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Four Healthy Reasons to Stay Away from Magic Pills, and How to Do It



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“Everybody’s looking for the magic pill. But commitment is an ongoing process. It’s not something you do once. You revisit it.”
Patricia Kyle

“He that can have patience, can have what he will.”
Benjamin Franklin

One huge obstacle that stands in the way of real positive change and growth in someone’s life is the idea of the magic pill.

What is a magic pill?

Well, basically looking at something – a book or a just a tip – as a complete and quick solution for your problem. Thinking that that thing will “fix you”, just like a pill from the doctor could.

Now, magic pills can be quite harmful to you. Here’s a few reasons why you should avoid chasing after them.

They don’t exist.

So far as I have found, there are no magic pills. Magic pills are just an unrealistic way to look at things if you have a problem in your life. It’s a way of looking for a quick and easy way out.

Now, a book/tape/DVD/person at the right time can have a big effect. You may have heard that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. So some product/person can be bit like a magic pill to an individual at the right point in his/her life. But that individual will still have to put in work (and usually a lot of it over a relatively long period of time).

You’ll certainly waste a lot of time and energy.

Desperately looking for the “next big thing” and when disappointed with that one going looking for the next one will take up a lot of energy. And a lot of time. Perhaps even years.

How much could you get done in all that time if you took action on what you knew instead of spending your time chasing the next magic pill?

You may waste quite a bit of money.

A desire to find the magic pill could turn you into a personal development junkie with an empty wallet. Looking for salvation at the next big seminar or the one after that could be burden for your personal finances.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money if you think a book or seminar could be helpful. But don’t go overboard or think that you will find the magic solution

It may lead you to giving up altogether.

Looking for the magic pill for too long will lead to you to feel a lot of frustration and disappointment. You may give up your effort to change or grow all together. And dismiss all personal development people as snake oil salesmen that are trying to steal your money.

There is a lot of value in a lot of products and in what a lot of people say. But if you expect them to be able to just fix your problem in some magic way then of course you’ll always be disappointed. Totally unrealistic expectations will bring you down and can transform a great, helpful product (or relationships or job etc.) into a disappointment in your eyes.

Why do we chase the magic pills?

A few answers that I’ve come up with from my own experience are:

  • Persistent advertising. The idea of a magic pill is to a large extent sold to us over and over again through advertising. These fantasies are of course useful to sell stuff. To sell an appealing dream of instant gratification to people. Since advertising is persistent these ideas can become pretty ingrained in the minds of consumers.
  • With the pill you don’t have to really change. People like magic pills because then they don’t have to change very much at all. The pill can just “fix them” and so they can go on just as they have for the last few years or decades. But if someone wants to, for example, lose 30 pounds then what that person may need to lose the weight – and keep it off – is a whole lifestyle change. To replace the old lifestyle with a new one. One with regular exercise and a new and healthier diet. And that can be difficult and frustrating at times, especially in the beginning.
  • Laziness and pain avoidance. A similar answer to the one above. Frankly, it’s easier to be lazy, lie back on the sofa and read another book and look for an instant gratification solution than it is to get up and take action/a risk and put in sustained effort. It is a way to creatively procrastinate by looking for the perfect solution. A way to avoid taking action to avoid possible pain, temporary failure, change and the unknown.

How can you overcome this problem?

Well, I did it like I guess many others have done. I failed to find a magic pill quite a few times. :)

So over a bit of time I realized that I should probably give up that search and start viewing personal growth and the material I explored in a more realistic way. And so I got more out of the material because now I saw it as a help along my way rather than something (or someone) that would save me.

How have I learned to use the material in a more helpful way?

By sticking to one book or way of thinking for a longer time and actually doing what that person is telling me. And then perhaps adjust my course as I find appropriate.

And by over a long time span – like several months – taking action, failing, learning and taking a whole of more action. Because the big thing here is not some magic pill. It’s you and your continual effort. What will make the biggest difference is that you keep going, doing, learning and gaining a deeper understanding of what you want to accomplish but also of yourself. Without that nothing will work.

When you snap out of the magic pill mentality things tend to get a bit rougher and patience is required. Such is life. But after a while you also tend get some real results and a higher and more stable sense of self esteem instead of just temporary sparks of inspiration and sporadic results. You aren’t lost in some fantasy world anymore. You’re in a position that has a few downsides – like a bit of pain, plateaus and less instant gratification – but definitely more upsides. You are maturing and accepting how things really are.

And a funny thing is that when you finally take action you might discover that things are often easier and simpler to get done than you may think. Maybe you are overcomplicating things by reading 25 books about your problem and thereby – in your mind – making your challenge into a bigger and more complicated deal than it actually is?

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  • John D August 2, 2010, 9:41 pm

    Katie makes a perfect point. There would not be so many get rich quick schemes if there was not enough suckers out there trying to find the easy way to riches.

  • Tasneem R August 3, 2010, 2:42 pm

    I sometimes try and chase the magic pill but like what you said I get frustrated when I’m unable to get hold of the pill ! Yes I have learned a bright lesson from your post today ! And yes thanks a ton for the reminder of having patience , patience is truly a virtue .
    How Well Do You Know Yourself? – This test aims at discovering how well you know yourself.
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  • teamcurtisfamily August 4, 2010, 6:43 am

    It is easy to try and chase after the “get rich quick” and magic pill solutions that you are bombarded with online. Most of us have spent years trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with us, why can’t we get the same success others are having. The truth is, we had to grow, learn, and apply.

    I believe you said it best, “What will make the biggest difference is that you keep going, doing, learning and gaining a deeper understanding of what you want to accomplish but also of yourself.”

    It has taken some time to finally figure it out, but the results were worth the investment!

  • Tim D August 4, 2010, 9:15 pm

    I’m reading The War of Art right now…Steven Pressfield talks about the need to fight Resistance *every* day of your life. It’s not a battle that ends…You never get to declare victory.

    Tim D
    http://www.momentary.org – free mobile gratitude journal
    win a free copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin!

  • pdw August 5, 2010, 10:50 pm

    This is a great blog and what you are saying all rings true in this post. I have found that in my own growth, it has taken years. I have read lots of books and tapes and it is only slowly it sank in.

    I too was susceptible to the magic pill panacea many years ago. However, I learnt that for my own path, things happen slowly. That not only goes for changing behaviors but also for actually finding myself and determining what my purpose in life was. I know some such as Steve Pavlina have written posts saying you can determine what your life’s purpose is in 20 minutes. However, I am yet to come across anyone who has done just that. For me it took quite a while before I figured out the most meaningful path I should follow.

  • Jan Sandusky August 11, 2010, 5:24 pm

    Great blog, I found this link you might like as well, It goes with your phillosophy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTCJyn2HA_M&feature=related

  • JohnC August 13, 2010, 2:48 am

    What a great article! I enjoyed how the author of this blog pointed out that clearly there are no magic pills and that seeking one can be devastating to a person’s life.

    In my time as a new age teacher one of the things I noticed about a lot of students was that they were seeking out some sort of magic answer that would just make everything all better or perfect for them. Many, unfortunately, left my classes very dissapointed when they realized that I, of course, didn’t have all the answers for them.

    Sometimes, as this blog post suggests, we need to just pick one course of study (book, program, etc) and stick with it so that we can learn how to most effectively use it in our lives. When you jump from product to product, instructor to instructor, class to class I think many times a person ends up missing out on using the information they are gathering to its best potential.

    Many thanks again for sharing this blog post!

  • Loïc August 19, 2010, 6:45 pm

    Hi Henrik,
    You definitely wrote inspiring posts, thanks for them.