I have always been uneasy about the personal development industry. Something about it seemed unbalanced. I was never sure why, except to say that I couldn’t see myself consistently writing some of the content I see standard on personal development blogs. The content interests me, but something seems missing. Something seems wrong. Now I think I’ve discovered why I felt this sense of unease.
In July I wrote 11 Ways to Build an Extraordinary Life and it did well in social media. I couple of days later I was working with a marketing group showing how list posts are constructed and the amount of traffic they can generate when executed correctly. Then someone asked, “Do you live an extraordinary life?”
I answered, “yes I do. Well… I try.”
I could tell he was skeptical. He’s right, I might think I live an extraordinary life, but to the outsider my life appears ordinary. However, I did point out that few of us live the ’11 Ways’ I listed in my post, and if you did, you certainly would live an extraordinary life.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits touched on this subject in a recent post:
Recently I read an old post about why another blogger doesn’t like
Zen Habits, and it centered around the idea that she thought I was
preaching to readers as if I’m perfect. And I thought to myself, “Boy,
I hope people don’t think I’m perfect!”
Because the truth is, I’m far from it. I have problems like everyone
else. I struggle with productivity and procrastination and losing
weight and losing my patience and everything else, just like you do.
I wrote a post about learning not to fear the economic crisis and got a
similar response. Posting positive news while others are suffering can cause ill will. You can appear to be a boasting know-it-all.
Sometimes when I read personal development blogs I feel the same way. How can this guy live such a perfect and productive life? I struggle with making money, being productive, staying focused, blogging, being a good father and husband.
I don’t want my readers to think I’m some perfectionist pollyanna, I’m not, so I purposely try to let my imperfections show. To me, it is the only way to be authentic and transparent. That’s why I’ve made this blog the way it is, this is a human story, and like me, it is imperfect.
Writing for the Reader
But I know why Leo at Zen Habits writes the way he does. He isn’t perfect, but he is a great writer who writes for you. You don’t want to read about my problems, or Leo’s problems. You need answers to your problems. You don’t want to read complaints. There are plenty of other people telling you how rotten the world is. Leo is an oasis in a desert of negative news and I love and respect him for what he’s done.
Negativity is the way most people’s minds work by default. No one needs to practice negative thinking, it comes natural. We all need to practice re-framing our situation in the most positive light possible, especially when times are tough. Feeling sorry for yourself gets you nowhere, and most of you know that in your hearts. But we all need to be reminded sometimes.
What its Really About
Productivity/personal development writers aren’t saying they are perfect. They are trying to inspire positive change in the world by showing others what is possible. They are trying to inspire people to reach their potential in spite of imperfections.
This isn’t about perfection, it is about improvement.