This understanding is not to exclude simple self-improvement
efforts. At this point in your life, it may be more important for you to
strive for further improvement in areas where you are already doing
okay. A good socializer can become a more intimate and helpful friend.
A pretty good student can become a true scholar. A morally good
person can become a moral leader, who encourages others by
example to become a genuine, caring Candy Striper, Big Sister, or
Hospital Volunteer. Your "problem" at this time may not be serious,
like suicidal depression, but rather to become the best person you can
possibly be. Both are important "projects." Prevention of problems is
Understanding 8: Becoming a good self-helper will probably require a lot of
time and effort. You should prepare for problems in advance. It is a life-long
You may feel overwhelmed and discouraged when you realize all
there is to learn about self-help, all the books that have been written.
Certain of your problems may have existed so long that it seems
impossible to change them. The idea that changing may require daily,
even hourly, attention could seem like "too much trouble." Many
attempts to change ourselves fail because the old habits seem so
strong; indeed, change may be a long, uphill battle. Expecting some
failures may help you deal with them.
Many of our attempts to change ourselves fail because we are
unwilling to put in the time and effort necessary. Our entire culture
expects quick, easy solutions. Related to this is my experience that
many students do not understand a treatment or self-help method
after reading it the first time. It is not because the methods are too
complex to be understood but because many people are newcomers to
"self-help" and others are careless readers and in a hurry. They think
they understand, but they often need to read it again and discuss it
with someone else. This takes time.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, much of popular, self-help
psychology is remedial, not preventive. That's too bad. Too many
people only read about marital problems after divorce is threatened.
Too many people read about depression after feeling suicidal. Too
many people change their diet after a heart attack. The best time to
learn to swim is before falling overboard, not afterwards. Try to
anticipate and prepare for problems. Try to prevent problems, nip
them in the bud. Therefore, you should read about possible problems
as well as about pressing problems.
All I can say is: learn as much as you can, keep trying different
approaches until you succeed. Don't be so discouraged by failure that
you give up (you have learned something from failing: namely, what
doesn't work for you with this problem at this time). Think of yourself
as continuously learning to be a better person; try to generate high
enthusiasm for self-improvement; resolve that you will overcome the
obstacles in your way.