Self-help techniques and paraphernalia get a bad rap. Sometimes we judge others who seek out help as being devoid of something, whether it be on an intellectual, physical, or spiritual level. However, the size of the overall self-help industry is worth around $9 billion annually.
Odd, isn’t it? Why do we want to pretend like we think self-help, also known as “self-development” or “self-improvement”, is a lowly thing, when we are literally buying it on a mass scale?
Should the items on the list below be considered as avenues for “self-help”?
- Online Courses
- Wearable Devices
- Social Media
Technology is noticeably the essential component of the items on this list; and all the items listed yield data and or information.
We should think about the role technology plays in the betterment of our livelihoods. When we use a device like a Fitbit to help us follow fitness goals, should we consider that “self-help”? Should we consider it “self-help” when we watch a spiritual leader’s most recent podcast, or tune in to a webinar on marketing trends for our professional development? Why or why not?
Is it critical to rely solely on the data and information that technology yields to us for self-improvement, or is it simply more convenient to have an app track everything for us?
MEDITATE ABOUT THIS: Is technology an accessory to our self-help goals, simply making it easier to attain our goals? Or is technology necessary to attaining our self-help goals, where we can’t improve ourselves or our lives without it?
Let’s take some examples from the list above to see if we can determine if they are necessary to our intellectual, physical, or spiritual improvement…or just nice to have as an accessory.
Intellectual Self-Improvement & Technology
Online learning through webinars and on-demand classes are more prevalent than ever. If we are trying to expand our knowledge in a certain area of expertise, is it even possible to do so without the Internet and information that is hosted online? Perhaps. But not if we want to ensure we have the most relevant and up-to-date information.
While books are still printed and sold in large quantities, we can’t deny that the avenues in which we educate ourselves are majorly held online now, and are digital. Books are now a supplement to a course, not the main instrument from which a course is derived. With the widespread use of search engines, on-demand courses, testing platforms, conferencing tools, mobile tutoring apps, and virtual webinars, technology is a major component behind how we learn more and improve our skills.
Are we able to improve our expertise without technology?
Physical Self-Improvement & Technology
The Fitbit is a popular device people wear in order to track their heart rates when they move, how often they move, as well as their sleeping patterns. It is part of a trend of wearable technology and apps that track one’s fitness goals so that they can increase their physical activity levels and get in better shape.
Some may argue that we don’t necessarily need wearable technology or apps to make sure we get to the gym on a regular basis. And while that may be true to some extent, it’s important to consider where we would be without devices such as the Fitbit. Counting the calories we consume and the pounds we lose is not necessarily a foolproof way to assess our health. The human body is complex and many factors need to be considered when gauging one’s physical health.
Sure, we could follow a human personal trainer’s planned sessions, but if we don’t have real-time data on our physical state, reminders, and reports, then how are we calculating physical improvement?
Spiritual Self-Improvement & Technology
Self-help e-books and podcasts abound; here’s a short list published by the Huffington Post.
We seek out media that allows us to explore big questions or change the current state of our emotional well-being, content that inspires us. The best part is, we can engage with others and share these pieces of media online through social networks.
Many people still go to a physical location for worship and prayer, or attend motivational talks held at conference centers. However, the digital media used for spiritual self-help online, or even the media used at large talks held in conference centers, assists with the proliferation and sharing of spiritual improvement of the self.
Is it possible to grow spiritually without utilizing digital information for knowledge attainment, and to be part of a spiritual community? Are podcasts and similar media a major force behind how we have come to understand the ways in which we can improve and practice spirituality?
We can certainly read a book to increase our skill levels, go to the gym on a regular basis without tracking anything on a device, and seek out spiritual confidence without podcasts and digital media. But, can we be the best we can be intellectually, physically, or spiritually without technology at all?
If we are seeking ways to improve ourselves, can we do so without the help of technology in the world we live in now?
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Every day a new smartphone app crosses our digital path. Google Play for Android has over 1.5 million apps and the Apple store has over 1.2 million (source). The IoT (Internet of Things) movement is flourishing, as well. In 2015, Gartner predicted that by 2016, 6.4 billion “things” (everything from your coffee pot to your office printer) will be connected to the Internet (source).
Need to get a grocery list together, organized by where certain items are located in the grocery store you frequent? There’s an app for that. Need to communicate with your remote team on a particular project while you are away on a business trip, but you don’t want to bombard their inboxes in the middle of the night? There’s an app for that too. You can even print out items for your team meeting from your smartphone when you are commuting to the office so that your reports are ready when you arrive (hopefully, for everyone’s safety, you’re on a train or in a cab when you do this).
