The 3-Step Self Help Fallacy

Somewhere along the line everyone started buying into the notion of simplicity. From the renunciation of extravagant superficial luxuries by the Buddha to the extraordinary design sensibilities of Steve Jobs, the concept of “simple” has become synonymous with “wise”. Out went the complex paintings of the Renaissance and ornate decorative fixtures. Along with simplicity, words like “sleek”, “minimalistic”, and “easy” now wash over us like a gentle breeze in the heat of life’s cumbersome complexity of endless communications, confusion, and commotion.

No wonder then, that the internet is replete with 3-step programs that promise to reduce the human condition to a magical stepwise process, leading to happiness, love, financial satisfaction, and optimum health. I, too, have been guilty of participating in this fantasy to some extent. There are “three steps” based on anecdote or pie-in-the-sky promises, and then there are “three steps” based on solid research. I have increasingly allied with the latter, but even that is not enough. It’s time for us to face the 3-step fallacy.

My strong belief is that we have been duped to believe that learning comes from the outside only, that educational systems are a valid indicator of intelligence, and that someone else’s success is a guarantee that we can achieve that too. As much as these ideas may flirt with the truth and provide strong marketing material, I believe that they cause people to undermine their actual brilliance that has been subjugated by voices louder than their own. They rely instead on the crutches of shared intelligence, rather than recognizing that all information and knowledge needs to be consumed, processed, integrated, and added to the already influential gene pool and early life experiences that make up who you are.

Much research now shows us that our brains decide to act long before we think we are doing something. The information in your unconscious collects and connects as you live life. Then it reaches a threshold that leads to an action. Your conscious brain steps in and owns it after the decision has been made outside of consciousness, acting as if it has generated these actions. It’s a mind trick that’s easy to overlook. Yet it’s important to note that we might want to also pay attention to things outside of the three steps or use those three steps to deepen our thinking and not just follow them.

There’s a difference between simple and oversimplified. There’s also a difference between sleek and sparse. Similarly, there is a huge difference when “the three steps” feed your complexity and activate it, and when they masquerade as the secret sauce to get you to your goals.

Humans are very complex creatures, whether we like it or not. We need to spend more time acknowledging and recognizing our complexity if we are to manifest the compact and intricately processed simplicity of Steve Jobs, or the stunning architecture of Alberto Campo Baeza. Less is only more when we discover the underlying formulae of aesthetics and architecture, and not when we copy simple forms or steps without allowing them to be touched by the complexity of our consciousness.

You are in fact imbued with gorgeous, delicious, human intelligence. Celebrate your complexity with “discovery consciousness.” You deserve it. When you do, you too will find your own three steps that will make much more sense for you.

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