Is there any human desire more universal than the itch to improve ourselves?
The itch is the force behind multi-billion dollar industries in health, fitness, self-help, publishing, medicine and therapy. It’s especially vexing to entrepreneurs, who are the most optimistic of all when it comes to their intentions for the future versus where they are today.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking business bottom line, your love life or your waist size. No business owner can escape it: When there’s a gulf between the results you’re producing now and how you think you should be doing, you’re feeling the tickle. The itch is always there.
For most people, having an epiphany – the feeling of a big breakthrough – is the soothing aloe for the self-improvement itch.
You read books. Ask for advice. Attend workshops. Hire therapists. All to have an “aha” moment so you can finally start doing better.
The problem is: It doesn’t work.
Chances are, if you call yourself an entrepreneur – or even aspire to be one – you’re more frustrated than ever.
You’ve poured thousands of hours into personal development and other kinds of soul-searching, and though you’ve made a ton of “breakthroughs” you’re still not there.
Most people believe that they’re close to breaking through to the next level. They feel as though they’re getting warmer and warmer in the game of self help hide-and-seek.
What if they’re all utterly lost?
A growing group of psychological researchers believe that everything people assume about self improvement is wrong.
Meanwhile, a tiny handful of entrepreneurs – less than one percent – are rocketing ahead in life and business by ignoring epiphanies and avoiding breakthroughs!
Quick history lesson:
The search for epiphanies really started with the psychotherapy revolution caused by Freud, Jung and Adler busting onto the scene in the late eighteen hundreds.
Without attempting to summarize their theories, we can say that this was the birth of a single sexy idea:
That by talking and thinking about ourselves and our past, we can make meaningful changes to who we are in the future.
And at the time, it REALLY worked!
The citizens of the late 19th and early twentieth century picked up these ideas and ran with them. We saw an explosion of therapeutic practice and the birth of the self-help movement.
People were figuring things out about themselves and getting results!
But did it keep working that way for good?
It wasn’t until almost a hundred years later (in the 1950s) when a famous psychoanalyst by the name of Allen Wheelis started asking awkward questions. Famously cynical and pessimistic, he started pulling at the thread that’d unravel the whole thing.
The Problem with Personal Development
It turns out there’s been an enormous cultural change in the last two centuries.
Wheelis – frustrated by his clients not getting results with traditional and proven methods – was the first to put his finger on it:
People are having epiphanies faster than ever, but after that the therapy stalls. People don’t have the strength to follow up on insights and implement change in their lives.
Something had changed since the old days.
Some kind of huge cultural shift had rendered people helpless to turn their intellectual breakthroughs into concrete changes.
Fast forward to the 1990s:
Martin Seligman – author and renowned psychologist – picked up the baton and concluded that there was hardly ANY convincing scientific evidence that episodes in early childhood have a causal impact on the adult personality. (With the exception of severe trauma or malnutrition.)
This was a pretty serious thing to say.
In less than fifty years, the world’s brightest psychological minds went from questioning the epiphany-style of self improvement… to basically calling it out as bullshit.
So what went wrong?
If epiphanies USED to help people improve themselves, why the hell have they stopped working?
Or, if they never worked in the first place… what is it that actually causes people to improve themselves?
(Side note from Peter: These are the questions I have been obsessed with for the past few years.)
An emerging, science-focused field being led by folks like Seligman and Roy Baumeister – psychology professor at FSU – called “Positive Psychology”… is showing us a pretty shocking truth:
Self Control or “our ability to self-regulate” is the only thing that really matters
Researchers have found that someone’s ability to self-control (or not) is the ONLY personality trait that can actually be used to predict success. And when someone has it, it basically means they’re going to be successful across the board.
Studies have shown self-control leads to:
- Better grades in students
- Better performance in the white-collar workplace
- Better relationships with significant others (and lower divorce rates)
- Better ability to simply empathize with others (i.e. be a nice, affable person)
- Better mental health (less depression, anxiety and neuroticism)
- Fewer drinking/addition problems
- Oh, and you make more money too!
That last one is where entrepreneurs prick up their ears, and rightly so.
The research on this idea of self-regulation as the ultimate power-trait is overwhelmingly conclusive: People who have this ability are capable of accomplishing enormously more success than others
It’s also worth mentioning that these aren’t just on-campus graduate school studies we’re talking about:
A 2010 study out of New Zealand tracked 1000 children for THIRTY YEARS to measure the holistic life results of the innate “self-regulators” versus the undisciplined.
Scariest part? Of the lowest scoring kids, 40% had a criminal conviction by age 32!
Epiphanies aren’t working because people don’t have the self-control to USE them
A ton of research is suggesting a growing problem in the western world with our ability to self-regulate. Simply put, we’re less disciplined and more prone to the traps of instant gratification and laziness than ever before.
Something massive has shifted in our culture since Victorian times. Figuring out insights about ourselves is no longer enough to change our lives.
Many experts believe that the people alive to experience Freud’s psychoanalysis revolution already possessed significant powers of self-regulation. When they used psychoanalysis to figure things out about themselves, they were able to easily act on those realizations and make meaningful change happen.
Nowadays, things are different. Roy Baumeister believes that…
“Self-Regulation failure is the major social pathology of our time.”
If you’re someone who feels like you’re going crazy experiencing breakthrough after breakthrough, but you’re STILL not getting the results in life and business that you know you’re capable of… well, you might have a Self-Regulation problem.
More epiphanies won’t help you. Building your self control muscles will though!
If you haven’t kept up with what I’ve been up to over at Commit Action, you might like to check it out.
We’re on a mission to end entrepreneurial procrastination.
What we’ve built is basically an anti-epiphany machine. It’s the only personal-development coaching service in the world that focuses purely on execution, helping you achieve more success by having you finally follow through on all your best ideas.
We’re using science to inform our methodology and we’re helping our members level up their self-regulation abilities in life and business!
We’ve just realized a comprehensive free video course that addresses the HUGE chasm we’ve observed between the superhuman entrepreneurs who hit home run after home run…. and the masses of wannabes who feel continually stuck and frustrated.
If you want to understand the difference between these two groups – and learn what it takes to move from the sucky to the fun side – then check out the training series today.
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