Many times, people are sold a vision of what “success” requires that includes running oneself ragged; not sleeping much; working oneself into the ground.
We’re told that we have to “pay the price” for success, which involves “working hard” to the tune of sacrificing our basic mental health, let alone rest and comfort.
Sometimes we’re told this by mentors or gurus who claim to have experience in guiding people to success.
“No days off,” we’re told. “Embrace the grind.” “Go all in.”
I’ll be the first to affirm that for every result, there is a price. These gurus aren’t wrong in their basic premise that nothing of value is free.
However, anyone who tries to tell you that “success” in any field requires the sacrifice of those things that make life worth living might want to reevaluate their expertise.
Put another way: anyone who tries to sell you on a vision of success that will leave you exhausted and myopically obsessed with your goals 24 hours a day, might not have figured out a path worth following.
Sleep, for example, is not a luxury that can be sacrificed in the service of achieving goals.
Sleep is necessary for survival.
It’s a period of time in which our brains cleanse themselves from toxins (a process they physiologically can’t do when we’re awake) and consolidate and process the experiences and memories from the day (a process that is necessary to literally remain sane).
Would you trust a mechanic who blithely advised you to not put gas and oil into your car? That’s what gurus who are telling you to “sleep less” are advising.
Similarly, gurus who tell you to do without rest and recreation, who tell you that evenings and weekends should be spent working instead of spending quality time with families and hobbies, don’t seem to understand the essential roles connection and recreation play in creative thought and productivity.
Cutting time for rest and play out of our lives is one of the WORST things we can do if our goal is to be successful.
Trying to go without enough sleep is one of the WORST things we can do for our intelligence and judgment.
Why do some personal growth gurus offer such bad advice?
Part of it is, they know very few people are willing or able to follow their advice to the letter.
They know it’s unrealistic to ask most people to go without sleep and fun and connection in the way they’re advising— so when those people fail to reach their goals, the guru can always point to this and claim, “Well, you weren’t willing to go ‘all in’ and ‘pay the price for success’…what did you expect?”
Another part of it is, many of these gurus have business models that depend on their clients buying more and more expensive services from them— and people who aren’t getting enough rest and don’t have a lot of diversion in their lives are easier to sell things to.
There is a subset of personal growth teachers who are very big on dietary supplementation with vitamins and other substances.
Many of these teachers don’t have training or credentials in nutrition or biology, of course, but they often swear by their supplementation regimens and advise their clients to follow suit.
There are often a few reasons for this. Sometimes, gurus have an economic stake in the nutritional products and vitamin supplements they’re recommending.
Other times, they know full well that the clients who are most amenable to taking their nutritional advice are probably feeling pretty lousy physically in the first place; thus, when their recommendations don’t pan out, the guru can point to the basic discomfort the client was already in as the primary culprit.
Personal growth is a touchy industry. By its very nature, self-help products and pages (like this one!) invite audience of seekers who are probably in some degree of pain or discomfort.
When people think they might have found a way out of their pain— such as through the teachings or recommendations by a guru— they can be more willing than most to invest money in this potential escape…and more inclined than most to blame themselves if the remedy doesn’t work out.
I know I sound like a broken record on this blog, but I’ll say it again: check out the credentials, experience, and basic soundness of individuals who put themselves out there as “experts” in the field of personal growth.
Many “gurus” are great at building feelings of hope within their potential client base…then using that sense of hope to push basically (or profoundly) unhealthy recommendations on them.
The truth is, the best advice offered by the best experts do not require massive departures from what is commonly known about mental health and well-being.
The truth is, the best advice offered by the best experts does not require you to purchase things or transform your very self to take advantage of.
The truth is, the best advice offered by the best experts brings you back to your strengths and what you have done WELL or RIGHT in your life…not your weaknesses or your shortcomings.
You’re smarter and stronger than you think. Don’t let any guru convince you otherwise.
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