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Self-Help

What Does "Self Help" Mean?

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

On the eve of each new year, people commit to making lifestyle changes they believe will usher in personal satisfaction and happiness. But while an entire industry exists to help people meet these pressing goals, most individuals still flounder. How many times can a person try to lose weight, quit smoking, cut back alcohol consumption, or try to find a more suitable purpose in life? One answer: As many times as it takes to get it right.

In contemporary parlance, the term self-help is associated with actions and interventions that a person can take on their own or with guided literature, as opposed to working with a clinician. Self-help can help you think about your goals with a big picture view. It encourages you to, for example, outline your short-term and long-term goals, and whether they are realistic and achievable. Self-help can also help you be more systematic in the way you approach the changes you want to see. For starters, making a list of the benefits of achieving your goals can be motivational, and setting a timeframe for meeting both short-term and long-term goals helps, too.

Self Help and Life Improvement

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From the dawn of recorded time, humans have sought to better themselves and their lot in life. And using self-help to change your life starts with identifying one's needs. Addressing these needs both specifically and broadly can help. Knowing what you want to change and what you need to do to affect that change are key.

What are some basic principles of self-help?

Lasting change is difficult to achieve because many of our habits are deeply ingrained, and certain core personality attributes may be immutable. But all habits and character traits can be altered to varying degrees. It's never too late to change and with effort and determination, it is possible to be the person you want to be, or at least someone closer to it. Of course, it’s good to be flexible because goals can change.

Conventional wisdom says that improving willpower is supposed to help you reach your goals. But reaching those goals have little to do with sustained willpower; it's more about structuring your environment, habits, and conditions so that you do not have to worry about willpower. Change your environment if you want to stop engaging in a bad habit.

Is self-help useful?

Self-improvement can be highly useful. But going to legitimate sources is important. There are numerous books and websites that are legitimate, applicable, and serviceable. Some websites provide tools that help users assess whether the website is actually helping them. Also, responsible books and sites use peer-reviewed research and evidence.

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