good at things by working on them consistently. So, instead, do something you find interesting and work each day to improve yourself in it. The passion will come later.
And focus on consistency before you focus on finding the best technique or version of something. Don't worry first about finding the best toothpaste, focus on just on brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day. Don't worry about finding the perfect workout routine before you start, just focus on making exercise a life habit. Consistency, doing the work, is what you should be worrying about first. You can worry about tweaking your routines later. Remember this, you can't beat consistency. Many talk about the importances of measuring and analyzing. Yes, your consistent work will hit a plateau until you are willing to add consistent measuring. (Once you know the numbers and are willing to watch videos of yourself, you are no longer flying blind.) But don't make the mistake many people do and focus so much on measuring that you don't take consistent action. Develop your good habits first, then find ways to improve them. Just focus on creating those good, daily habits.
But how do you make those new habits stick? Little by little. "Inch by inch life's a cinch." And interestingly enough, the science has shown that the best way to rewire your dopamine brain to do new habits is by making them small at first. Once you are consistent with the small stuff, then the bigger stuff gets easier to add on. For example, I've made myself be very consistent in making my bed each morning, it only takes a minute. But then I end up cleaning my whole room. So start small. (Interestingly enough, when you want to learn a new skill, like playing a new musical instrument or learning a new programming language, it's best done by breaking it down into it's smallest parts and mastering each part before moving on to the next. But the most important thing is that you start.) But there is more to it than just starting small. In the book, The Power of Habit, it is shown that habits are made up of a trigger (also called a cue), an activity, and a reward. You already know what activity you plan on doing, but you need a trigger and a reward. For the trigger, try to make it something you'll come across often and easily see (e.g. a piece of paper on your desk or a notification on your phone). Remember, "Out of sight, out of mind," but that also means, "In your sight, on your mind." Rewards, however, can be various and inherent to the action (like the pleasure of accomplishing your work or the endorphin rush after a workout), so it's best to focus on your triggers first and then add rewards if you have a hard time sticking to a habit. But the main focus should be on just getting yourself to do the action. So focus on making the habit small at first and have a visual cue you'll see often.
When you start doing your habits, here are a few tips from the book, Eat That Frog! Begin by identifying the most important habits for you to do first and do them. In other words, put first things first. Get it out of the way and the rest of the day will go easy. Don't waste your time and life on the unimportant things. The time in each day is limited. The time in your life is limited. (That being said, resting can help make you more productive so it's never a waste of time.) Your time is so important that you should make a list of important things (your to do list) and unimportant things (your not to do list). Next, make sure when you do your habits, work from a list. This way you don't forget anything, you don't waste mental power remembering them, and it acts as a visual cue. Finally, try putting items on your list into blocks of time on your daily schedule. This will help keep you on track for the day.
Success isn't so much about your goals, but creating the habits/systems you'll do every day. Remember this, how we live our days is how we live our lives. Writing down your goal is great, but even better is to write down what system you'll use daily to accomplish that goal (e.g. "I will do this X times a day for each day in the year and keep the checklist on my desk."). Have a routine you do, no matter what. Create good habits that will add up over time. That also means identifying which habit will do you the most good. As mentioned in the book, The ONE Thing, you should identify that one thing that gives you the greatest return on investment for your time. This is similar to the 80/20 principle (80% of your results come from 20% of your activities) but more extreme (and thus more effective). That also means identifying what is really important in your life. As you can only really focus on one thing at a time (since that is how your brain is wired to work and since it takes a while to entrench yourself in your work so that you're actually getting results), it makes sense to just do one thing at a time. Besides, you don't want to waste your time doing something well, or getting good at something, that doesn't really need to be done at all. Remember, the principle of opportunity cost applies to your life. And the one thing you should be doing probably has something to do with one of your strengths and your unique personality, not one of your weaknesses, and it probably has something to do with leveraging people, not working on your own. (I'll be straight with you, working on your relationships is probably the one thing that'll give the biggest return on investment for the time.) In other words, it isn't just about putting in the work, but working smarter. So find and do the one thing that'll have the biggest impact in your life and do it every day. Remember, there are no tricks or shortcuts to a successful life. You just put in the work. You can't beat consistency.
Finally, a word of warning, this law can turn into a trap, even a great evil. (The first law can also be turned into a great evil and a trap. As the funny story goes, "You die and come to a place with two doors. One door says, 'Books about Heaven' and the other, 'Heaven.' Make sure you are living a great life and not just reading about one.) Be careful, what you are consistent at you will improve, but that doesn't mean it will improve your life. "People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall." The law of consistency will get you results no matter what. It will give you skills, wealth, and status. But those things won't make you happy. They will give temporary pleasure but not satisfaction and that can make consistency for the wrong reasons an ultimately empty, but addictive, pleasure. If you want to be happy you have to put other people first, you have to put your community first. That's who you should be working hard for each day.