This sounds terrific! We can do everything faster and more conveniently than ever before, at work and in our personal lives. We’re always connected to our teams and have limitless ways to be more productive and save time. And this is all made possible through the Internet and our smartphones. Great! But…
Let’s pause and meditate about this for a moment before we continue downloading the most recent productivity app. Let’s think about why we feel this need to be connected to the Internet all the time across all devices, why we feel the need to track our every movement and plan, and why we think that it makes us more productive. I’m starting to wonder if it does. And I know that I’m not the only one. (Total disclosure: I have 6 productivity apps on my smartphone at the moment, not including all the Microsoft Office products I use. So… I am trying to play the “devil’s advocate” here and think about this from all angles.)
While a number of enterprises and companies attempt to go mobile so that their workforce can be on the go, sometimes it causes problems because there isn’t just one single app for everything that needs to be done for a project, or for someone in a certain role. As highlighted in this article , typically apps aren’t comprehensive and only contain singular functions. For instance, you have an app for writing documents, and another one for editing it, and yet another one for financial spreadsheets, and another one for team communications, and yet another one for a project calendar. This doesn’t seem to be conducive to being more productive because you have to constantly learn different apps each time you are attempting a different type of task, and you always have to open and close apps to get what you need done… and then you have to remember to sync them all!
According to a study conducted by Pew Research, 46% of workers feel more productive because they have access to the Internet, email, and smartphones. However, only 2% of total time spent on mobile apps is used for the purpose of being more productive (infographic source). There are also a multitude of apps being created that monitor our activity on the Internet and shut down our access to the Internet so that we can be more productive; here’s a list of some of them. So there’s an app that makes sure we don’t use other apps.
Nowadays, we are constantly being sold this idea that we need to be more productive, at work and in our personal lives. We need to do more, quicker, cheaper, and on the go with our mobile devices. How? There’s an app for that. And the apps all notify us, every minute of every day, that we need to be doing something.
There are so many apps intended to make us more productive that I couldn’t even count the number of productivity apps available for download in the Play Store on my Android device. And when I searched the Google Play Store for a simple grocery shopping list organizer, there were 24 results! This doesn’t even include the options that are available in the Apple store.
For those of us who live and breathe simply to discover the newest app or productivity software, 24 apps for a category may not seem that high. However, if you’re like many Americans, you don’t live simply to discover the newest and greatest app. According to another Pew Research study, over 60% of Americans don’t flock to adopting new technology and wait until it has been on the market for a while (there a variety of contributing factors for this).
There have also been many movements, articles, and pleas (made by people other than our family members born before the 1960’s) about disconnecting ourselves from our devices entirely every now and then so that we can be more productive and less stressed out. Here are a couple of resources to consider: Why unplugging can lead to happier, more productive workers , Why You Need To Unplug Every 90 Minutes
So, after you meditate on this, will you go download an app, or unplug entirely? Perhaps the best way to be productive is somewhere in between…
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June is now officially recognized as National Great Outdoors Month.
While we recognize this month, we’ll tell ourselves that we need to leave our tablets and smartphones back at home or the cabin as we hike the Appalachian Trail (or part of it), fish in the stream in our backyard, bike our way through the vast plains, or launch our boat from the nearby marina.
It’s summer time now and we all want to be outside. We may not all, however, want to leave our beloved gadgets and apps behind. We have photos and stories to share with the world! And we know we can’t leave emails from our boss or potential clients neglected for too long.
We think about what photos and moments we want to capture and share on social media as we hike along…
It’s no secret that technology pervades every aspect of our lives; how we work, where we work, how we learn, how we communicate. The list goes on and on…
And with the constant innovation of new phone apps, gizmos and gadgets, we are all being told now that we should disconnect more frequently from our devices and social media accounts.
Being glued to our screens constantly shrinks our brains, makes us lazy thinkers, makes us suffer from “text claw” and could wreck our spines, makes us emotionally unstable because we are getting lonely and sad as we scroll through our Facebook feeds, and makes us more irritable because we aren’t sleeping due to our circadian rhythm being all out of whack… so they* say.
*“they” here is referring to those individuals who conduct medical and psychological studies regarding effects of technology use on us mortals who all need to constantly remember to lead healthier and more balanced lifestyles (whatever that means) … far, far away from blue screens that haunt us at night as we try to sleep but can’t escape… from the addictive power of Netflix.
While all of that might be true… just for a few moments, I’d like to think about how technology could bring us closer to nature.
And while we should definitely experience the outdoors more while the sun is out in full force, I would like to pose two questions for meditation:
1- Should we view technology and nature as opposites? (Man vs Machine)
2- In order to take full advantage of the great outdoors and appreciate it, do we need to leave all of our gizmos, gadgets, devices, and apps behind?
