Self Help is, in some respects, a rather odd term for the important work we do here at the White Dove Books Inspiration site – I think the description seems to hold negative associations for some people. There are numerous equivalent labels in common usage including self development, self improvement, personal development, personal growth and human potential.
The label I prefer to use is Personal Development which I think resonates with more positive associations. Never-the-less, it is within the Self Help category in your local bookstore that you will locate most of the books to which we allude in the articles at this site.
It is difficult to say where and when the first Self-Help book was written. There are a number of ancient books which might be considered as candidates including, for example, the book of Proverbs from The Bible. Certainly, by the time of the great Greek philosophers, many of the principles we would now recognize as basic self-help tenets, including the importance of goal-setting, had been proposed; indeed many by Aristotle himself.
In America, Self-Help material has been in existence since the time of the Declaration of Independence. It is perhaps not surprising when you look at some of the principles enshrined in that document.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
Those ideas contrast markedly with the dominant attitude in Europe, at that time, which is best summed up in the theory of the Divine Right of Kings. This theory extends well backwards into time and has probably been around as long as monarchy itself.
On the other hand, Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704) reinforced medieval notions of kingship in his theory of the Divine Right of Kings, a theory which argued that certain kings ruled because they were chosen by God to do so and that these kings were accountable to no person except God.
The European Enlightenment Glossary
Basically, in Europe up to the time of its revolutions, we thought that it was not the place of ordinary men and women to entertain ideas of self advancement; that’s why we wrote hymns with lines like, ‘ The rich man at his castle; the poor man at his gate. He made them high and lowly. He ordered their estate.’ And if you ever get to sing All Things Bright and Beautiful again, you will probably find this verse is now omitted in modern hymn books!
However, in revolutionary France, they had different ideas; and so too did the Americans. Indeed, Stephen Covey’s research for his doctorate included a study of the Self-Help literature published in America since 1776. In his comprehensive study, he discovered that almost all of the Self Help literature published from 1776 up to about 50 years ago was based on what he calls the ‘character ethic’. That is, it concentrated on how to model the basic characteristics of successful people. Covey says that, in the last 50 years or so, the emphasis has changed to what he described as the ‘personality ethic’. That is, its focus is on how to get on better with other people.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s best-selling self help book, favours a balanced approach to self improvement; with the first three habits concerned with character and the next three concerned with personality. The 7th habit is a maintenance habit and concerns daily routines, or disciplines, designed to increase commitment to the other habits. It is our belief that Covey’s principles represent a complete paradigm; summarising the best work of the success writers of past and present.
The basic principles that underpin the work of the authors featured at our site are these:
- Every Human Being has Great Inner Potential
- You Create your own Reality
- You are Responsible for Everything in your Life
- Your Quality of Life is largely a matter of Choice
- Your Reality may be Impacted by Self-Limiting Beliefs
- There is Great Power in the Mind
It is our belief that these principles are indeed fundamental truths and they are exhilarating, energising and exciting. The idea of coming to a complete acceptance of responsibility for what you achieve with your own life is a common theme which permeates self-help material from the time of Seneca, two thousand years ago, right up to today.
It is the unblocking of mental attitudes and self-limiting beliefs however, that has today become the cornerstone of the self-improvement industry. With initiatives like Bandler & Grindler’s NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), it is possible to begin to understand, to some extent, the internal representations of reality made and used by other people. Making use of such information, it is possible to significantly improve our ability to get-on well, and communicate more effectively, with others.