If you want to get good at something, you have to study it.
You have to get familiar with whatever you’re trying to get good at.
You have to get to know it. You have to develop a relationship with it.
Professional athletes study their sport. They learn all its ins and outs. They create a relationship between them and their sport.
Good writers study writing. They get very familiar with all kinds of writing. They establish a relationship between themselves and the written word.
Pick any area— you’ll find that those who are most successful in that area devote themselves to constantly learning about it.
For me, the domain I chose to get familiar with was personal development. Or, as it’s otherwise known, self-help.
When I was a teenager and younger man, I was depressed out of my mind. But I believed there were answers out there — things I could learn, skills I could acquire, tools I could gather to change how I felt and put me back in control of my mental, emotional, and behavioral life.
I started my journey in self-help assuming that if I stumbled on to the right book, read just the right words, uncovered just the right philosophy or approach, then I could immediately change my life and never look back.
I started out assuming that my job was to uncover The Answer.
So I read self help books. Lots of them. Way more than I expected to read, honestly.
After awhile, I started to grow kind of confused. I’d become kind of disillusioned— because, even though I kept LOOKING for that revolutionary technique or philosophy, I’d read dozens of self help books by this time…and I still hadn’t found The Answer.
That said: even though I’d not found that “silver bullet” philosophy, skill, or tool yet, what I DID find was that I was using the philosophies, tools, and skills to which I’d been exposed in my reading…but not really implementing this in overarching, systemic ways.
It was more a little bit here, a little bit there. I’d pull out the the right tool or skill at the right time— and thus ended up using a variety of different tools and skills, which made my life better in bits and pieces.
Looking back on how my life realistically improved over time, I’m not quite sure when exactly I realized the REAL deal.
The real deal is this: it is not any specific skill, tool, or philosophy that will make the difference in your recovery or personal development.
It is your willingness to SEEK effective tools and skills and philosophies— your willingness to be a lifelong student; your willingness to be curious and relentless in consuming and devouring books and videos and other media; to identify mentors and teachers and read and apply their work— that will make ALL the difference.
I got better not because I came across exactly the right approach or teacher. I got better because I made it my business to be proactively, obsessively curious about what makes people tick.
I became obsessively curious about what made ME tick.
I began experimenting with ALL KINDS of techniques and tools I was reading about and learning about on videos and hearing about in lectures. A lot of them were pretty dumb; some of them worked, eh, sorta; and some of them were simple but mind-blowing.
The point is, however, that if you want to feel and function better, you need to make feeling and functioning better a proactive interest.
You need to read and seek out things that are relevant to your life and problems.
If you have a psychiatric diagnosis, you have to get super interested in the research around your condition. Become an “expert” on it, to the extent that you can with the resources you have.
If we become obsessively interested in something, if we consistently pour mental and physical energy into it, if we make it a serious priority in our ives…we almost always get better at it.
It’s hard to NOT become an expert at something you dive into and swim around in for hours at a time.
I want you to get really, really curious about what creates mental, emotional, and behavioral change.
I want you to become an expert in what makes YOU tick.
I want you to make feeling and functioning better a heathy obsession, such that you WANT to go out and get familiar with what techniques work and what the research says.
I want you to be so well-informed about mental and behavioral health that you are supremely unimpressed by the pseudoscience tossed around by a not-small chunk of the self help industry.
If you really want to get better, I encourage you to dive deep. Get to know the subject matter. Get to know the industry.
And eventually, you’ll get to the point where I arrived: where you’re so familiar with the ins and outs of emotional and behavioral change, that you’re applying bits and pieces of various philosophies here and there and everywhere…and even though you’ve not found the overarching Answer, what you DO find is that your life really is improving.
Focus makes all the difference.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!