Work each day.
Be Mindful About Who You Let into Your Life
"Suffering leads to evil. Evil to suffering. Happiness leads to goodness. Goodness to happiness. Have pity on the man who suffers. But do not let him take you down his path. Avoid evil. Encourage the good." —Unknown
The science is clear, people have a stronger impact on your life than anything else—this includes your emotions, your success, your choices, your happiness, and perhaps even your health. Those with better relationships have longer telomeres, lower inflammation, and lower rates of heart disease. This is often why the poorest people in the poorest countries are some of the healthiest and happiest people as they have some of the strongest relationships in the world.
(I'm going to take a short break here from talking about success and happiness and focus on health. It's hard to say which of these three are the most important for your health: relationships, walking/being active throughout the day, or a whole foods diet. But we shouldn't debate about it, we should be doing all three. And, yes, being active throughout the day, like walking, is far more important than working out for an hour for your health and longevity. Why? Because your body is constantly repairing and renewing itself and it needs range of motion and movement to do it properly. And if you want to learn about the benefits of a whole foods diet, check out, Is Meat Good or Bad? Learn What Modern Science Has to Say about Animal Products. It's a short read. Since I'm covering health in this section, I'll go over the last factor to consider: Sleep. As an adult, you want between 7-8 hours a night. No more, no less. Any less or more than that equally increases your odds for heart disease and diabetes. How is that? Basically, when you sleep your body puts out a "liquid cement" on a cellular level to repair the damage done during the day. It's a natural inflammatory process your body does each night. Later into your 7-8 hour sleep cycle, it cleans up the excess "cement" and your body is like new again. But wake up too early and you'll have too much "cement" left over which will gunk up your system. Wake up too late and it starts that cycle all over again. If you do need to catch up on some sleep, take an hour nap in the middle of the day (no inflammation process, but it does help your brain resort itself). But don't add more hours to your nightly sleep. Okay, back to talking about the subject at hand.)
We are social creatures. We are really just cells of a larger body called the human race. We need each other not just to survive but to thrive. And the science backs this up. Human touch is a requirement for a healthy, fulfilling life. It activates our relaxation mechanism (specifically the vagus nerve) to help our body regulate functions like our blood pressure, liver, kidneys, and digestive processes and you won't get that living in your room alone all the time. You need people. You need community. And a sense of community is the number one predictor of a happy life.
But know this, you can get to know people, but you can never unknow them. So stay away from those who are trouble. As Proverbs says, "The prudent sees evil and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." (How do you know if someone is bad news? Simple, you trust your intuition and look for those red flags. As Maya Angelou said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.") However, the opposite is also true. Proverbs again, "He who walks with the wise shall be wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." And the power of association is backed up by science. If your friends become fat, you are more likely to become fat. If your friends start to work out, you're more likely to work out. Association is always the number one predictor of action and results. Thus, the wise thing to do would be to surround yourself with people you want to be like. As Jim Rohn puts it, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." So be careful of who you spend your time with. Look for those who are positive, energetic, kind, and a personal success (forget about wealth, what you care about is happiness as a measure of their success). It's no wonder that in Jim Rohn's book, 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness, he dedicates an entire strategy to surrounding yourself with good people in life.
Even when it comes to businesses, people should come first, not products or services. In the book, Good to Great, it was identified that the great companies focus on who then what. In other words, they focused first on finding the right people (and getting rid of the wrong ones), then figuring out what to do for a business. Many self-help people might disagree with what I'm about to say (as they'll emphasize the importance of always following your passion), but I think you should do the same with your life. Focus on finding the right people first, then figure out what to do with your life. That's how important I think this law is. But if you already have a passion, then surround yourself with people who are already doing, or better at, what you are trying to do. Even if you are all beginners, you'll push each other to do more. But remember, happiness is more important than success (and success often comes with happiness). Thus, concern yourself with surrounding yourself with good, happy people rather than people who you think will bring you wealth.
And don't put up or surround yourself with those who don't like you or who don't respect you. Their negativity will pull you down. And if they don't think you're one of them, they will hurt you, they will target you. As the old saying goes, "Birds of a feather flock together." If you don't belong there, they'll let you know one way or another. Learn to listen. Don't fight it. Don't try to change them. That's like a man fanning his arms in an attempt to change the spin of a tornado. You'll do nothing to the tornado and just end up getting hurt. Remember this, you can't change people, thus you can't change groups. (This includes your job. Don't work at a place you hate with people you hate. And don't use money or building your resume as an excuse. As Warren Buffett says, "Taking jobs to build up your resume is like saving up sex for old age." And as Bob Beaudine says, don't do dog years. In other words, don't work someplace for one year that's going to age you seven. You'll be better off and less miserable somewhere else.) And don't try to change yourself to win them over, either. Trust me they still won't like you because they know you aren't being true to yourself. That's like letting the tornado have its way with you. Again, you're just going to get hurt. As Bob Beaudine also says, you won't win with them because they won't let you win. They've already decided on you and nothing will change their mind. Instead, "Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated. If they can't see the real value of you, it's time for a new start." Don't worry about evil people. Leave a tornado alone and mother nature gets rid of it. The Universe has its way of handling bad people. (People are often mean to you because they just want you to go away. So do the thing that'll make you and them happy. Leave.) And once you can let go of the hate and the desire for revenge, you'll find peace and freedom. Be a good person, but don't go around trying to right wrong people or associating with them. "Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself."
