As we herald in the new year if Instagram is any indicator, self-help and personal development teachers/coaches are in full power-up mode. In the United States we use the new year as a time to reassess our goals, take stock of where we’re at, decide what we think is wrong and then decide what will “fix” it. Usually this process includes finding an author or coach who has a program that guarantees a solution to our problems whether they are financial, personal or spiritual. The idea being that since we haven’t been able to master these issues ourselves looking for help from an expert will get us where we want to go.
The teacher/student relationship is a time-honored one stretching back over thousands of years. For a variety of reasons, we often feel that someone other than ourselves has more knowledge and insight over how we should live our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We learn about ourselves through our relationships with other people and can learn something from just about everyone around us. We go to a specific coach or teacher when there’s something in particular we want to learn. The challenge comes when, or if, we stop trusting ourselves and instead trust someone else to know what’s best for us.
Authors/teachers/coaches no matter how much money they make, no matter how many people admire them, should always be listened to with a sense of cautious optimism. In other words, be open to what they have to say but be cautious about thinking they have all the answers for your life. Remember that you are seeing the part of them that they want you to see. You are not seeing their backstage behavior or what happens when they get angry. I have many friends who’ve worked with some of the most seemingly kind and serene celebrity spiritual teachers and yet behind the scenes they are the worst kind of divas.
In the field of personal development, like any other sector, there is a wide range of quality. When it comes to learning from others it’s best to take the parts that resonate with you and leave behind what doesn’t. You don’t have to believe in everything an expert puts forth and quite frankly a secure, well-adjusted teacher should be okay with that. I’ve had teachers get extremely hostile and defensive when I questioned something they said. That’s a definite red flag for me. When someone is secure in their beliefs or services they don’t need you to believe them hook, line and sinker, in order to affirm who they are. Instead, they recognize that you will work with the parts of their offerings that you need.
It’s important in 2018 that as we look at how to give our lives meaning, get healthier, or more productive that we don’t give authority over our lives to someone else. This isn’t something we necessarily do consciously. It can happen when we substitute what someone else thinks is the “way” to handle our lives overriding our own sense of what works for us. No matter how successful someone else might be remember they have not lived your life and ultimate sovereignty over your life choices and decisions should always be in your hands.