What if it’s not about discovering something new?

So many people seem to be on quests for something new, different, profound, life-changing. And there is certainly no dearth of gurus, teachers, or experts who are happy to offer it to them.

But what if…what if the quest for something “new” that will change your life is kind of a myth?

What if there’s nothing truly “new” out there that will change your life?

What if the real secret is about remembering who you are, and what you already know, in the first place?

What if you already have the knowledge and skills you need in order to completely transform your life and the lives of the people around you…but you just haven’t, for whatever reason, figured out a way to organize and use that knowledge and those skills in just the right ways?

I realize it’d be the easier “sell” to claim that I have some sort of profound knowledge that you lack. That the “doctor” in front of my name gives me access to a vault of esoteric wisdom that is being kept from all you mere mortals, and you must pay me for access to that vault.

I could probably make a lot more money if I pretended that there was something, anything, they taught me in graduate school that isn’t freely available in dozens of places on the internet, at the library, or in twelve-step meetings in very city and town in the country.

In fact, there are many gurus who do make a giant profit making just such these claims.

Well, in fairness, they do more than claim they are privy to some esoteric knowledge that the common seeker lacks. First they usually spend a fair amount of time and effort making you feel stupid and vulnerable for your up-until-then futile attempts to discover truth for yourself.

Their marketing strategy, see, is heavily dependent upon you believing that you fundamentally know less than they do, particularly about Big Picture things— life, love, relationships, how the mind and brain work, how to make a life work.

Their theory is, if they can stir up feelings of inadequacy in you about your basic ability to handle life, you’ll be more likely to hand over your credit card number to them so they can fix it with their more evolved, more connected, more incisive philosophies and techniques.

By the time you get to the seminar, or you buy the book, or you finish the tape series (anybody remember tapes? They were these clunky things on which you listened to audio content before the advent of MP3’s), you were already invested in believing the guru’s claims, because, well, you’d literally invested money in it. There’s a phenomenon we psychologists call “cognitive dissonance” that refers to our ability to convince ourselves that something has merit when we’ve already bought into it, so as to avoid feeling foolish.

There is a subset of personal development gurus who have built their entire EMPIRES on peoples’ desire to reduce their cognitive dissonance once they’ve invested money in their products.

Let me dissipate the suspense: I do not have “new” knowledge for you.

I do not have esoteric wisdom that was handed to me by a shaman on a Peruvian mountaintop.

(There is one self-help guru out there who lured clients into a Native American-themed sweat lodge ceremony, claiming he had been trained and credentialed by, among others, Peruvian shamans. As it turned out, these claims were fraudulent…a fact only publicized AFTER three clients had died and multiple others had been injured when he conducted the sweat lodge incorrectly.)

Maybe the fact that I don’t have new, novel knowledge or spiritually-revealed wisdom is a letdown.

But for what it’s worth: I have seen people make real, substantive changes in their lives. I’ve seen people get happier and more satisfied with their lives. I’ve seen people change the level at which they were living in profound ways. And it didn’t take profound, esoteric knowledge.

In most cases, it took reminding them of things they already knew.

It took reminding them of who they are.

It took figuring out ways in which they were already survivors and thrivers…and making that knowledge and wisdom, which they already had and had already used, more easily accessible to them.

I don’t know everyone who is reading these words personally. I don’t know your challenges, I don’t know your strengths, I don’t know your weaknesses. It may be the case that you, you reading right now, you are the exception to what I’m saying here. Maybe you’re the ONE person who truly needs “new” knowledge to really change your life.

But I doubt it.

If you’re reading these words, if you’ve somehow stumbled upon this page on the Internet, I’m betting it’s because you actually are a survivor.

I’ll bet it’s because you are a seeker.

I’ll bet it’s because you have already been through some things…and you’ve survived so far. You did that somehow. You have resilience and knowledge and skills in there somewhere.

I recommend that you don’t take advice or seek guidance from any guru, teacher, or guide who doesn’t enter into their relationship with you with profound respect for these facts.

First and foremost: remember who you are.


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For information and resources on pursuing our personal growth journey in safe, efficacious ways, visit the nonprofit advocacy group SEEK Safely

2 thoughts on “It’s not about a guru showing you something new. It’s about remembering and using what you already know.

  1. I just love you! It took me spending a ton of money before waking up to realize everything you just said here! I felt so foolish afterwards. Thank you Doc for all that you post! Your words resonate so well with me!


  2. A common thread I see here is one that’s been kicking around lately about finding everything you need or want from within yourself. I believe this. I also believe that most people don’t even think to first look within themselves for answers, but the ones with the insight to do so, get them. I love reading your insights and inspirations. Thank you.


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