The self-help, self-improvement, self-whatever industry has certainly made a lot of money off of peoples desires to be more than they are. We all have that desire in one form or another. Some people want to improve their intelligence so they work on math skills and general problem solving. Some want to improve their heath so they join a gym. Whatever you want to improve you will find hundreds of books, videos and articles on it.
It is no different spiritually. Many people want to know more, be more but often we run out of energy or desire. Spiritual practices take too much effort or cost too much or just get boring. The fact is, we don't have very much determination and stamina. Apostle Paul said of these things:
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:22)
He also says of them:
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (v. 23)
People may have been a little more extreme in Paul's day about self-improvement but the basic principles are there: a desire to improve on ourselves by controlling our desires.
Most self-improvement principles are based on self-discipline and self-control, when we take control over those things that control us. It could be our appetite, tv watching, sex, swearing, bad thoughts, or anything that we are trying get a handle on. Most people don't realize that these are all provoked by our sin nature and there is no controlling that.
The Word of God makes it clear that mankind is enslaved to the sin nature. No matter what we try we cannot escape from this nature. We may make small inroads if we are really determined but we will always be disappointed in the results. We may be able to get our body in shape but it will not improve our character. We may manage to improve on our intellectual capacity but it will not improve our wisdom. We may be able to influence a few surface things but it will not deal with the underlying nature of indulgence.
There is only one power that can deal with the sin nature and that is Jesus Christ. It is what the cross was all about. If we could have done it ourselves God would not have had to sacrifice himself to rescue us. In the letter to the Romans Paul describes what it is to be controlled by the sin nature and he concludes with this:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
The sad thing is that sometimes we think we have let Jesus rescue us but in fact we are still amongst the self-help group. The only way to allow Jesus to rescue us is to completely give up to him, to surrender it all, to allow his power to take over and to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. When we learn to "Be still" we will discover the power of Jesus. As long as we are trying to rescue ourselves we are getting in the way of the real rescuer.
Stop trying to conform and allow Jesus Christ to transform!