Perhaps we should consider a different perspective, where nature and technology meet; a perspective where technology not only allows us to appreciate the great outdoors more, but can even potentially save a life and make our lives more fulfilling, while we’re surrounded by fresh foliage and chirping herons.
Consider the following before you go explore the great outdoors:
- The American Red Cross mobile apps provide information for:
- Administering first aid (even for Rover, your furry pal who’s hiking with you)
- Local weather patterns
- How to prepare for a natural disaster
- There are apps that allow you to navigate the terrain in front of you before you attempt to tackle it, so you don’t encounter terrain that you aren’t prepared to cover or that has changed due to recent weather (source). And let’s not forget the often taken for granted GPS. You know, Google even has maps for a lot more than city streets (google it).
- And in order to enhance our outdoor experiences and to really immerse ourselves in the environment around us, we can use the bird identifying app , and apps that identify plants.
- And luckily, we have entities that provide us with gizmos and gadgets specifically for the outdoors that won’t easily become damaged. There are even options that spies could use. That is, if spies actually camp. I don’t remember James Bond ever camping…
Even though the above list is short, it exemplifies how technology can potentially bring us even closer to appreciating our experiences in the outdoors (opposed to the trending theme that blue screens are evil and will kill us all).
What do you think? Do you have an app or device that you love to use when in the great outdoors; that allows you to appreciate nature more than you would without it? Or do you believe in the sanctity of disconnecting completely while you listen to birds singing and the nearby brook babble?
During the holiday season it has become tradition to travel across the country to visit family and friends. We cook wonderful and elaborate meals, fill our plates with too much food, pepper our social media feeds with what we are thankful for and cute photos of our kids and or pets in festive garb. Many of us rush out the door during the early hours the Friday after Thanksgiving to wait in lines at superstores to get the best deals. And after arriving home frazzled and drained, I am sure the promise to never forget about what the holiday season is actually all about is uttered… that is, until Cyber Monday rolls around. And then we spend the next few weeks panicking about what to buy others and what type of drink options to have at the party we’re hosting, while trying to squeeze attending our coworker’s charity fund raiser into our schedule that is already filled with lunch meetings, holiday plays, and potlucks.
Stress is unavoidable during the holiday season. The below list of apps is here to help you stay focused on what I believe most of us believe the holiday season is all about… GIVING and BEING CONNECTED. Even while you are busy, these apps make it easy to give and stay connected.
All apps listed are available on iOS and Android devices for free unless otherwise notated.
Their slogan: “Elfster is a FREE gift exchange website to make gift-giving easier. We make Christmas, holidays and other gift exchanges free, easy, and fun!”
Through this app, you can get gift ideas for friends and loved ones in the “shop” section that is arranged by categories of interest, price range, and even links to items on Amazon and Etsy. You can also set up a Secret Santa gift exchange, as well as utilize their free online giving platform for your family and friends, local community, charities, and business. Additionally, you can share gift wish lists with family members and friends so they know not only what you want but where to get it.
Their slogan: “Raise money for charity when you walk, run, or bike.”
Through this app, bikers earn up to 10¢ per mile; walkers and runners earn up to 25¢ per mile. Select which charity you’d like to run, walk, or bike for and press “start.” The app tracks your distance and earns money for the organization you selected. Organizations include, Feeding America, Autism Speaks, DoSomething.org and more. This is a great way to earn money for an organization during the holiday season (and even after) while staying fit or just walking the dog.
Their slogan: “One app, any cause, any time.”
If you are traveling during the holidays, this app makes it easy to donate to a cause that is important to you while you are on the go. You only have to follow three easy steps: 1) Choose a donation amount 2) Select the fundraising campaign to which you’d like to contribute, and 3) tap “Give Now”. This app also makes it incredibly easy for those who are leading fundraising and donation campaigns to track details so that when tax time rolls around you have all the information you need in reports.
These apps allow you to decorate a Christmas tree and share it with others through social media, email, and SMS. This is a great idea for those family members who won’t be able to come over to trim the tree with you this year. It can also keep the kids occupied.
Their Slogan: “Share your world & watch live video with just your phone.”
If you want to share video of your kids opening their gifts, playing in the snow, or singing in the choir, this app helps you capture and share these timeless moments. It’s also a great way to share your moments, in live action, with family and friends who are on the other side of the country or world.
6. Pinterest is a great platform to use for sharing holiday recipes with others, and to get ideas for new traditions; for instance, gingerbread cheesecake bites. There are also a lot of great ideas for decorating the house and hosting parties.
There are so many apps out there for the holidays. Share your favorite app to use during the holidays with others, below.