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How to Get Real Help from Self-help Hype

By Bob on November 23, 2011 4:16 AM

Everywhere we go - the internet, the book store, the grocery store check-out line - carefully crafted headlines fight to sell us on the implausible yet tempting idea that we can have, be and do whatever we want by next month, this Friday, right this minute.
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All we have to do is simply stop trying so hard and swallow some simplistic regimen. A vacation home, dream job, soul mate, ageless body or whatever else we're after can be ours forever if we just read these three secrets or those five easy steps.


"Yeah, right!" we seasoned Boomers say right back to all the quick-fix remedies competing for our attention. "Do you really think I'm gonna fall for that?"


As a Boomer who earns her living from helping people clarify and cultivate their goals and dreams, I can certainly see that in this age of transformation and reinvention, empty personal improvement rhetoric is one of the most prevalent snake oils on the market.


Boomer Brief Self-Help Columnist Dr. Amy Wood


But what I also see is that real wisdom can be found in overblown antidotes if you take them with a grain or two of salt. The solution is to turn self-help hype into real help by applying common sense to the pumped up promises. 


Here are three examples of how self-help fluff can become solid counsel:


The hype: The outcome you want will manifest if you envision it.

Real help: Imagination alone will not make things happen, but it can definitely help. Picturing a passing grade when you haven't studied for a test won't get you very far. But ask any successful athlete and they will tell you that they win more than they lose because they vividly visualize the results they want as they train. If you focus your mind on what you desire AND work hard to bring your goal to fruition, you are more likely to be successful.


The hype: You can catapult yourself to the next level by talking 'as if' you are already there.

Real help: Saying affirmations - telling yourself you are capable and confident in this or that area when you don't feel that way -- will indeed move you steadily where you want to go. But here's the catch: your affirmations can't be too big a stretch. If you're up to your ears in debt, your brain will reject "I am swimming in money" but "My financial decisions are improving" will likely bring about better spending habits. Likewise, "I enjoy moving my body" will be more motivating than "I love working out six days a week" if you're just decided to get off the couch and exercise.


The hype: Positive thinking makes life pain-free.

Real help: There is no question that glass-half-full people have it made. It follows that those who complain less than others are more fun to be around and attract better opportunities. But let's be clear here: optimism will make you more resilient in the face of heartache, disappointment and failure, but not immune to the curveballs all adults are dealt. Optimism is about taking in the whole picture, embracing the good and the bad, and choosing to focus on what's going well over what's wrong. Whether you're sizing up the economy, the cyberspace dating pool or a half-baked self-improvement suggestion, you're bound to fare better if you practice a hopeful perspective.  



Baby Boomer Amy Wood PSY.D. graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1985 with a communications degree, then enjoyed an invigorating advertising, marketing and publishing career in Chicago. Fascinated by corporate dynamics and human behavior, she enrolled in Chicago's Adler School of Professional Psychology at age 30 to become a psychologist. She fell in love with Maine after completing her clinical internship at the University of Maine counseling center and launched her practice in Portland in 2000. Amy is also certified by the College of Executive Coaching in California and is known for her workshops and presentations on the themes from her book: Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-Paced World (Modern Sage Press, $14.95).


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Diabetes-Friendly Chicken Burrito Bowl

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By Laura Cipullo and Lisa Mikus, authors of Everyday Diabetes Meals
Image credit: Colin Erricson

Prepare your own Mexican quick fix with this Chipotle-inspired bowl. Carbs are moderated by filling the bowl with beans, extra veggies and chicken. No need for rice, since the beans count as carbs.


If you love tomatoes, increase the quantity to 1/2 cup, but note that the carbohydrates will also increase.

If preparing this recipe for one person, cut all of the ingredients in half. Or simply prepare the full recipe up to the end of step 2 and store leftover chicken and vegetable-bean mixture in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave on High for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through, and continue with step 3.

Health Bite: The iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc in black beans help to keep bones strong and healthy.

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Windy City

It's been almost 18 years since Alison Krauss gave us a solo album, but the wait is over with Windy City. The release (her fifth solo studio album) features ten covers of classic songs (and some bonus tracks) she picked with producer Buddy Cannon.

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