Why people love a good novel, a good movie, will sit around a campfire spell-bound by a good story-teller - this is how people learn. People want diversity in their lives so that they can learn and improve their lot - so they can evolve.
People are constantly comparing their own story line to others around them. When someone is listening raptly to someone on a lunch-counter stool telling (or retelling) how that "big one got away", he is really living that other person's life as he tells it.
And then, for sometimes days after, the person is thinking through that same story over and over in his mind. This is just what happens when you go see a movie or watch a video/DVD in your own home. You'll review details of this story in your mind, over and over, until you have the whole thing figured out. And what you don't figure out immediately, you will set aside - and probably find a reason to watch that movie again.
The interesting point is that the basic plot for all our lives and those of others - as well as all the classic myths, legends, and Hollywood blockbusters - are all variations of one theme.
The basic story-plot was figured out by the mythologist Joseph Campbell, who laid out the entire story line, with all it's twists and options. (In his "Hero with a Thousand Faces", the inspiration for the Star Wars saga.)
This same plot tells a person's road map and what steps the individual needs to take to succeed in any enterprise and in life itself. The short version of this book is outlined in a now-famous memo, "A Practical Guide to The Hero With A Thousand Faces". (I've found the book entertaining, but not any quick read - the summary cuts to the quick.)
Here's the short summary, for use in understanding this story line here:
"The Short Form of the Hero Story:
"The hero is introduced in his ordinary world, where he receives the call to adventure. He is reluctant at first but is encouraged by the wise old man or woman to cross the first threshold, where he encounters tests and helpers. He reaches the innermost cave, where he endures the supreme ordeal. He seizes the sword or the treasure and is pursued on the road back to his world. He is resurrected and transformed by his experience. He returns to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or elixir to benefit his world."
If you really take this whole story apart, you will see that people do indeed follow this plot. People who seemingly do not, have simply fallen off the road at a couple of points - the main one is refusing the call to adventure. Other places would be to consider to have failed the various tests and so stick one's life in that failure.
Any life-story can be analyzed on the above sequence of actions. Any project, large or small, goes through a similar cycle. This makes far more sense when you read the book against that idea.
All of self-help then is based on this life-story plot. People might receive that call to adventure when they find a certain book or tape which intrigues them. If they don't accept the call, they never make the journey. And are stuck in Mundania forever.
Now our industrial society doesn't particularly want people to make that journey. And the socialists among us have made it very safe to not make that journey. With all the taxes and insurance and health care, you can simply do a wage-slave job for all of your life, which will keep you poor and on the edge constantly - needing these proffered "services".
So you'll need all the handouts you can get. It is a form of slavery, like being locked in the harem polishing the marble and staying out of the way. Much like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - they paint it continually, from one end to the other. Once they finish, the paint is pealing on the other end and so they have to start again.
Life and living was never meant to be anything but an adventure. Others have laid traps for us where we can simply do very little at work, watch TV when at home, raise our kids to do the same - and maybe go to church on Sunday. You might want to own a boat to take it to the lake on weekends. And when you die, the government taxes take almost everything after the Life Insurance pays off your debts. That's the way it's set up.
Now you can make choices to kick over those traces. By simply saving 10 percent of what you make, you can have over a million dollars in the bank when you retire - regardless of anything else. If you take another 10 percent (and now you can live on 80% if you have to) and invest this in venues which will bring back at least 10 percent annually (such as real estate rentals or gold) you will be very well off by the time you retire.
(One person's retirement plan was to buy one or two houses a year and rent them out for more than the mortgage and upkeep expenses. Once he got 40 houses, he sold 20 to pay off the rest. In this rural area, this would modernly give you a monthly income of $8K. Even if you figure that our politicians and their taxes will make you give up half of that, you'll still wind up with over $40K annual income - and only really have to work about 2 days a month at this. Nice retirement plan. And as rents and property only go up every year, your income keeps pace with any inflation, year in and year out.)
But unless one opens their eyes and looks for the opportunities - taking them when presented - you won't be able to take the hero's journey.
And when you do finish this life-journey, you will return with treasures that not only improve your world, but can improve the world of those around you. Self-improvement is really only that same track, that same route. Accept the challenge, slay your own dragons, pass all your tests, and then come back with the magic elixir or treasure or boon to the world.
It begins with accepting the thrown gauntlet, the option, the choice. It ends with winning a whole new world for yourself.
The other option is to continue on, haunted and beleaguered by the demons and ogres of modern Mundania - until you finally die, exhausted and worn down to a mere shadow.