Pathological Individualism and Achieving Your Goals

Detail of "Inachis io poczwarka" by Lilly M via Wikimedia Commons used under Creative Commons LicencingWishcraft is my number-one, favorite book on self-improvement.  It’s also available for download from this link.  I think I’m going to pull some selected quotes from Barbara Sher’s book throughout January in celebration of New Year’s resolutions.

“If this book has one single most important purpose, it is to mount a full-scale attack on the most destructive piece of conventional ‘wisdom’ there is: ‘You’ve got to make it on your own.’ Nobody can. Nobody does. And yet we often hesitate to ask anyone for help, advice, or even instructions to the corner store for fear that it means we’re ‘dependent.’ I know a grown woman, the mother of three children, who wanted to go back to college but couldn’t sign up, because when she got to the campus she didn’t know which building the registration office was in! She wouldn’t ask anyone, because she thought she should know how by herself and was afraid she’d look like a fool.

“That’s what I call pathological individualism. I don’t mean the marvelous individuality that makes each of us unique. I mean the cultural disease of extreme ‘self-reliance’ that has cut us off from the most potent resource we have for achieving our goals: each other. The best ideas, the ones that really work magic, are the ones that draw on the knowledge, skills, and contacts of other people. I’m going to show you how you can mobilize your human resources to help you meet your goal.”

– Barbara Sher, Wishcraft

There is no such thing as the “self-made” achiever.  It’s a myth that we’re taught to encourage us to put in more than our fair share of effort.  It works.  It encourages people to stand on their own and work hard.  That’s not a bad thing, but, unfortunately, it also discourages people from doing the one most effective action that will multiply their results from the same amount of effort.  Pathological individualism discourages people from asking for help.

Harnessing the power of your friends, family, paid professionals, and community can help you achieve your goals quickly and with less effort than by going it alone.  So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

And when you achieve your goals, don’t forget to say you’re not “self-made,” you’re “community-made.”

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