In interviews and in the Courageous Living Program, I often refer to the “self-help hamster wheel.” It’s that space where you’re spinning furiously in the world of self-help, reading books and going to workshops and trying to learn about yourself…but going nowhere. Each year it’s a new date on the calendar, and last year’s problems are still there. There’s a futility and exhaustion that starts to set in, an increasing sense of doubt.

Successful people understand how to recognize when they’re wasting time. The self-help hamster wheel? It’s a massive waste of time. Rather than endlessly searching for the “right path,” which often only ends up exactly where you started, here’s how you stop the furious race to nowhere.

The First Step

If you want to get off the self-help hamster wheel, the first step is recognizing that you’re on it.

A few clues: you endlessly buy personal development workshops/books/programs without really seeing results. You’re finding yourself more skeptical of your capacity to change, instead of more confident. If you think of a situation that you were angry about a few years ago, you can still tap into that old anger if you think too long on the circumstances. When you have a bad day or a few bad weeks, old patterns quickly resurface: the late-night binge eating, the return to that ex-boyfriend who always made you feel like shit, the inner critic bashing you for even bothering to try something new, in the first place.

Oh, and you’re tired (I firmly believe that being tired is the first sign that something in life is amiss).

Gently, get honest with yourself: if things are basically the same, then there’s relief in just admitting that. The efforts thus far haven’t panned out. When you get honest about that fact, you’re poised to change.

Second step: get ruthless

Start understanding what’s pulling your attention, and get ruthless about cutting anything that isn’t serving your vision. (Don’t have a Life Vision? Time to get one–they up the clarity and purpose factor, big time).

As an example, I recently found myself feeling stressed about how much was on my plate and like there was not enough time. At a certain point, I had to just get ruthless: it was time to start cutting out time-wasters and anything that I wasn’t ecstatically excited about.

It was not easy to cut certain things from my agenda. For reasons ranging from vanity to practicality, I had justifications for why I was doing what I’d been doing–and now I needed to get ruthless about cutting things that didn’t fit my highest vision.

If you know that your soul’s calling is asking you to shift, you’ve got to look around and see what’s currently pulling your attention. If it’s not something orienting you towards what you know you want, most, then you’ve got to cut it. These are hard choices, but it’s part of keeping yourself aligned with a life lived in ecstasy.

Third step: See one thing through.

If you really think about it, most paths are saying many of the same things. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Know what your priorities are, and make choices that align with those priorities.

The self-help hamster wheel can only keep turning because you bail. This time, finish. Review your notes from that last workshop, implement action steps for thirty days. Read the book, cover to cover, and discuss it with a friend. Complete the program. Finish every single exercise, and be 100% invested.

The chances are that it’s not the guru, the program, or the message that’s amiss. It’s your commitment to it. If you’re fully committed, you’ll get something out of it, no matter what. Buck the trend of bailing on something, and instead see it all the way through with a fervor. Tell everyone what you’re up to; ask them to join in. When you’re done, ask yourself if this time, something’s different.

All Paths Lead To You

At the end of the day, the things that aren’t working in your life won’t change because you do external things, differently. They’ll change because you feel a shift, inside. When you’re no longer on the self-help hamster wheel, your energy gets redirected towards your courageous purpose, and it’s living with a sense of purpose that will light you up and make even the challenges feel lighter.

Stoke the flames. There’s something burning within you, desiring change. That desire is healthy. You won’t get there through repentant exhaustion–only through committing to yourself.