Inner Adventure Guide

The Difference between Personal Development and Self Help

Liz Barile-Page is yourInner Adventure Guide

Personal development is a path that you take to better your family situation, career, spirituality, emotional health, and every other aspect of your life. It is the process of being aware of the choices you make, the way you react and how to handle situations, with a goal to become a better person each day. This might involve the word of wisdom from others, it can entail taking educational classes, other than self-help materials, and it can also involve teaching others how to help themselves.

Self-help, on the other hand, can be described as a field of being motivated and being satisfied with the things that you have learned, whether these were from the errors that we commit or from the knowledge of resources that were shared from one person to another. Self-help is the action of obtaining or bettering our health, without the aid of professionals. Behavior, learning, or an emotional disorder could be the issue, and you would try and diagnose the problem and learn the knowledge of health information, with a goal to improve the issue and the knowledge of obtaining it. Self-help is all about reconstructing your quality of life, it is a process that is ongoing and it manifests in changing your lifestyle into a new creation. This can be a long or short process, but a true generality of self-help is motivated contentment.

Key Focus Areas in Personal Development

Personal development addresses the larger picture of what it takes to be a human rather than a cog in the machine. It is a global look at the person, whereas self-help is problem specific. With personal development, the individual is seeking to develop a fuller understanding of themselves. This type of understanding can often be the result of using a model (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), or undergoing a period of self-reflection. The latter is vitally important if the individual is to understand the process by which they make decisions and how the adopted values of others have molded their life experience. Only by understanding the self, and how the self has been constructed thus far, can the individual begin to remove elements of the self that are disempowering.

A prime directive in personal development is that the individual comes to the understanding that they are responsible for their own lives. With self-help, the concept of responsibility is never fully addressed. The individual may be told that they have a choice, or that they are responsible for an outcome, but it is only with personal development that the individual is prompted to look at the reasons behind their choices, or their lack of choice, and examine how and why they arrived at the decision in the first place. This process is empowering and is the true cause of effective change. Only by understanding the gateway that led to problematic behavior, and what maintaining factors are involved, is the individual equipped with the power to change.

Key Focus Areas in Self Help

Begin by asking ourselves a series of illuminating questions that may identify underlying focus areas of many self-help techniques, such as: what are the main neuroses or dysfunctions being addressed by this technique and what negative psychological state is it attempting to transform? If the primary focus is problem solving, is this particular problem a crisis of emotions? Is the problem mainly emotional but with secondary impact on life skills or potential? Self-help often utilizes problem-solving approaches to alter emotional states and involving processing and behavioral techniques in attempts to alter dysfunction or emotional state. An example of this would be anger management techniques and exercises aiming to change a hot-tempered person into a calm one, therefore reducing the negative emotions and effects on potential arising from this problem. A main focus of self-help therapy is to promote autonomy, enabling individuals to take control of their path of personal development by way of action toward desired change” (McLeod, 2003). This focus is based upon the premise that an individual is moving toward an improved state of being, and ensuring that the change is self-propelled increases the likelihood of success. As personal development often overlaps with self-help, this is an area which personal development seeks to improve on the current state, moving toward a desirable state and an increased quality of life.

Similarities between Personal Development and Self Help

Personal development and self-help generally have the same goals in mind and that’s to bring about a positive change in a person’s life. The area in question is the type of change that each one produces. Self-help is a process or act of bettering oneself and while doing so overcoming problems, resolving issues or surmounting a medical condition. This type of change would be some form of improvement to a person’s current situation that would be described usually as coping and not leading. This could include many things such as a person with depression trying to raise their mood, or anxiety sufferer combat an attack etc. Self-help in such instances would involve something such as a person identifying the issue or problem and then taking some form of action e.g. therapy, medication, etc to try and resolve it. Self-help can also be considered as a series of coping strategies and alternative methods used in facing and overcoming crises.

Personal development and self-help are both areas that people look to for improvement in their lives. The lines between the two are quite subtle and often blurred, so much so that they are usually considered one and the same. This isn’t necessarily true; there are overlaps, and there are distinctions. Understanding the differences between personal development and self-help can be quite beneficial for properly defining what it is that you are trying to target in terms of your goals.

Choosing the Right Approach for Personal Growth

Starting with self-help, the primary focus is to eliminate discomfort, and it involves focusing on one’s problems, whether they are major or just a minor inconvenience. The objective is to find a way to resolve those issues and regain composure and peace of mind. Self-help strategies vary widely. It could be as easy as getting together with a friend they haven’t seen in a while with the intention of having a good-hearted conversation to relieve stress. On the other end, it could mean taking steps to quit a harmful habit. All in all, it’s taking measures to make life less difficult and improving one’s mood.

Using the analogy of music again, someone who has read a self-help book and decided to take acoustic guitar lessons may seem fairly appropriate in this context. The person has probably thought about what action would be cost-effective and easy to approach in starting up to learn.

Having a clear understanding that both personal development and self-help are about taking action in one’s life for a better existence is a great starting point, but pinpointing the difference between the two is even more important! Just like learning the art of music, it’s important to know what instruments are used for. Although certain instruments may be more versatile than others, the point is to know what to use for what and when. Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages, and essentially it would be wise to know when applying personal development or self-help strategies when working towards a change.

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