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 selfimprovement. 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 SelfImprovement: Ten Timeless Truths. Anna and I begin our conversation with how the idea of selfimprovement, 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 selfimprovementself-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 selfimprovement 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 PetersonBildungAoM Podcast #614 with Stephen Hayes, founder of Acceptance and Commitment therapyAoM Podcast #746: The Confucian GentlemanAoM Podcast #148: Trying Not to TryHow to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale CarnegieAnna’s favorite selfimprovement books:>Meditations by Marcus AureliusThe Happiness Trap by Russ HarrisMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor FranklThe Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Connect with Anna Schaffner

Anna’s Personal WebsiteAnna’s Coaching Website

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The post Podcast #818: The Philosophy of Self-Improvement appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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