How to Avoid The Self-Help Guru Trap

By Dr. Bryan Hawley

Self-improvement is a must and there is good guidance out there, but we need “balanced action with accurate intention” to create meaningful change in our lives.  

Have you ever heard of The Self-Help Guru Trap? It’s not something that too many are talking about, but it does exist—and it is affecting millions of people without them even knowing it.

Now before any Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins or Eckhart Tolle fans start passing judgement on me, let me explain a little more. I would not be where I am today if I did not hear the late Dr. Wayne Dyer speak at a conference many years ago. It really felt like he was putting the show on just for me. It felt like he plucked me out of the audience and was talking directly to me. He understood my problems, and I was lost. I felt the itch to do something meaningful and be something bigger, and I am sure I was not the only one in the room who felt that way.

Many conferences and half a forest worth of books later, I can say that I have become a Self-Help Guru junkie. I mean I love the stuff, and I am always working on myself. Maybe it is the dopamine surge I get when I read an inspiring chapter or finally finish a book…

Now, thanks to technology, we can listen to any guru we want, whenever we want. It has become so easy to consume large amounts of information in short periods of time thanks to the Internet. But is this gluttonous consumption good for us? Is there something missing?

I think there is…

I have clients who literally go from book to book, online course to online course gaining information, insight and horsepower. Then they do one of two things: Either they do absolutely nothing with it or literally hustle and grind until they burn themselves and all those around them out!

I see people following every guru’s advice, and they wind up going in a million different directions. From cold showers, to ice baths, to intermittent fasting, to less sleep to more sleep, from no fat to high fat, from journaling to vision boards, and everything else in between.

You can get up at 3 a.m. to be the hardest worker in the gym, get home and drink your Bulletproof coffee in the cold shower while listening to your podcast of Gary V. telling you to work harder, take an Uber to work so you can sit in the back and slosh down your neurotropic vitamins with a protein shake, while multitasking on Instagram and Facebook with your fans, and still not have that lifestyle or dream you want. That just sounds exhausting.

So, what’s missing? I call it “balanced action with accurate intention.” Yeah, I just made that up, but it really fits nicely with the point I am making. Let me explain.

I think self-improvement is a must and there is some excellent guidance and motivation out there. Creating headspace and breaking through your personal roadblocks is a great start. But let us consider the action part. I see many coming to me exhausted and burnt out. They have put in three lifetimes worth of work, they hustled with a capital H, but they are still at the starting gate. This is “unbalanced action.”

I personally was guilty of just such a lifestyle. Always hustling and grinding, chasing the dream, but not really satisfied. Actor and comedian Jim Carrey stated,“I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

Now I advise and practice a different approach.

After years of chasing my tail because the gurus told me to, I know have a regular meditation practice, study and teach yoga. Yes, I still hit the gym five days a week—but not at 3 am. I have found a comfortable balance that resonates with me. I help my clients find their personal vibration and get in the flow of the universe so things can come to them. You see, many are too busy working and pushing instead of being and allowing. The less you struggle to make it happen, the easier and more pleasurable the trip will be and the faster you will see results.

Some of the things I personally practice and advice are:

  1. Dedicate time for self-help and self-improvement.
  2. Keep physically active and maintain a balanced diet
  3. Meditate, pray, write, be with yourself and others
  4. Find your passion, your goal, and make a plan to get there.
  5. Work your plan DAILY, and take action steps DAILY (And plans change, so be ready to shift gears as needed.)
  6. Keep a balance in what I call the “foundations” of your life. I actually have eight foundations, including Health and Fitness; Personal Reality (our environment we surround ourselves in everyday); and Spirituality/Religion. (If you want a list of all eight I use, email me at
  7. Once you hit your goal celebrate and put a new goal just a bit farther out.

The takeaway? Listen to the gurus and consume the self-help advice as along as it is helping you to see your goals more clearly. Then take accurate action steps every day to help reach your goals. The goal of my Eight Foundations Plan is to keep all areas of our lives balanced and in tune with each other. Some areas will need more attention than others depending on your goals, but this should be synchronized with the other areas of your life as well.

The ultimate objective is to always reach for new heights, new goals—all the while having fun and discovering yourself along the way. If you get lucky enough, you will even help others find themselves and obtain their goals. This is where the magic of life really happens.

Dr. Bryan is a published author, national speaker, and personal growth consultant. He also owns an online digital marketing agency and has created a simple online course on digital marketing to help other coaches, and authors break out into the world and reach audiences. You can find out more on his website or email directly at

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