It was up until recently that I realized that I often used different terms to reference similar self-help topics. Once confronted with a question on this, I realized that it was time to craft some definitions. I am glad that I did since I know believe that there are worthy distinctions. Here they are. What do you think?

Self Help“Self-Help”
A classification or genre focusing on gaining new knowledge, awareness, behaviors, inspiration, guidance and support for those wanting to make personal improvements.

 

Personal Growth“Personal Growth & Development”
The efforts and activities one invests in to improve self (typically towards some desired vision or goal). It is basically the creation of an individual development plan.

 

 
Mirror“Self-Discovery”
Peeling away the layers to understand self (e.g. personality, values, beliefs). Taking that hard look into the mirror.

 

 

 

meditation“Spiritual Growth”
Defining your personal Truth with respect to understanding life’s meaning and your purpose.

 

Self-help can relate to any aspect of our life. Whether you want to learn how to improve; managing your finances, communication skills, job related skills, career enhancement skills, personal relationships, parenting skills, and of course overcoming personal issues, unhealthy beliefs, trauma, illness, etc. As the name implies, one is seeking help on a certain topic. Browsing the self-help section of the bookstore or on-line retailer, one can find hundreds if not thousands of perspectives on various topics. We browse, gather some ideas, but then what?

Personal Growth & Development is the action associated with Self-Help to make an improvement. As the saying goes, knowledge is useless until it is applied. In the business world, this is often referred to as an “IDP” or Individual Development Plan. Here you establish goals, timeframes and specific actions you will take to achieve these goals. I believe this is critical to self-help just as it is to any goal we have. We need a plan.

Self-Discovery is a subset of personal growth that relates to digging deeper into understanding why we are the way we are, or behave in ways that we do. It is analogous to taking that hard look in the mirror. We may only need to develop new skills to better manage our finances, but what if we are constantly broke, or losing jobs. In these cases it may be best to understand what we are doing to create these consequences in addition to learning a new personal finance program. There are many tools that can be used here, such as personality assessments, therapy, journaling, etc. In my case this was essential to discovering how growing up in a severely dysfunctional family resulted in my forming unhealthy beliefs that were adversely affecting my relationships, happiness, and many other aspects of my life. Otherwise the changes I may have made would have only treated my symptoms, but not the deep-rooted fears that were the real cause.

Deeper yet is the concept of spiritual growth. This is where we desire the deepest understanding yet about ourselves, why we are here? It often involves the questioning of our current beliefs and values to discover what we truly believe. I found that this is often the most life-changing of all personal growth activities. It is where we search with an open mind the meaning of life and how we fit in. Once defined, this drives nearly all our attitudes, behaviors and consequences.

Curious what you think. Thanks for reading.