Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Steve Pavlina and Self-Delusion

On the train today I listened to podcasts from Steve Pavlina, a self-development expert. Steve worked as a computer game programmer for 10 years before realizing that his calling was in self-development, so he quit and devoted himself to maintaining a self-developmet website full time. Apparently he makes $9000 per month on advertising revenue, which is pretty good. I make nowhere near that amount. In fact, I make nothing from this blog. I've tried putting ads up but I think it makes the site look very poor. Plus I wasn't earning anything, so I didn't think it was worth it.

What strikes me about Pavlina's advice is that he seems to advocate self-delusion. He believes that it is important to an individual to modify his own model of reality to suit himself. The most unusual example of this behavior is found in his polytheism. In Podcast 13: Beyond Religion, Steve claims that he was raised Catholic and then became an atheist in his late teens and then he became an agnostic. Now he embraces multiple religions, including Buddhism, which he talks about a lot. What is odd is that he switches from one religion to another. For example, he claims that in his business life he is an atheist and when he is in relationships he is Buddhist. This I believe is just crazy. Religion is not a tool. Religion is a system of how you perceive reality. If you change your religion then you change your understanding of truth and reality. If your reality changes from one minute to the next then your thoughts will run the risk of being inconsistent or illogical, which can lead to serious error.

Another problem is that Pavlina assumes that different worlds exist separately and independently. For example, the "business world" is separate from the "relationship world." However, this is not the case. Business is defined as trade between two people. Person A has something of value like an apple and sells it to Person B who gives money in return for the apple. There is an exchange of goods of value, and exchange of apples for currency. A relationship is the same thing. When you buy an apple from the grocery store, you are engaging in a relationship with the seller. When you network to increase business opportunities, you are engaging in relationships. A relationship that a man may have with a woman may also have a trade or business aspect to it. There may be a bilateral exchange of multiple goods and services over a period of time, e.g. sexual services, flowers, cash, and housework. Economist Gary Becker's book A Treatise on the Family explains how relationships in families can be explained using economic theory.

The theme of self-delusion is pervasive in Pavlina's podcasts. In Podcast 8: Overcoming Fear he claims that is something makes you fearful or anxious, simply modify your model of reality so that it does not make you fearful or anxious. He says similar things in Podcast 11: Raising Awareness Through Multiple Perspectives.

With all the self-delusion he prescribes, it is amazing then that in Podcast 16: The True Nature of Reality, Pavlina tells us to simply accept reality no matter how bad it makes you feel.


Gilbert said...

Nice post. I appreciate what Steve has done in the past, as he might put it, "I'm vibrating at a higher frequency now." Where I once found him to be insightful, I now find him inaccurate or irritating.

Anonymous said...

'If your reality changes from one minute to the next then your thoughts will run the risk of being inconsistent or illogical, which can lead to serious error.'

Not really. If most people are paying attention they will see that change occurs almost daily. You need to find different ways of dealing with that change. Not every outlook works for every challenge or problem and so you find the best solution. I would say that it's illogical to keep the same mindset if it doesn't work for you or if it holds you back. I also disagree that religion is not a tool. Every system (whether religious or cultural)has useful ideas and you are free to pick and choose as you like without being devoted to one. Why not if it works for you?

What is it that makes you think that one perspective is more 'real' than another? I think if you call someone else's perspective on life delusional then you ought to give yourself the same label...unless you think you're being 'real'?! All that is important is whether or not a perspective is useful (and/or enjoyable).

P said...

I think you misunderstood the ideas of Steve Pavlina. Then again, he does say that he's not in the business of convincing people of anything. He's just presenting ideas. It's too bad when people misconstrue his ideas because there is something to the way he sees the world around him.