How Self-help Really Works – The ASASA Model

In the Bad Mindset Pack, we said that if you had some traumatic past, you get a lot of these bad mindsets, and all these mindsets are rooted in insecurity.

In Why Self-help Books Fail To Help, I give three reasons why after all the self-help content you consumed, nothing really changed much. And the last reason is, changing people’s minds is difficult by default.

So how do you really change these mindsets?

This is where we talk about this final problem in general, the How.

The Common Self-help Process

How we get the bad mindsets (anxiety, overthinking……) is a 3-step process:

Childhood trauma + Later Setbacks → Fear (Insecurity) → Bad mindsets

The common process that people self-help themselves out of the mud is like this:

  1. Awareness. The self-help journey always starts with awareness, when at a certain point people realize that they have a problem, and they need help.
  2. Think. Then they normally start to think a lot by themselves, trying to figure out what’s wrong. But this usually doesn’t help much, as these mindset problems are kind of complicated.
  3. Search. Then they search for help. By searching on the internet, or asking people who seem to know how to deal with these emotional setbacks, they step into this self-help field. Then they start to read books, blogs, watch videos, and follow some self-help teachers.
  4. Learn. Then they start to know what their problem is, how they get these mindsets, what are the right mindsets and how to get them.
  5. Practice. They start to do the practices they have learned, such as affirmation, reflection, contemplation, journaling, and meditation.
  6. People. For part of self-help seekers, they start to meet someone in their lives, and these people may have a bigger impact on changing their mindsets than all the self-help stuff they learned.

This is how people normally self-helped successfully. But what happened during this process? How does self-help work?

How Self-help Works – The ASASA Model

Self-help works in a 5 step process, which I call The ASASA Model.


Awareness → See reality Accept reality → Security → Appreciation

1. Awareness. The first step of change is to be aware that you have a problem.

2. See reality. The second step is to see reality more clearly. Traumatized people have bad mindsets that cause them to live in constant worry and pain, so they tend to picture the world as a miserable place. So first we need to see clearly what reality really is. There are two substeps to see reality: to KNOW reality and to FEEL reality.

  • Know Reality. This is what the Learning part does. After learning a lot of self-help stuff, you start to know that reality is better than what you think, what you perceived as reality is not real but distorted by your bad mindsets. You realize that most of your fear is imagined and would not happen. You start to know what caused your pain, what’re the right mindsets and how to cultivate them. This step is to KNOW the reality LOGICALLY, but you are not really convinced by a lot of what you learned. You do this by stepping into this self-help field. You start to read books, blogs, watch videos, and follow some teachers in self-help.
  • Feel reality. This is what the Practicing part does. In this stage, you start to FEEL the reality EMOTIONALLY. You also start to calm down and slow down. Meditation plays a big part in this.

3. Accept reality. Then you start to accept reality as it is. You realize that reality is actually better than what you thought. You also start to lower your expectation, and boy, everything that once sucks now glows. You also start to discard perfectionism and start to be gentle with yourself.

4. Security. Next, you feel more secure, and less fearful. This is a milestone in the self-help journey, as insecurity is the root cause of all your bad mindsets. You also feel less anxiety, worry, overthinking, self-doubt, or procrastination, start to let go of the desire to control, live more in the now, and feel more grounded.

5. Appreciation. In this stage, you start to see more of the bright side of reality, feel grateful for your life, and forgive whoever and whatever once hurt you. You start to love your life and more importantly, love yourself. You start to feel that you are enough, you start to be yourself, be authentic, assertive, and give less fucks about what others think. You take responsibility and control of your life.

Then you live happily ever after. Well, not really, but your happiness baseline rises to a new level compared to before your self-help journey started.

This is the ASASA model of self-help. The whole journey is a process of mindset change. With each step you go through, you change part of your bad mindsets and cultivate good ones.

As people go through these steps, they change like this: Fear → Calm → Happy.

Self-help Toolkit

Following are all the tools you need to self-help yourself. There are two main types: theory and practice.

1. Theory

  • Core (necessary): self-help life advice.
  • More (not necessary): philosophy, psychology, biology, sociology, economics, anything that reveals how human and this world works.

2. Practice

  • Basics: Eat, drink, exercise, sleep, play, chat.
  • Core: Meditation, breath work, mindful practice, journaling, gratitude, reflection, contemplation, visualization, self-compassion, affirmation, digital detox, nature, yoga.
  • Plus: Habits, purpose, leaving toxic environments or people, and intimate relationships.

All these tools are suitable for all your mindset problems, it’s just some tools will be used more when dealing with a certain mindset problem.

Force – The Ultimate Change Drive

OK, now you know how people self-help, how self-help works, and all the tools you need to change, people should be able to be happy like being able to swim. But why did that not happen? In The Firsthand Learning Rule, I said “real knowledge is always learned by firsthand experiences, not what others say.”

What does this have to do with self-help?

It means that the major force that drives people to change is “force”, people change because they are FORCED to.

This “force” could literally be someone forcing you to do something, or something that happens passively in your life.

Let’s take a look at the ASASA model again:

Awareness → See reality Accept reality → Secure → Appreciate

People start to be aware of a problem because the problem has become so big that they have to deal with it, or someone points it out to them.

People don’t just calm down and start to see reality, they are too afraid of letting go of worrying about the future. They do it because someone forced them to, or that someone walks his talk and serves as an example or something that happened in their life hit them like a lightning strike.

People don’t just accept reality because they “know” it’s the right thing to do, as reality is often too hard to swallow. They do it because they saw someone else who did it, and it works well, or some didn’t do it and ended up ugly.

Force is actually a hidden drive for all steps of this ASASA model.

Kids don’t just listen to whatever you say, they learn by imitating what you do. So do we.

People rarely change on their own, all the major changes in anyone’s life are passive.

There are three kinds of force:

  • Something happened to you or people close to you. For example, after a burnout, you realize your current job is soul-sucking. Or after your sick father tells you all his regrets, you start to do what you like instead of leaving up to others’ expectations.
  • People in your life. Some people in your real life act or think in certain ways that inspire you. For example, you are constantly worrying, but your girlfriend somehow seems always present and happy, so you are gradually influenced and changed by her.
  • People on the internet. People who are not in your real life, but you learn from or interact with via the internet. They can also have a big impact on you, it’s just normally not as impactful as people in your real life do.

The impact of these three kinds of force decreases in the above order.

The closer someone is to you, the bigger impact they have on you.

Hope we can all be someone else’s changing force.

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