4 Popular Self-Improvement Tips That Are Counterproductive

The gurus don’t always know what they’re talking about.

There are thousands of books, millions of blog posts, and even more hours of video content on how to live a better life.

I think it’s wonderful that society has opened up so much to self-improvement — it can help millions of people around the world live happier, more productive, and more fulfilling lives.

Nevertheless, there is also a lot of counterproductive advice amidst the ocean of self-help content. And that’s what this article is all about.

Let me share four common self-improvement tips that don’t work as well as the gurus often claim they do.

#1: Follow Your Passion

There’s this immense pressure these days that your work has to be your passion. I don’t agree.

Most people don’t know what their ‘passion’ is. It’s way too big of a thing to figure out. I don’t even know what my passion is, to be honest.

Besides, passions tend to fade over the years. Passions are usually topics you’re super interested in for a few years, only to move on to other fields of interest.

This is a normal progression in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s okay to hate your work. Life is too short to be stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfill you.

I think it’s important to do work you enjoy — but it doesn’t have to be your biggest passion either.

Your biggest passions could be in your personal life — not your professional life. Maybe it’s hiking, cooking, sports, or making music.

You don’t have to make these things your work, you know. You can, but you don’t have to.

Instead of following your passion, why not start by following your curiosity.

It’s a much easier thing to do and it carries much less pressure on your shoulders.

#2: Read More

This one may be surprising. But truth is, you don’t necessarily have to read more, you have to read better. That’s a major difference.

Yet, most self-development content only encourages people to read more. This leads people to become ‘knowledge junkies’ who focus on merely consuming more versus actually mastering the lessons they’ve learned.

It’s not just about consuming, it’s about applying lessons in your real life. That’s where the real progress is made.

Therefore, instead of just reading more, focus on reading better. Reading better means:

  • Purposefully picking books to advance your life or career — not just the same type of self-development stuff over and over again.
  • Reading with focus so you actually take in the information instead of skimming through it for the sake of reading fast
  • Taking detailed notes
  • Studying your detailed notes
  • Applying the knowledge in your real life instead of moving on to the next book

They say knowledge is power, but that’s not true. More knowledge alone won’t change your life — more applied knowledge will.

It doesn’t really matter if you read 30, 50, or 100 books per year — what matters most is how your life improves from all this reading.

Someone who deeply studies ten books in a year might be better of than someone who reads one hundred books in a year.

Don’t just read more — read better.

Quit Netflix/Video Games/TV

Another popular self-improvement tip I see around the internet is to quit watching Netflix and stop playing video games.

I’m 100% in favor of this advice if these things occupy hours and hours of your time and focus each day. The moment it distracts you from creating the life you desire, it’s time to re-evaluate your habits.

But, if you’re in control of your Netflix or gaming behavior, there’s really no need to quit these things. It’s totally okay to spend some time on easy entertainment each day.

After reading this ‘quit Netflix/video games’ message dozens of times on social media, I started to feel really bad about myself each time I turned on my Playstation.

Even though I was crushing my personal and professional goals, I started to feel like I wasn’t doing good enough because I was still watching Modern Family and playing FIFA with my friends.

Weird, right?

This is the psychological effect that sharing this message can have on people — something many self-development content creators overlook.

Fortunately, I learned to distinguish between the tips I read online that were supposed to help me and the habits from my own life that actually helped me.

Turns out that playing video games and watching Netflix sparks a lot of happiness for me. It decreases my stress and relaxes my busy mind.

And yes, this can even lead to increased productivity. Research by Oxford University showed that happy people are 13% more productive than their less happy peers.

For me, one or two hours per day of Netflix or video games contributes to a happier and more effective version of myself compared to eliminating these things from my life and living like a Spartan.

But once again — and this is a crucial point — I believe these things should never get in the way of becoming the person you want to be.

When your Netflix or gaming behavior becomes excessive, you should probably reconsider your habits.

But, if you’re on-track with living the life you want, don’t listen to someone on the internet saying you should stop watching Netflix and live like a Spartan instead.

You are the best judge of your life.

Nothing Good Ever Happens In The Comfort Zone

Spending most of your time in your comfort zone doesn’t have to be as bad as self-development gurus make it seem.

Of course, you don’t want to always stay in your comfort zone. Some magical things happen when you go beyond the borders of your comfort zone.

You can find some of the most valuable new opportunities, perspectives, and lessons by going outside of your comfort zone.

However, this doesn’t mean that ‘nothing good ever happens in the comfort zone,’ which is common advice in the self-development industry.

Take writing, for example. Writing is my comfort zone.

In terms of content creation, it’s what I love doing the most. Contrary to recording YouTube videos or podcasts, it comes relatively easy to me.

No wonder that writing has generated me the best results in my career — more than three million views and $60,000+ in direct income through the Medium partner program.

Instead of leaving the comfort zone of writing, I should double down on it.

Since it’s changing my life, I should write even more.

Leaving writing just for the sake of going out of my comfort zone would be counterproductive.

The lesson is simple: You shouldn’t distract yourself with other endeavors just because it happens to be outside of your comfort zone.

Yes, when you’re not satisfied with life, please don’t merely stay within your comfort zone. Explore. Broaden your horizon. Seek new limits. Grow.

But when you’ve mastered certain skills and are getting some pretty damn good results — even within your comfort zone — don’t abandon it for the sake of having to go outside of your comfort zone.

Sometimes, your comfort zone is someone else’s limitation.

Don’t forget that.

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