Why I prefer personal development US version

(… even if Asia inspires me a lot too…) The little mood post of the week… to cultivate my critical mind!

Misfortune versus happiness

If you have read my little bio, you will have found that I discovered and studied personal development (DP) in the USA, 20 years ago. There was almost nothing in France, except… translations of American books, and some works more oriented towards spiritual and philosophical reflection, for example the rules of life of Buddhists, accompanying the development of this philosophy in France. As soon as this new focus was in France and dedicated departments appeared, I was of course interested in the publications they offered, and even if they were really interesting – and would dust off this new field, I found that they were more interested in "crises". Midlife crisis, social crisis, crisis and ill-being of teenagers, divorce and couple crisis… We almost felt the influence of the "medical" and "psychological" side, the Western vision, in the sense of: healing when the pain is already present. But if you are twenty years old, you are well and you are just looking to know some essential rules to succeed in your life at best? Isn't it better to prevent (misfortune, loneliness, failure) than to cure it? 

Theory versus experiment

In the US, those who speak are those who have lived as much as those who know. We leave room just as much for the baroudeurs, businessmen or enlightened sages as for psychologists and doctors of the soul, scientists and teachers. The great sage, the "guru" does not necessarily have diplomas, but a sacred life experience. And US version, the favorite reading of the one who wants to progress in his life, are the biographies of people who have succeeded: we really like the stories of "party of nothing, arrived at the top, with his only will and his courage", as in the film "In search of happiness", taken from the true story of Chris Gardner.If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly advise you, to see and review in case of a crisis of despair, an immediate cure of motivation and happiness. US version These are the stories of others, motivating and captivating, but also examples to follow, recommendations to listen to. Concrete, living, beyond theories. Ideally, the two should be mixed, the two complement each other.

Help yourself

There, personal development speaks above all of "self-help", literally: "helping oneself". Individual initiative plays a central role in the American spirit; we see it in the figure of the "self-made-man" and the "do it yourself". To which I will add the "Just Do It", famous slogan of Nike: sometimes, you have to stop analyzing yourself, questioning yourself, torturing your brains, complaining, weighing the pros and cons, jumping therapist in hypnosis session and … to move your ass 🙂 In France, we like to think, in the USA, we like to act. The DP USA version is therefore sometimes the opposite of psychotherapy, we put aside the reflection and we act, right away.

We decide to be positive

In the USA, we are not at all in the complaining or the criticism. The North American is fundamentally positive and optimistic, and will talk about his worries in a "light" way (I do not take hours of his time to the other to spread my misfortunes, it is rude), often humorous (I do not take myself seriously, I am not the center of the world, I remain humble) and constructive (I do it to relieve my heart , inform the other but especially to look for solutions). It is a typical French cultural trait to spend hours moaning and discussing problems, in North America, we move, and we solve them. That's not to say we don't think. But we quickly take action as soon as we have identified a first problem, or a first step to take in the progress of a personal or professional project. We're going to knock on doors faster, make phone calls, or make an announcement. We see personal development as a tool, not as an addiction. Above all, the aim is to achieve concrete results. This does not mean that everything is good to take, quite the contrary: North America was the first breeding ground for the more or less sectarian drifts of personal development.The Church of Scientology has recruited many members based on a vocation of maximization and self-control, as well as some New Age movements, with a vision based on a mixture of Christian mysticism, astrology, popular beliefs and orientalist mysticism. Simply, for many years, if I move away from this type of publication (the presence of the Christian religion being real in many American writings), I preferred American books and websites to most French books, and I found them more pragmatic and more effective for myself. How about you? Why I prefer the DP US version, 13 August 2016.

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Sophie Barbarella

Writer and Public Speaker

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