Personal Development: Why U.S. spends $10.4 Billion Per Year?
Table of Contents
- What is Personal Development?
- What Good. What’s Not.
- What Started Personal Development?
- How Best to Cope?
What is Personal Development?
One 2020 study reported a “$10.4 billion market for ‘self-improvement’ or ‘personal growth’ programs and products that seek to improve us physically, mentally, financially or spiritually,” here in the U.S.
The market includes:
- Motivational speakers;
- Public seminars;
- Holistic institutes;
- Personal coaching;
- Weight loss programs;
- Internet courses;
- Training organizations and more.
…for topics, such as:
- weight loss/exercise;
- business/sales skills;
- business opportunities/investing;
- improving relationships;
- and general motivational.
Personal Coaching/Training made up 40% of the 2019 revenue here in the U.S., with e-learning right behind it at 30%, both expected to grow steadily over time. For what purpose? Toward what end?
What Good. What’s Not.
I have watched this growth with my very own eyes, as more and more people left their previous employment to go out on their own as coaches on…you name it.
The mantra is “Your mess is your message,” which I have to say causes me some concern. Just because someone has stomach issues does not make them a Gastroenterologist.
And yet, there are many, mostly well meaning, people out there who will presume to cure what ails us with absolutely no training and experience at all. Buyer beware, as this article recommends.
That said, here are some of the benefits of good coaching gone well, from the International Coaching Federation:
80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more.
But why personal development? And what started that?
What Started Personal Development?
French video journalist, Marshall Sinclair, wrote a wonderful piece on the history of self -improvement.
From Sinclair, we learn about the first self-help book. Although I suppose some would argue that honor goes to the bible, this 1859 publication, by Samuel smiles, was actually entitled Self-help, and outsold Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, published the same year.
Throughout Sinclair’s account, there appears some version of Smile’s idea that “Heaven helps those who help themselves,” largely associated with dramatic, if not perilous, times in our history.
It is too good and too much to repeat here, so please do have a look at Sinclair’s piece. For now, I would like to share what he said about millennials because I am noticing myself a growing conversion in my own caseload from Boomers to them. Sinclair says:
Social media platforms, which tend to bombard users with a near-constant parade of others succeeding in impressive contrast, are used by 75 percent of millennials. This, coupled with a 24-hour news stream can leave millennials with feelings of increased anxiety, depression, and FOMO (fear of missing out). And it is this feeling of inadequacy that the self-help industry, as always, has an answer for.
There is that for sure. But here’s my take. See what you think.
How Best to Cope?
True, humans are comparing animals, and we are tempted by technology to compare now more than ever before.
But it is also true that most folks who are alive today have good reason to feel threatened like never before.
Everything is changing. Just a few examples: What is a family? What is gender? What is food? What is an office? So many things uncertain that weren’t even questions before.
Then we have the pandemic and, on top of that, the threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological war.
It is this existential anxiety that I believe to be a big part of what’s driving the self-help bus.
In the Denial of Death, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Ernest Becker, explains how anxious all humans are, deep down, whether we know it or not.
Becker goes on to suggest that how we cope with the human condition is by either cozying up to power or becoming the power ourselves.
And that, in my view, is why so many people are trying to become better than they think they currently are — so they get closer and closer to the power, however they perceive it, or to become it themselves.
Another big part of what I believe is driving the current personal development movement is also something very human in a good way. The tree wants to grow. The bird wants to fly. And so do we.
Both existential anxieties, and the human need to grow for its own sake, can make us feel like we have to do something — all of the time.
To know this is to help ourselves find the perspective needed to do something better than driving ourselves and the people counting on us into the ground.
In an earlier post, we talked about the hazards of working when you believe we know we shouldn’t be. In that post we talked about the Focus and Release exercise to help out with that.
This time I would like to offer up a perspective setting quote from the Rabbi Tarfon (circa 70–135ce):
You are not required to complete the task of healing the world’s ills, but neither are you free to avoid it.
Amen, right. We can each do something but no one of us can do it all anyway — no matter how hard we try. So, maybe we can agree that it’s okay to take a break from trying so hard to do better and better and better all the time. Let us know.
Photo by Pexels Andrew Moulton