Self-Help and Happiness in 2011: Joined at the Hip?
If I lived in or near London, I know where I would be tomorrow: attending the four hour (and now sold out) Self-Help Summit. The event will look at the state of the self-help industry from a variety of perspectives, including seeking to determine its relation to happiness. The pursuit of the latter has become a booming industry on its own, complete with social science research, books and blogs. The panelists will include several people I have blogged about in the past, including Alain de Botton, Mark Vernon and Oliver Burkeman. The latter has a new book, HELP!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done, a compilation of his columns from the Guardian. The title reflects the tone of many of the columns, which balance being studious, respectful and skeptical to self-help ideas and concepts. The focus on the practical/doable side plays out in his recent article, The 10 best self-help gurus. I compared the list to the selections from Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Self-Help Classics and found the following people on both lists: Richard Carlson (whom I blogged about recently), Tony Robbins, David Burns, Susan Jeffers and Eckhart Tolle (though he appears in Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Spiritual Classics). I recently interviewed Butler-Bowdon for the 300 Words With…feature on my blog. The emphasis on Burkeman’s list is on contemporary names; of the ten, only two are no longer alive (Carlson and Seneca the Stoic). The major happiness guru included is Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness. I doubt that Burkeman meant the list to be scientific or particularly definitive, and many people will have their own favorites that are not included. Self-help has always struck me as mix-and-match among authors and ideas. It would be difficult to follow just one person or school of thought. If you are attending the Self-Help Summit, that might provide a good spark for questions and answers. And if you do attend, your impressions as comments on this post would be appreciated!