However, it's not just about letting kind people in our lives, but it's also about getting help from others. You're not just the average of them, but people—your relationships—are the only way to get the life you want. One last quote from Bob Beaudine, "We're not designed to 'Go it alone!'" As Proverbs says, "He who has isolated himself seeks his own foolish desires; he rejects all sound advice." We need the help of others to be our best selves and to make good decisions in life. So work on and maintain your relationships. A mentor or coach can give you the breakthrough you are looking for as they can see your blind spots and hold you accountable. But that kind of mentoring relationship must come from someone who really cares about you (which probably isn't someone you would be paying money to). Sometimes all we really need is a good friend to talk to about our problems. Actually, what you want is a group of friends who can advise you on different things, a type of personal board of advisors for all your different problems and plans in life. Proverbs again, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." But if you don't have a friend to talk to about your problems, the fastest way to find a friend isn't to meet new people one at a time, but to join groups until you find one that clicks (it will take time to find one that clicks, but it's worth it). So join different groups until you find one that gives you a good feeling, until you feel like you are somewhere you belong. But it takes time to find friends. It takes time to find your future girlfriend or boyfriend. It takes time to find your group. Learn to be patient. Learn to be consistent. You will get results. And you really only have time in life for one group of friends. So one is all you need. Once find that one group, you're done. You just have to follow up and keep in touch. And with a group of friends to support you, it'll be a lot easier to accomplish your goals, it'll be a lot easier to get rid of the bad in your life. For your best life, you must remove negative people and actively seek good, healthy relationships. Crowd out the bad with the good.
Surround yourself with good people.
Communication is the Key to Happiness and Success
"Of all the life skills available to us, communication is perhaps the most empowering." —Bret Morrison
Pain and misery come when people don't communicate. You don't get what you want since no one knows what it is that you want. Always tell people what is on your mind. Always tell people what it is you want. Tell the truth of the situation. Don't suffer in silence. Speak up! If something or someone is bothering you, tell them or tell someone else. If they don't care, then you need to find a new group to be around that does care about you. But don't try to handle your problems alone, that's a fool's errand. We need people. However, good communication is a two-way street so don't be afraid to find out what is going on in other people's heads. That's how real relationships work. You must learn what it is that they want or else the relationship (you're in a relationship with everyone you interact with) will never work and will cause you suffering.
Find out what is on people's minds and you find out by asking them the right questions. The right questions are key to a great life. It gets to the cause and effect. It shows you how to fix problems and how to find success. Slow down your conversation and really get to know them. Make time for them. (It isn't just about finding things out about them but connecting with them as a person. In other words, love people, they aren't a means to an end.) Make it your mission to know everything about them. Once you figure out what it is they want, summarize it back to them so you are clear you understood them properly. If you read the book, The Four Agreements, you should know this is one of the agreements—to not assume people can read your mind or that you can read theirs, to communicate. And this one concept is believed by many to be the most life changing. But you also find out by listening to what words they choose to express themselves with and paying attention to their body language. As what the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, emphasized probably the most: Learn to listen to people, understand them. Ask them what it is they want in life. Ask them what it is they want from you. We rarely listen, yet that is the key to getting what you want. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. But listening to people is a skill you develop over time. Others are always telling you the best way to win their favor and friendship, you just have to start listening.
(Some people will never tell you what it is they want, at least not directly. If that is the case, then it is up to you to use your brain, figure it out, and then give it to them.)
Good communication from you, however, doesn't mean more communication. It means better understanding. And excessive words can end up confusing, hurting, or enraging people. So guard and limit what you say to only what is necessary. Don't get yourself in trouble. Words are powerful gateways to emotions. As Proverbs says, "Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin." And it also says, "The tongue can bring life or death; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." When you talk about people and things badly, it can be like rubbing a match against black powder. You don't know when it'll go off, but you know it'll be bad when it does. However, the words you pick to express yourself can be just as damaging, as they can either slowly blister your inner kindness or gently illuminate it. They can not only bring down your spirit but also the spirit of others. So try to remove all curse words, demeaning words, and negative words from your speech and writing. The tongue has the power of life and death. That means your words can also heal and inspire. Choose your words wisely.
