Jeff Hough

I have been thinking about this article for a while now. It feels like one that comes from a place deep within and contains a piece of my soul. As I sit down to write it, I question why it has taken me so long to put pen to paper. Some would say I was procrastinating, but I prefer to think I was letting it percolate until it was ready.

A few months ago, I read an article by Jari Roomer. He titled his article "Are You a Self-Improvement ‘Junkie’ Or Are You an Action Taker?" In it, he revealed how he was a self-improvement book junkie.

He said the habit started when he read "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." From there he spent the next 18 months consuming as many self-help books as he could. All the while feeling like he was making progress towards changing his life.

Yet, after 18 months he reflected on his status and realized not much had changed. The realization of little to no movement had a profound effect on him and his approach to the next few months. As I reflected on his thoughts, I realized I have been a victim of the same issue — the illusion of progress.

For many, myself included, the key to success lies within the next book, blog article or online course. We think that by consuming knowledge, we are making progress towards our goal. Yet no real movement occurs.

What I have discovered is the self-help genre does have value. When one is stuck in a rut or struggling, the books and courses can provide some thought changing direction. But that is where their usefulness begins to fade.

Changing or opening one's mind is only the beginning of the path. I remember being in college and having a paper due. I spent time in the library researching and taking notes. I spent time thinking about the paper and the direction to take.

I even interviewed a couple of people on the subject. All the while, my mind tricked me into thinking I was making progress writing the paper. Yet, as the due date approached, I soon realized I hadn't made much progress at all. I hadn't even started writing anything!

Some would argue that I had made great progress. Because of the research, thinking, and interviews. While true, I hadn't put any actual words on paper. I wasn't much further along with the writing than when the assignment was given. This is the problem with consuming knowledge without acting.

Because we consume, we believe we are making progress. Yet without action, there can be no progress. Progress is an illusion created by our minds to trick us into happiness.

We want to feel good about ourselves, so the mind creates the illusion to help us feel better without ever taking a step. Consuming knowledge is easy, but taking action is difficult.

Tony Robbins says, "Knowledge is not power, it is potential power." Author/Psychologist Phil McGraw says, "Awareness without action is worthless."

The beauty of the world we live in is the ability to consume knowledge. Yet the ease with which we can consume knowledge makes us lazy and hinders our ability to do something.

The answers we seek lie in action. Success comes from taking the first step, then following it with another and another. It comes from stumbling, falling and getting back up.

Real knowledge and progress comes from overcoming fear and moving outside of one's comfort zone.

Nothing of value was ever discovered on the couch. The real self-improvement discoveries occur from the "trenches" when we push the boundaries of who and what we think we are.

They come when one takes action and pushes past the illusion of progress.

Jeff Hough is a business writer, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.