Let’s not oversimplify human struggle and growth.
The problem with all the self-help cliches is that they simplify something that is not simple at all.
Get up early in the morning, have a meaningful morning routine, have a clear plan and direction to where your life is heading to, stick to your schedule, stick to your priorities, juggle everything and say no to distractions, get home with some energy still left, invest in your relationships, all while keeping yourself sane is not simple at all.
Yet, when we approach all this stuff through some X-minute story, where we do nothing but pick a quote and only state and restate what that quote means in the next 950 words, it seems like all this stuff it’s the simplest thing on Earth and we should all manage to do it, if we have enough drive and motivation.
And because we simplify something that, in reality, is a lot more complex and deals with a lot more than some bullet points stuck in an article next to a photo of some dude gazing into the notebook, we’re creating unrealistic expectations for those reading our stories and contribute to a world of doubt and frustration because, let’s be honest, reading about all this advice without a real story behind, makes us think how come everybody else has their life together and we don’t?
The lack of a personal real story to back up the advice we’re trying to convey, makes our writing becomes dull, mundane, basic.
Because there are 18347 other articles that tell the same stuff.
We contribute best to the world around us and to the people reading our stories if we leave this basic approach aside, and instead focus on telling our stories.
Not “Follow your dreams” and an overused cliché quote, followed by some story where we basically explain what “follow your dreams” means and then restate what that quote is actually saying
But the story of your dream. Your years of not knowing what your dream actually is and your doubt in yourself, looking at all the people out there who seem to know where they’re heading and you don’t. Of your struggle and success, of your nights without sleep thinking whether your idea will work or not and how to get others alongside you. Your struggle of having to sell your idea to others because you know that your dream needs other people too, to even have a chance.
“Follow your dreams,” told just like that, without emotion, without humanity, without a story behind, makes me wonder what is wrong with me for not having already found what my dream is.
Your story has the power to inspire, to soothe an afraid soul that this can be done and it indeed is possible.
Not “Find your passion” and an overused cliché quote, followed by some story where we basically explain what “Find your passion” means and then restate what that quote is actually saying
But the story of how you’re struggling because you really cannot find your passion because you haven’t taken the time to get to know yourself and you’re still listening to outside advice on how to live your life because it’s easier and takes away all the responsibility and fear for not succeeding in your “passion”.
Or the story of how you’ve found your passion and all the turmoil of emotions you’ve been through and all the ups and downs and questioning whether that passion will keep you alive and eatingor not. And the way in which that passion keeps you motivated after all those years. And how that passion gives you meaning and a sense of knowing why you’re here.
“Find your passion,” told just like that, without a story behind, makes me think of myself as failing constantly and constantly for not having found my passion and thus carrying a mountain of self-doubt and questions.
Not “Set up your morning routine”
But the story of how you struggle each morning to wake up because you haven’t got a good enough reason to do it. And you keep on snoozing and snoozing and snoozing until the lack of discipline drives you crazy enough to ask yourself “what’s wrong with me” and then give up on your morning routine because it’s not really working.
And the story of how you’ve overcome that and how you managed to set up a morning routine, how you keep it going on the days when you’re just not in the mood or too tired or too fed up. What keeps your morning routine going, what keeps on getting you out of bed. How that morning routine has helped you, not a few days or weeks but months and years.
“Set up your morning routine,” told just like that, without a story behind, makes me question why in the hell am I not able to wake up every morning and stick to my schedule when everyone else is doing that and it’s that easy.
Not “Taking action is the key”
But the story of your success, of how nights and evenings and weekends of work and of taking your fear by the hand finally paid off. And what your action was. And how you’ve decided on what action to take. And how did it helped you. And how you’re dealing with days when you’re in no mood for anything.
“Taking action is the key,” told just like that, without a story behind, makes me feel stuck because I think that really taking action is something big, life-changing, when, on the contrary, could be a few little steps every day.
Not “Meditate, meditate, meditate”
But the story of how when sitting in that chair with the thought of meditating, your minds goes all over the place and you can’t focus on your breath, and then you decide to focus on feeling the ground instead and that doesn’t work either. And then your foot start itching and your mind goes from I need to scratch that to What am I going to do today so I need to reschedule my gym appointment today since I’m no longer in mood to this doesn’t seem to work to how in the hell am I going to meditate if I can’t even focus for 10 seconds on my breathing?
“Meditate, meditate, meditate” told just like that, without a story behind makes me question my own sanity.
Not “Be more positive”
But the story of your struggle to be more positive in life, which you kept on trying until you finally realized that being more positive isn’t sustainable over time because your mind has a job and one job only, that of keeping you alive and when you’re just trying to stay positive, you’re going against your own nature.
The story of how you’ve decided on balance, not on being positive, and instead of growing more positive thoughts, you’ve decided on growing your perspective in life, which indeed helps you zoom out and see things realistically, as they are and as life is.
“Be more positive”, told just like that, makes me want to go against my own nature which only sets up for frustration and disappointment afterward.
Not “Don’t accept mediocrity.”
But the story of how you’ve figured out whether or not you were living a mediocre life and how and why you’ve decided to change it. And how that helped you in the long term. And how you’ve found your strength to say no to comfort and coziness and settle for a life of achievement and working and sweating that, let’s admit, not many of us are willing to adopt.
“Don’t accept mediocrity,” told just like that, makes me feel mediocre.
Not “Overcome your fears”
But what your fears were, and how you’ve managed them. And the process of living with your fear because you figured out that you cannot overcome it unless you first learn to live with it. And how that fear will keep on whispering and whispering in your ear and you’ve learned to be okay with that, knowing that no matter how many quotes are you going to read, that voice won’t ever go away. Because it’s our basic tool for survival and experiencing no fear in this life will turn out to be very, very bad for us.
“Overcome your fears,” told just like that, makes me feel weak and even more afraid.
Writing your story instead of stating and restating and over explaining some overused quotes takes courage. But your courage can inspire other writers to do the same.
A world where we throw out self-help advice in the basic way of quoting and restating the quote in different words doesn’t help us in the long term.
It creates feelings of inadequacy, of not belonging, of not achieving because everyone else seems to get it “so easy” and we don’t. Because we compare our struggle with basic advice that is not explained fully.
And fully means struggle + success. Not only success.
On the other hand, in writing about our own stories and sharing them with others, we encourage a world of humanity and acceptance and understanding, a world that is real, and that really sustains human development over time because it makes us feel that we’re not alone in our struggle.