Finally, communication is more than just being careful with your words. Communication is about connecting—sharing our hopes and dreams, our private stories, and our humanity. But more often than not, you have to be the one to open up first. Everyone is guarded, everyone is scared. You often have to be the one to take the first step. Let people know what is going on in your head. Let people know how you feel. Even if that includes things like shame, doubt, and other negative emotions. The truth is how we connect to others. We have to make ourselves vulnerable so we can love and be loved. And we can only share the truth by communicating it.
Taking the first step means you have to approach people and make the effort to get to know them. No one is going to force you to be their friend. No one is going to force you to communicate. No one is going to force you to engage the world.
Communicate with others.
Happiness & Success Comes from Loving, Giving, and Caring for Others
"Life is all about other people."
Giving away things to become wealth doesn't seem logical, but that is what the logic tells us. Every interaction with a human being is a transaction (even if money is not involved, it does involve time, energy, and feelings). And every person is seeking their own unique version of happiness (they aren't interested in the slightest with your version of it). Since everyone is seeking their own unique happiness, if you can give them that happiness or what they think will give them that happiness (be it a product or service), they'll be willing to give you something back you find profitable (money, objects, good feelings, relationships, etc.). As Proverbs says, "One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." Or as Zig Ziglar puts it, "You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." In short, he who enriches others enriches himself. That's the free market at work. That's the beautiful logic.
But the mindset you must have is to completely focus on the other person (i.e. don't do things just for your own profit). The science shows those who focus on making money, status, and pleasure are less happy than those who focus on personal growth, relationships, and helping others. Those last items are what you should be making your life goals about. That's what you should be constantly and consistently working on. (Minimalism often benefits people because it takes the focus away from material goods and puts it on other people and personal growth.) So don't focus on doing things for others just to get something out of it. Don't use people and love things, instead "Love people, use things." In other words, give and expect nothing in return. And that's the definition of love. You do things for people simply because you love them. You don't keep score.
Why do this? Well, if love isn't enough if a reason for you, when you focus on other people's problems, then you are no longer thinking about your own, so they disappear. You get lost in the moment. Thus, you get even more of what you want: Happiness. (Another way to get lost in the moment is to get caught up in the flow of things, like playing a sport, dance, work, playing a musical instrument, or whatever you love to do.) A lot of people say controlling your thoughts—staying in the present moment—is the key to happiness and in a way they're right, but that's hard to do own your own (whatever you do, don't think of a pink elephant...hard right?). So the easier and smarter way to direct your thoughts is to focus on others. And that is best done face-to-face (it activates parts of our brain we can't when alone). You are always happier when you are lost in the presence of others. (I don't mean to take away from meditation. It makes you 10% happier for sure. But first do the thing that'll make you 1,000% happier, being with your friends.) And do you know what causes your mind to wander the most? When you are alone on the computer...think about it. And you are even happier when you are lost in thought doing things—especially acts of kindness—for others in their presence, when you are putting your focus entirely on them. And the science backs this up as well as religious texts. Back to Proverbs, "A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed." So stop trying to make yourself happy. The science also shows that those who do that always fail. It's a paradox: Those who put the focus on making themselves happy fail. However, those who put the focus on making other people happy succeed and make themselves happy in the process. If happiest is all that matters in life, then this should really be your only focus (so stop chasing after power and pleasure, money and sex). Focus on helping others make their dreams come true. Don't try to fix them (remember, you can't change people), help them solve their problems instead. In other words, love people exactly how they are.
But you must also not make yourself miserable for other people. Don't just do what they tell you to do. You can't put the focus on others if you are always letting them make you sad. You have to think win-win (what option will leave you and them better off). As the world famous life coach, Steve Chandler, says, stop trying to please people and serve them instead.
But to serve them, you must figure out what motivates them (you must learn to listen). As mentioned in the book, The Five Love Languages, while it's easy to fall in love, relationships often don't last because we give love how we want to receive it. Instead, we need to discover how other people want their love (their love language) and give it to them. As what is mentioned in the book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, we need to start reversing the golden rule, "Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them." You can't change people, but you can make them happy. So discover (i.e. communicate) and give them what they really want: Happiness. Life really is all about other people. They hold your happiness (and the key to getting it is to start communicating with those people and finding out what makes them happy).
And other people also hold the key to your success. With moving up in life, it's often who you know, not what you know. Studies show those who engage in the most small talk are often the most successful in life. Why? Because they tend to have the most friends, they have more people who care about them and their future. And if you're having a hard time meeting people and making friends, focus on giving first. If you want a friend, you must be a friend. Even if you have nothing, you can give fun by being fun to be around. You can give out words of encouragement for free. You can make people feel important and special. Boast about them to others. Follow up with them. And the science shows, these acts are the ones that make people the happiest. So you have no excuse not to give what people want. Remember, they will forget what you say and do, but they will never forget how you made them feel. People just want to feel good. They want to feel alive! Give it to them.
