Manage episode 334287699 series 2583350
There are thousands of books, podcasts, and social media posts about how to be more productive, strengthen your relationships, find your purpose, and be your all-around best self. And there are legions of programs and seminars out there designed to help you improve your life. All together, self-help represents a multi-billion dollar industry.
But despite its ubiquity and cultural influence, you may never have thought about the deeper underpinnings of self-improvement. My guest has. In fact, her research led her to add being a life coach to her academic work as a professor of cultural history, surely creating one of the most unique career combinations. Her name is Anna Schaffner and she's the author of The Art of Self-Improvement: Ten Timeless Truths. Anna and I begin our conversation with how the idea of self-improvement, far from being a recent, Western phenomenon, traces back to antiquity and can be found across cultures. We discuss how self-help reflects what a culture values, and changes based on a culture's conception of selfhood, agency, and the relationship between the individual and society. From there we turn to a few of the timeless principles of self-improvement — self-control, being virtuous, and building positive relationships — looking both at how they were tackled anciently, as well as more modern angles that can also be helpful. We discuss the downside of taking a strictly Stoic approach to life, the idea of making virtue a habit, and how Dale Carnegie can be seen as a modern Machiavelli, in a good way. We end our conversation with Anna's four favorite self-improvement books.
Resources Related to the Podcast
- Anna's previous appearance on the show — Episode #476: Are Modern People the Most Exhausted in History?
- AoM Podcast #377: 12 Rules for Life With Jordan Peterson
- AoM Podcast #614 with Stephen Hayes, founder of Acceptance and Commitment therapy
- AoM Podcast #746: The Confucian Gentleman
- AoM Podcast #148: Trying Not to Try
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Anna's favorite self-improvement books:
Connect with Anna Schaffner