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What qualifies as personal development writing? April 20, 2007

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Personal Growth Books.
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Many books and teachings not necessarily considered part of the traditional personal development writing canon could be of great benefit in a personal growth program

One of the questions I have been thinking about lately concerns how broad a net we can cast when considering literature in the genre of personal growth and development. Does a book have to be an obvious self-help publication to qualify as being able to assist us in the area of self-improvement?

A lot of self-help literature claims to have an “answer” or formula that will enable us to achieve our objectives in personal growth and development if we simply apply the principles of “the answer” to whatever areas we want to improve. We might call this approach the one-size-fits-all or “pattern” approach to personal growth. Apply the pattern to your problems and they will vanish.

Sometimes, the formula concept arises because of misinterpretation by the reader. Such is the case I believe, with the Law of Attraction (LOA). Some readers of books such as The Secret are oversimplifying the concept to the point whereby they think that simply by asking the Universe for something, it will happen. Applying the LOA actually takes a lot of discipline and hard work, as is noted well by Steve Pavlina.

I’m sort of getting of the track here, because what I really want to look at is this: does a book or collection of teachings actually have to use the words personal development, personal growth, self improvement, how to improve this or how to improve that, or other self-help jargon, to be of help to us in our efforts to improve the way we live in this world?

It interesting to see some of the trends in personal development literature that is easy to recognize as such. Just like advice on proper eating habits, some elements of the universe of self-development program material have come full circle in a cycle of opposing polarities.

Not that long ago, for example, it was assumed that we all felt we had something intrinsically wrong with us and had to be told that we are OK and that everybody else is OK. Then it seems we eventually collectively decided that we were not OK after all, and sought solutions to better our lives. The result was a group of personal development books with specific programs of personal betterment – the how-to approach. Now we are seeing a lot of books and teachings telling us that if we simply apply a few principles religiously, such as The Law of Attraction we can bring whatever we want into our lives.

What I’m leading up to is whether a lot of literature that is normally considered in the “wisdom writing” category might also provide a lot of benefit in the personal development genre for those of us making a conscious effort to improve ourselves or manage our lives more effectively.  There are religious texts, for example, that could be of great benefit to people whether they are religiously inclined or not.

Some of the advice in the New Testament, for example, as Eckhart Tolle points out, if viewed as practical advice for living a more conscious life, is excellent. I’m sure you can think of other examples of books, that while not likely to be found in the personal development section of your local bookstore, would, nevertheless, be of great value to many people seeking guidance to construct a better life for themselves.

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