Here is another paradox that doesn't seem logical at all, whatever is missing from your life, give it and you'll have it! "Be the change you want to see in the world." If you lack fun, give someone a fun time and you'll often get it too. If you lack friends, go be a friend to someone else. If you lack a job, help someone else get a job, and you'll be surprised how things come back to you. And if you are lonely, go make someone else less lonely and you'll often cure your own as well. If no one is trying to make you happy, go try to make other people happy. It takes experience, but you can often cure what you lack by giving it. Give, but expect nothing in return. This is essentially reversing "The Secret" or the "Law of Attraction." Don't think about what you want, give it instead. This is what the book, Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change, talks about as one of its steps (and what many believe to be the most powerful step of them all). "Whatever's missing [in your life] is what you're not giving." When you enter a room, give what appears to be missing. You have that power and duty. You have to realize your life isn't yours in a way. You are just a part of a larger whole. You are here to serve.
Give to others.
If You Want a Life Worth Living, You Must Act
"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." —Henry Ford
We've talked about consistent work, but this is somewhat different. Taking action is starting that project you've been scared to do, confronting that person instead of putting it off, actually taking action after reading a self-help book, and trying new things to find out if you like them. It means not living in your own little bubble (you can have good, consistent habits and still hide in your own little world). Watching movies and playing video games are not included in this definition of taking action. (Be careful how you spend your time. Don't fill your subconscious with junk.) Those are distractions (and that can include reading self-help books). Those are the activities you use to escape from life. And speaking of escaping from life, daydreaming is extremely bad for you. The science shows it makes you an unhappy person, tricks your brain into thinking you are living a great life already, and is a waste of your time. Every time you daydream, try to make it into a reality that day. You'll soon realize if it is possible and if you are really interested in it. Live in the present moment. Don't use daydreaming to avoid reality. Engage the world. Engage people. Choose to ignore things and the truth has a way of catching up to you. Real action involves engaging the real world, forging your own path. And as the word "forging" implies, it involves working against some type of resistance. Resistance is natural, just how the right kind of stress is natural and necessary for a healthy body. But what is unnatural is when you avoid it all together. Why do we do this? Fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing control, fear of change, and fear of the unknown. Ultimately, it all has to do with the fear of expressing your true feelings and desires. But when you do talk about it (communicate it to others) and start to give in to your true desires (true desires, not unhealthy substitutes) you will realize there was nothing to be afraid of. You become braver. You get better at facing the resistance the more you face it. (The trick is to keep doing it each day, that's the hard part.) You get better at facing your fears by facing them. You must face your fears to have a life worth living (and taking action is how you get better at facing your fears). In other words, taking action lets you take more action.
And the more you fail, the more you will succeed. Because with every failure you learn. (Actually, taking action is the only way to learn about your life. That's why those who just focus on doing, instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity, often make more progress than others in life.) In other words, the more you fail, the more you figure out. Thus, you only fail by avoiding failure. Trying to find what you are good at (everyone is good at something and we all suck at a lot of things)? You take action to find out! The more action you take, the more you'll figure out about yourself. Remember this, everything you read is just theory relative to your life until you try it out. And trying things out is the only way to get empirical evidence for your life. The author of a book has no idea what it's like to be you. And going beyond your fear is when you become alive. And only when you get beyond your fears can you really focus on giving to others (another trick to break through your fear is to focus on other people's happiness and your love for them, focus on the people who are counting on you to get past your fear). Only when you get beyond your fears can you break out of your mental prison. And outside of your mental prison is freedom. They say novelty is central to happiness, but you can only really experience novelty if you are willing to face your fears. You have to face your fears, no one else can do it for you. It's so important that you create the mindset that you will take action in life, no matter what, that without it you can't ever really break free.
But just because you have to fail doesn't mean it has to suck. If it isn't fun, do it differently. Play is so essential to being healthy both mentally and physically. Play also keeps us sharp and makes you more creative. Yes, take action. Yes, face your fears. But try to do it from a fun place. Pretend you are your favorite movie character. Get your friends involved. Taking action doesn't have to be draining. It should lift you up. If action becomes play, then you'll do it more often.
But how can I make something that is fearful into something that is fun?
That's the trick, you don't. Or as Bob Proctor says, if my goal doesn't both scare and excite me at the same time, I know I'm going in the wrong direction. We need to face our fears to feel alive, but at the same time we can have fun with it.
