If you are interested in self-improvement—a broad category which could mean anything from focusing on success to spiritual self-expansion to learning new skills—there is no reason it should cost a ton of money to do. Not when there are so many low-cost or free options out there:
1) YouTube: There is an insane amount of self-improvement content on YouTube, both in terms of videos and just audio. Even if you are being on your best behavior and avoiding all the “unofficially uploaded” material, there’s still tons of stuff to watch & sample in terms of how-tos, advice, etc. I mean, entire archives of lectures from colleges and organizations, people essentially making audiobooks out of all the public domain self-improvement tomes of the early last century, cool animated shorts on depression and other specific concerns, step-by-step instructions to learn basic survival skills, and a lot more.
I watch/listen to so much on YouTube—easily more than Netflix—that I’ve finally shelled out the $10 a month for the YouTube Red (not to be confused with RedTube) to remove all the commercials and allow it to play while I’m doing other things on my phone. You absolutely don’t have to do this to get a lot out of self-improvement stuff on YouTube, but I find if you are using it as heavily as I do—specifically as basically podcasts while doing other stuff—it helps a lot (because all those ads and even first 4 seconds of ads just = a lot of time I’ll never get back again).
2) Cheap And Free Books: Here’s a secret I’ve learned over many years of looking for this stuff—you will likely find any popular “bestseller” self-improvement book at garage sales, thrift shops, or given away for free at exchange centers or even by the trash. You rarely need to pay full price for these books—unless you personally want one that is brand-new. These types of books were made with such staggeringly high print runs—and were purchased by everyone and their mother at the time of their popularity—that nowadays, you literally can find them given away at the side of the road (happened to me many times).
What type of books are we talking about? Stuff like The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, The Power Of Positive Thinking, The Seat Of The Soul, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, The Four Agreements, and The Alchemist—all books I either found for free or paid less than a $1 for (The Alchemist on two different occasions). And then on top of that, I’ve found/bought lots more diverse and interesting books on improvement, success, spirituality, business, and etc. this way. It’s almost like if you set your “intention” to find these books…they sort of come to you.
3) Promotional Giveaways From Coaches And Services: Here is another area where you can pretty much become overwhelmed by the number of free options to explore. Many life coaches, “success gurus,” and organizations/companies who sell these types of services offer promotional giveaways to reach out to new potential customers and expand their email mailing list. These types of resources include free ebooks, portions of videos, and even live “conference call” lectures.
The catch is, of course, that you may get a bit of a “hard sell” at points—and receive a lot of promotional emails. Discernment is key (as I’ll discuss at the end of this post). But you do get exposed to a diversity of different approaches and teachers—and you might even decide that one of them has the right mix of methodology & cost for you (or not).
4) Places Of Worship: Here’s another option, if you are so inclined, that can provide helpful free (or by optional donation) insight and advice. While some churches & other religious centers might be filled with stomach-churning dogma, others can provide surprisingly secular, practical, and life-affirming input. Asking around with people you know or doing some research on the internet about local congregations that fit in with your point of view can be helpful.
And the best part with this, as opposed to the video/book route: you’re out-of-doors and with other people.
5) “Meetups”: Another great way to both move forward on your self-improvement quest and have a social activity is to use some of the reputable online “meetup” services that connect people to groups meeting in person in the general area. These are generally pretty easy-breezy no-commitment type things you can sample until you find a group that works for you. Some feature lectures, activities, workshops, or just discussions on a certain topic.
I’ve used Meetup.com a bunch of times, and it has worked really good for me. Certainly, you should use discretion & common sense; for example, if you sign up to go to one of these and see, through its Meetup board, that only one other person is attending (and it’s the host)…you know, maybe that could get awkward. Also, some of these groups end up being really “intros” to the services of a coach or whatnot, which is fine—though you might get the “hard sell,” so be aware.
6) Libraries: There’s the obvious appeal of libraries—you know, “free books”—but many of the larger ones will have a bunch of other resources you can use. Some of these libraries are essentially the “hub” of the community, a place where you can get job training, legal forms, access to research volumes and databases, and a lot more. Some may offer their space free to other groups who might have lecture series, classes, etc.
And then there are the bulletin boards and “flier areas,” which may contain a nice snapshot of what local services/groups/classes/etc. are around (coffee shops are good for this too).
7) Message Boards: We’re talking here online support groups, bulletin boards, chats, and so on. Like YouTube, there are so many of these that it boggles the mind.
Reddit gets a bad rap sometimes, but there are good groups (subreddits) there to subscribe to that match your interests or support needs—and you can choose to go pretty much completely anonymous if you want/need to. There’s also a bunch of other message boards that can provide you with a wealth of information and links to further resources—the keys to finding the best ones are a) how recently they’ve had new posts and b) moderation quality. Like the “open internet” in general, there’s going to be some “bad apples” and crappy people, but a good board will navigate that out.
8) Online Archives: And yet ANOTHER totally free wealth of information and resources! Places like The Internet Archive, OpenCulture, The Internet Sacred Text Archive, and so much more. You could spend months going through all this stuff. The biggest problem for you would be deciding where to start. Many thinkers, philosophers, specific spiritual movements etc. will probably their own online archive(s) of documents and audio/video that you can access for free.
9) Online Classes: This is simply an untapped goldmine of self-improvement and skill-building opportunities. Many colleges and universities—and I’m not just talking about the weird “online only” ones, but like real places—offer entire semesters of classes for free on the internet. Some even provide online groups where the students can interact, and even some sort of “professor help” if needed. While a number of these classes offer “certification” and “degree” premiums where you have to pay, you could just take the entire semester for free if you really wanted to.
I can recommend Coursera, which provides an impressive variety of classes from places like Princeton, Stanford, and Duke.I took a class on Nutrition 101 from them & it was GREAT—very much what you would get at a college. Here is the link to their Personal Development section. Another place which has good classes, especially a variety on personal development and spirituality is Udemy. They do charge for their classes, but seem to have this perpetual “$10” sale. I purchased a few of their courses using these sales, and they were fine.
10) Ask People You Know And Trust: Sometimes…it’s really that simple. For example, say you have a friend who has really done an amazing job with sticking to a physical fitness regimen and has turned their life around…ask them how they did it. Or somebody else had quit their 9 to 5 job to follow their dream, and they’re actually succeeding: treat that person to coffee or lunch and sincerely ask them for advice on how you can do the same. And of course: these are the people you can turn to for recommendations on classes, books, services, and etc.
As I wrap this all up, one word about Discernment. As you go along your personal quest, you’re going to see a lot of options available to you. A lot of doors, groups, mindsets, philosophies, gurus, and etc. Use discernment, critical thinking, and your intuition to navigate through all this. You will encounter a lot of supportive and interesting people, but also a % that may try to manipulate you and try to sign you up for a $3999.99 “package.” Don’t let the fear of possible negative outcomes keep you from exploring, but keep your head.
Hope this was helpful. Good luck!
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
Small Changes Lead To Big Changes
Re-Cyling: Why Things In Your Life Seem To Repeat Themselves
Hidden Wizards: Napoleon Hill and Norman Vincent Peale