Self-help Sucks. This is what I do instead.

I read a lot of self-help stuff. I know I should:

  • Eat a more plant-based diet. Or a keto diet. Or a paleo diet.
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day. Or maybe 60. Or is it 20?
  • Konmari the shit out of my house.
  • Have a capsule wardrobe.
  • Take fish oil.
  • Get rid of my TV.
  • Snowball my debt, then gazelle myself into a solid savings account.
  • Cut the toxic people out of my life.
  • Get eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Wake up at some ungodly hour to get a list of crazy shit that includes a cold shower done by 8 a.m.

I look at that list and think . . . damn, if I just did those things, my life would be so amazing. I’d feel good. I’d get out of my pajamas every single day! My house wouldn’t be a minefield. I wouldn’t have to operate on five or six hours of sleep. I’d be able to pay the bills, no problem.

I can’t figure out why I’d want a cold shower first thing in the morning, but whatever. You get my point.

So, why don’t I do them? I mean, all these helpful people have given me a blue-print to a perfect life.

It’s easy to think that the reason we don’t live the way we all know we should is because we’re lazy. But the honest truth is that I don’t know any lazy people. I for sure am not lazy. I own a business, I’m a soccer mom, I’m a writer, I take care of two dementia patients.

It isn’t laziness.

It’s humanity.

It’s easier for human beings to keep doing what we’ve always done (And maybe what our parents always did. And our grandparents), because change is hard and scary.

The same is easy — even when we know it’s bad for us. Scary takes concentrated effort that’s probably, right now, going to things like making sure your kids don’t die or that your house doesn’t go into foreclosure.

I’d love to eat all organic, all home-cooked, all the time — but three times a week my kid has sports practice at dinner time, and then there are games and tournaments. So it’s either dinner at 4 or 10, or a Subway run in between basketball and soccer.

The soccer-mom struggle is real.

I want to chunk money toward my student loans, but my kids keep expecting to get fed on the regular and the car needs new tires and, damn it, YOLO. That trip to Disneyland was totally worth it. So, minimum payments it is. Sometimes.

I’d love to overhaul my house. But I own a business, I’m on contract for my next book, and there are seven people depending on me for a lot of things.

See above for: exercising, sleeping, and all those before-8 a.m. things.

I do manage to take my vitamins most days.

But you can pry my remote control from my cold, dead fingers. Sometimes a good Netflix binge is the only thing that keeps me going.

It isn’t that I don’t want to do the self-helpy things. Or that I don’t think they’re important. I just think it’s equally, or even more, important to give yourself credit for doing the best you can.

I promised in the title to let you know what I do instead of the big self-help stuff. Here it is:

Baby steps. Tiny goals. I mean, really, really little steps and goals. They count. One sit up. One sentence. Going to bed ten minutes earlier. Cleaning out one drawer. Little bitty, teeny tiny, things. And they add up. In the last couple of years, I’ve used them to feel better, to start a business, to sell a book.

For real, ten minutes at a time.

I’m over beating myself up for not taking a cold shower before 8 a.m.


Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.