And don't worry about what people will think of you when you take action. Even if what they think of you affects your life in some way, you can always surround yourself with new people. All that matters is what you think of you. And you won't think that much of yourself if you aren't willing to face your fears. So take action and you'll start seeing yourself in a brand new light. You'll get a new sense of self-respect. Do what makes you feel good—what makes you come alive—and you'll start thinking more of yourself.
When things don't work out (which is going to happen most of the time), it's always important to ask why and then how to improve it. As Malcolm Forbes says, "Failure is success if we learn from it." But always act first, then figure out why. You won't have any evidence to analyze unless you take action. As the book, Ready, Fire, Aim, points out, try to sell something first and then change it based off of feedback instead of first trying to find the perfect product to sell. You won't find it like that and you are wasting your time. (The same can be said for self-help. Stop reading a ton of books trying to find the perfect system, idea, or strategy. Instead, start trying them out, listen to feedback, and use what works for you.)
Never forget what I'm about to tell you: If there is something you don't like about your life or something making you feel trapped, you can change it, you just have to act. You must take responsibility for your life. You are responsible for your actions and your thoughts as they have led you down the path to where you are today. Your anger towards others and the situation doesn't help you. As the self-help author, Brian Tracy, tells everyone, when you say I'm responsible for everything in my life the anger goes away and it gets replaced with excitement. (Many self-help gurus and celebrities, like Oprah, have written those words down and put them on their bathroom mirror so they would see it every morning and night.) Sure, bad things happen—they happen to everyone—but your reaction to them, or lack of action, played just as much of a part of getting you to where you are today (and keep in mind walking away might be the right action at times). If you saw a red flag and you ignored it, what did you think was going to happen? You need to start reacting to the world around you and realize life takes work, it takes action. As mentioned in the book, The Road Less Traveled, life is difficult and expecting life to be easy makes it more so. But once we accept that life is difficult we transcend it, it becomes easy. Or as Zig Ziglar puts it, life is tough, but once you are tough on yourself it becomes easy. (In life you have to learn to go with the flow and work hard. How? You go with the flow by realizing you can't change people, but you can make them happy. And making them happy is how you win in life. However, each person's definition of happiness, and thus every situation you encounter, is different. That is how you go with the flow. But you work hard by working hard on yourself by facing your fears and practicing consistency. That is how you can go with the flow and work hard in life.) Then the author goes on to say that our biggest problems come from failing to take care of smaller problems, that is we failed to react to the situation. You must learn to react to life. Pay attention to those red flags (and pay attention to those green flags, take advantage of them). Start playing the game called life. But if you did react and still ended up in a somewhat bad place, guess what, you can still change the current situation. You can still take action. If you don't like where you are today, you can change it! So stop complaining. If you complain, then you aren't taking 100% responsibility for your life because that's energy you could be using to change your life instead. If you're in a bad relationship, try to fix it and if that doesn't work, leave. But don't complain. If you hate your job, tell your boss to help improve it and if that doesn't work, quit. But don't complain! No friends? You can always meet new people by joining an organization. No complaining. Hate where you live and don't have the money to move? There are other ways to get where you want to go without money, but you have to do them, not think about them, to get results. So don't waste your energy complaining, use it to take action instead. Do something about the situation. You're a free man; it's time to start acting like one. "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
And the science shows the main difference between people who get results in life and those who get none, between those who have a high sense of self-worth and happiness and those who easily get depressed, is the former are action-orientation. The latter do nothing but think or complain about life. So stop thinking about life (or reading self-help books all the time) and take action. Don't wait for motivation or that perfect time to act. Motivation comes after you take action. So just take action. Do that one little act that will get your good feelings going for you, then that'll get you to take more, bigger, and better actions. Then you can accomplish a ton. Then you'll change your life.
And, yes, part of taking action involves taking risks. Everything in life is risky, but there comes a point where trying to minimize your risk results in you being dead, the very thing you are trying to avoid. That's not a life worth living. To have the life you want you have to just go for it. A lot of life is just about putting yourself out there and seeing what works for you. That's why self-help books rarely help people because those same individuals still won't put themselves out there. But it's never too late. And there's no time like the present.
But to Act, You Must Know What You Want out of Life
"What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Do that and forget the money." —Alan Watts
What is your heart's desire? Unfortunately, many have no idea. They just go through life like a zombie. You need a vision in life or you'll just drift. Yes, action brings clarity, but what's the point of clarity if there is no destination? Take the time to discover it. Take the time to discover yourself. There is something inside you waiting to come out. (This is not about finding your passion or that "one thing" you were destined for. Rather, it's about trusting your gut with what you should be doing with your life. Passion equals your ideal job. Vision equals your ideal life. There is no such thing as an ideal job, but there is an ideal life you should be striving for.) And if you let people or life events decide things for you, you'll never get what you want, you'll never become happy. Either you genuinely don't care about yourself or you're more concerned about other's opinion about you than your own. Both are signs of insecurity. Both are terrible ways to live. (Part of being happy, as long as you are true to yourself, is learning not to care what other people think.) There's something inside of you that's been dying to come out. There's some project that makes you excited just thinking about it or some direction in life you've always wanted to take. And don't let yourself feel selfish pursuing it. Whether you do what you love, what you hate, or if you do nothing at all, life will go on with or without you. But doing what you love benefits everyone else around you the most in the long-run. You should be excited to wake up each day. If not, you have forgotten your dreams and you are trying to numb yourself to this truth! You must become aware of what is happening in your life and where you are headed. When you realize what your vision is, it should excite you. And when you accomplish it, it'll make you feel alive!
