The Problem With “You Control Your Destiny”

(Or, Why There Should Be More “Self” in Self-Help)

Welcome to my sporadic series of essays where I highlight my general concerns with self-help books as a genre, despite continuing to read a ton of them.

We’ve all heard the sayings. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  “It’s your attitude, not your circumstances, that determine how successful you are.” These attitudes can be summed up in a single phrase: you control your destiny. This belief is the foundation and promise of most self-help books in the “Success” genre; teach yourself to think and act correctly and you’ll achieve whatever you want.

Unfortunately, the same fatal flaw afflicts each of these often-quoted truisms: the message only usefully applies to yourself.

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