If you’re a regular reader of Beyond Growth, you already know that buying things isn’t self-help. If you aren’t doing the free or cheap version of something (e.g. pushups), than buying something expensive (e.g. a weight set) isn’t likely to magically bring about positive changes. The hard work remains either way.
Which brings me to a new $497, 28-day course “worth thousands of dollars” in changing habits called The Habit Course, from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and friends. (Hat tip to @7breaths_.) Personally, I think the most important habit to create in your life is the habit of avoiding overpriced personal development products, of which there will always be more. The chances are for most people who purchase this or any other program, compliance will be very low, the forums are likely to be dead, and the added “bonuses” will likely lead to overload and analysis paralysis.
In addition, anything other than just working on your habit is not working on your habit, and fundamental changes simply take time. While it can be helpful to learn a few things about successfully forming habits, it is all too common to become an armchair expert in the theory of success without doing the actual work. Just as it would be ridiculous to eat a menu, confusing it for the meal, we consumers of personal development often eat up the inspiration instead of being nourished by the actions required to make real change—most of which are completely free.
One of my values is frugality—using your life, time, and money well due to the recognition that all of the above are limited resources. Now this doesn’t mean I’m a “freegan” or a freetard. It is reasonable to charge money for your product or service. Indeed, often times purchasing something—a book, a therapy session, a piece of exercise equipment, etc.—can be the best use of one’s time and money. A single kettlebell might cost $70 including tax and shipping, but if you used it every day for a year it could save hundreds over a gym membership…and still be in perfect condition to resell if you didn’t like it, or wanted a heavier one.
Leo B. also advocates for frugality, minimalism, and simplicity. For instance once of the “free bonuses” for The Habit Course comes from Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar. (I like that his bonus has a “$2 value”—the most honest assessment of any bonus I’ve seen in a marketing launch like this.) Yet the $497 price tag is hardly a fit for the frugal personal development consumer. Like Leo’s love of this minimalist mansion (which he said in the comments he has since retracted), his stated values and his actions seem to be once again incongruent. While there is a money-back guarantee after week 1 if you don’t like it, I just can’t see any benefits above maybe $50 from a 28-day course on such a generic, well-known subject as habit formation. Why not just keep it simple and offer less?
My recommendation? If you want to learn about changing habits, get a book from your local library on the subject, or purchase just one physical book that you can resell on Amazon afterwards. Read it and test the principles in your real life with at least three habits. Refine your process based on real feedback. Cost: $0-$10 + a lot of hard work, a savings of $487 or more. Either way the bulk of real change comes from that hard work part, so why not invest that $500 instead? If you invested $500 a year instead of spending it on products like this, at a mere 5% return over 20 years you’d have over $18,000 extra bucks!
If you find that idea insufficient, I have an additional program for you, dear reader. Instead of giving Leo and friends your $500, give it to me. Send $500 by PayPal to andrewmcduffee at gmail and tell me the habit you want to keep for the next 28 days. If you keep it to your satisfaction, you get all your money back (minus the interchange fees). If you don’t, I keep the money. You can’t beat that deal for it’s simple effectiveness!
To summarize, a wise man once said, “Stop buying the unnecessary.”
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