Never forget that comfort doesn't equal happiness. Happiness means you are fully alive in the moment or deeply satisfied with what you've accomplished. Comfort and apathy are neither. Eating ice cream on your couch while watching TV after a stressful day at work isn't living. Don't drift your life away in empty pleasure and unbeneficial stress. "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." Be proactive, not reactive, in life. Don't wait for the adventure to come to you (it won't) create it! Get comfortable with discomfort and uncertainty. It's the only way to follow your dreams.
Finding your vision involves finding yourself. Your vision isn't something you make; it is something you are made of. It is something you discover, it comes from within you. It's something that resonates with your true self. It is the thing that makes you come alive. Find it. Since you were born you had the seed of consciousness in you and with it the desire to be more, the desire for adventure. (And why shouldn't you live a fun and amazing life? You have feelings like everyone else.) You just need to put yourself in the right environment (surround yourself with the right people) to cultivate that vision, to have it grow. And part of discovering the truth is realizing that there is nothing broken or wrong with you. Just how a healthy body creates pain when you touch a hot stove, boredom, emptiness, and feeling like there is more to life than this is a healthy mind telling you that you need to change course in life. You're only broken if you keep your hand on the hot stove, if you don't take action to change the direction of your life.
The details will change, but the destination will always be the same. As mentioned in the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, successful people begin with the end in mind. They think for themselves (not what society tells them to) and those thoughts lead to a vision. And you need a vision. You need a destination to steer your boat. How will you get what you want from life if you don't even know what it is that you want? The answer doesn't lie in another self-help book or in a google search. You must think for yourself. You must find the answer within. You must trust your intuition. (And the science shows the more choices we have, the more miserable we are once we make one as we still wonder if we made the best choice. No wonder we are so miserable in this age of so many choices. But the science also shows our intuition is better at making big, complicated decisions. And when we follow our intuition we don't regret the choices we make.) What does your intuition say about your life? There is this inner knowing, an inner truth, you've been denying. It will guide you. Become attuned to it. Trust yourself. Learn to be true to yourself. Ask yourself the big questions: "What activities make me feel alive?" "What is it that I want out of life?" "Would the 10-year-old version of me be proud?" "If I was on my deathbed tomorrow, what would be my biggest regrets?" "What kind of life would make me excited to get out of bed?" Take time to write down the answers. Take a walk to reflect on life. Give yourself one hour of silence in your room with only your thoughts. Perhaps have a journal to write down your ideas. Answer those big questions. Make sure to reread, reconsider, and rewrite your thoughts. Try to boil them down to their purest, simplest, and shortest forms. Often you'll get an epiphany out of nowhere as your subconscious decides to help you out (since you weren't distracting it with meaningless activities).
Do you now know what you want, but don't know how to get it? Then just focus on taking one small step towards your dreams. Why? Because action brings clarity. Focus on taking one step forward and the path will start to emerge. And that first step is often something you've never done before. "If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done." You'll never know what awesomeness life has for you until you do it, but you'll never know if you don't put yourself out there. Trust me, life can be a thousand times better than it is right now. Life can be a daring adventure. So why aren't you going after it? Act on your instincts. Trust your intuition. Go after your dream.
Be true to yourself.
Let's recap the main lesson in each chapter. Yes, they are the best lessons of self-improvement, but they can be seen as laws, universal laws that will improve your life if you practice them.
The 7 Universal Laws of Self-Help:
- Discover the truth
- Work each day
- Surround yourself with good people
- Communicate with others
- Give to others
- Take action!
- Be true to yourself
But to take advantage of such laws, to make sure you put them to use, you must practice something I call...
The 8th Concept of Self-Help
“A goal without a plan is only a wish.”
So many self-help books dedicate a paragraph or even a chapter telling the reader that they need to take action, that all their reading is pointless if they don't act on it right away. Then, of course, the reader, you, goes on to read another self-help book. Well, I'm going to do something better, something I think every self-help book should tell you to do: create an action plan! Yes, some self-help books do have them, but chances are you won't follow them. It needs to come from you. When YOU create the action plan, you'll be invested in doing it. And you can tailor it for your life. But chances are, if you don't write an action plan right now, you won't take action on the material at all. That means all that reading was for nothing. So write your action plan, then to make sure you do them put those items on your calendar and in your daily schedule.
As the book, Think and Grow Rich, says, you must organize your knowledge once you acquire it. And then use it. The book goes on to point out that no successful person ever made it without organized planning. And if a plan failed, they would tweak the plan and try again until it worked. But every successful person had a well-defined plan that he or she began at once, whether they were ready or not, and backed it up with persistence. You are no different from them. So you must do the same.
While it is up to you to create your action plan, I would suggest first you write down the 7 laws until you can say them from memory. Truth. Consistency. Community. Communicate. Give. Do. Instinct. Then score yourself on each one. From there you'll know what areas to focus on. You'll know what to write your action plan about.
However, I do want to say that, in my experience, the lower on the list you start the better. They become less sticky the further down you go, so you'll be less likely you'll get trapped in one. Thus, the best way to go about it is to focus on the 7th law and go backward. (That's the path followed by the person who has the guts to go after what they really want in life.) The worst way is to start from the 1st law and go forward. (That's the path followed by self-help junkies who think that there is something wrong with them and who are always trying to find that "secret" answer to life.) With the latter, you often get stuck in the first, second, and even the third law. (If you do go down this path, try to exercise the 4th law as much as possible, it'll help get you unstuck.)
Starting with the 7th law and going backward, when you are true to yourself (when you are trusting your gut feeling) you will take the right kind of action in life (and usually it'll be the thing that you've been afraid of). Taking the right action will lead to some form of giving to others. Then you'll realize you can only really give what people want if you first figure out what people want. Constant communication with people will eventually lead to your own network of friends. When you have a community you care about (a new family), then you have a strong incentive to work each day to make their lives (not yours) better. When you work each day, you'll have a desire to discover the truth, to learn about the laws of the Universe, so you can perform at your best. So start listening to your heart and do what it's telling you to do.
But whatever path you end up going down, the most important thing is that you start. Remember, when you start taking action, you are going to fail. That's okay because you are going to learn from it. You only fail by avoiding failure. Just focus on doing. Trust yourself. Trust that Universe will take care of you. Trust that people will help you.
No more information overload. No more reading "new" self-help material. Now is the time to take action. Now is the time to go after your dream.
Now go write down that action plan!
Appendix I: Outline
The 7 Universal Laws of Self-Help:
- Discover the truth
- Work each day
- Surround yourself with good people
- Communicate with others
- Give to others
- Take action!
- Be true to yourself
The 8th Concept: Create an action plan.
Appendix II: Outline - Detailed
- Discover the truth - You too can be successful
- Everything is cause and effect
- So all success can be duplicated
- Figure out the laws/habits of the successful
- The laws of success are always simple
- Put in the work each day
- Be consistent, it compounds over time
- Be patient, just focus on the work
- Focus on systems, not goals
- Focus on the one thing with the highest ROI
- Surround yourself with good people
- Stay away from troubling people
- You can't change people, so you can't change groups
- You are the average of the 5 people you spend your time with
- So seek good, kindhearted, happy people & groups
- Communication is the key to happiness & success
- Misery comes when people don't communicate
- Tell people what is on your mind
- Ask people what is on their mind
- Learn to listen to the words used and their body language
- Happiness & success comes from others
- Those who enrich others enrich themselves
- Put other people first in your life
- Ask people what it is they want
- Give people what it is they want
- Action is the only way to get the life you want
- Distractions (TV, games, books, etc.) prevents action
- You conquer fear by taking more action
- You only fail by avoiding failure
- If you don't like your life you can always change it
- Be true to yourself - Know what you want from life
- No vision for yourself means you'll just drift in life
- Comfort doesn't equal happiness
- Take time to answer the big questions
- Focus on just that next step towards your dreams
The 8th Concept: Self-help is useless if you don't act on it. The easiest way to make sure you act is with an action plan. Create your own action plan. Then add it to your calendar and day planner.
Appendix III: What Your Goals Should Be About
What your goals should be about:
- Personal growth
- Helping others
Always identify and take care of the most important things first, then you can do the unimportant things. (Hint: People are the most important things in your life.)
Appendix IV: How to Start
If you have no clue where to start, if your intuition gives you nothing to work with, and you have nothing to put on your action plan, then rely on the world to teach you. It is the best, and really only, teacher out there.
Start by taking action (and what I mean by that is to go interact with someone). Do something!
Then think critically about the outcome with that person. Ask why did it happen. Ask how you can improve your results.
Take action. Think for yourself. Don't rely on self-help material to solve your problems for you.
Put yourself out there and figure out what works for you.
Keep repeating this process until you find what you are looking for: Happiness.