Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Can Instantaneously Transform Your Life

Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Can Instantaneously Transform Your Life


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071601085
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 09/05/2008
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 391,016
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Ariel Kane and Shya Kane are bestselling, award-winning authors, seminar leaders, and consultants.

Read an Excerpt

Working on Yourself Doesn't Work

3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life


Copyright © 2009 ASK Productions, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-160108-5

Chapter One


Copyright © 2009 by ASK Productions, Inc. Click here for terms of use.

The choices we face today are certainly more baffling than they were a hundred years ago, when societal roles were preset and people could blindly follow the cultural prescription. Increasingly, individuals have the power to make their own way. No longer are we living in small communities with few options outside of the standards, mores, and ideals of those around us. With the advent of air travel, we can move great distances in a short period of time. Through television, other cultures and global events appear in our living rooms. Using the Internet, a vast array of information is just a click away, providing us with options and alternatives we would never have come up with on our own. No longer is gender the determining factor when choosing an occupation. As we each travel down our own unique path, questions arise: Is what I am doing right? Am I with the right person? Is this the job for me? Do I want children? Should I move? How can I be sure?

With the myriad of possibilities facing us today, we want to feel confident that our choices are good ones. We want to be strong in ourselves but not rigid. We want to feel that our lives have direction, purpose, and meaning.

Heaven on Earth is happening simultaneously with the way our lives are showing up, right now in this moment. The trick is to be able to access this coexisting state, day in, day out, moment by moment, not just when in pleasant, ideal circumstances.

We read, search, and exchange ideas in hopes of being centered, being productive, and feeling vital. We are looking for something to transform a mundane existence into an exciting, breathtaking adventure, searching for peace of mind, health, and satisfaction. What people pine for in their secret hearts has been described by sages throughout the ages as Enlightenment and Self-Realization. There are other synonyms too—nirvana, waking up, the Great Way, heaven on earth, Christ Consciousness, or realizing your Higher Self.

The two of us have spent the better part of our adult lives in search of the miraculous. We hungered for that state of being wherein satisfaction, self-expression, and creativity reside. We took countless workshops and traveled to be with masters all over the world in search of this elusive state, only to discover that Enlightenment, Self-Realization, and Self-Satisfaction coexist with our present state of being.

In the following pages, we will define the keys that open the door to living in the moment that will facilitate a transformational shift, enabling you to live a more effective, productive, and satisfying life. We will also outline impediments to living in a vitally, alive manner. But first let us present a few concepts that will support you in getting the most out of this book.


It has been said that the doors to enlightenment are guarded by two lions. One of the lions represents paradox. As you read on, you may find some ideas seem paradoxical—in other words, it may seem that we are presenting two ideas that are directly in opposition to each other. A paradox is where these two seemingly contradictory ideas can both be true. For example, take the saying "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink." One might think if there is water everywhere, of course you could drink it. Yet if you were floating in the middle of the ocean on a raft, this statement would not only be true but also make perfect sense. As you continue reading Working on Yourself Doesn't Work, if you come across ideas that seem to contradict each other, we suggest you hold your disagreement in abeyance and relax around them. As you let the ideas settle in, you may discover an expanded way of seeing that resolves the apparent opposition.

The other lion represents confusion. It is likely that you will find some of the concepts in this book confusing at first. This is a natural process because anything that is new, that is outside your current reality, will not make immediate sense.

There are two main reasons for confusion. The first is when something doesn't fit what is already known, the mind gets confused trying to find a place for it, trying to make it fit, trying to make sense out of it. The second reason is to avoid the domination of the information being presented. In other words, people get confused when information goes against an agenda they are currently holding. For example, the suggestion that you can let go of your past and it no longer has to determine how you live your life today, in this moment, can feel extremely confusing to someone who is determined to prove that his or her parents have caused irreparable damage by their child-rearing techniques. If you are committed to proving a point of view, such as "My parents screwed me up," then confusion is an effective device to avoid giving up that point of view.

In Zen, there is a term beginner's mind. In the beginner's mind there is no preconception of already knowing or having heard something before. There is only the possibility of something new, something heretofore unseen. When reading this, if you could view the information as fresh, and actually hear what we're saying, your whole life could transform in an instant.


One way to access the moment is to truly hear what others are saying. If you listen newly to each individual conversation, the act of listening can shift your life instantaneously. It does this by pulling you into the moment. And the moment is magic. Transformation happens when one gets into the current moment of now. Here is an example:

A man named Cecil was walking down Second Avenue in Manhattan one Monday evening and noticed our poster announcing an Instantaneous Transformation evening seminar. Intrigued, he came in and joined us. A rather private man, Cecil sat quietly toward the back of the room. Over the course of the evening different people stood and spoke about what was happening in their lives. One of these was a man in his early sixties, Glenn, who asked a question about the Second Principle of Instantaneous Transformation. We will present the Three Principles of Instantaneous Transformation in depth in the chapters ahead, but let us just say here that we were discussing how you can only physically be where you are in any given moment.

During this conversation we talked about how no two things can occupy the same space at the same time; in other words, no two people could be seated in the exact same chair at the exact same moment. In fact, from moment to moment, you can only be where you are and how you are. This includes your body sensations, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and life circumstances. (Again, this is the Second Principle of Instantaneous Transformation.) As the discussion continued, we talked with Glenn about how he could only be standing and having this conversation with us in that moment. He might have the thought he could be in Hawaii, for instance, but in reality he was in New York City. Cecil heard the discussion and had a direct experience of the truth of it.

One week later, Cecil returned. And here is what he had to say: "Hello, Ariel and Shya. Hello, everyone, my name is Cecil and I didn't speak last week but I listened and something remarkable has happened. I feel so free—free in a way that I never felt before. Let me explain: I come from South Africa, and two years ago my mother fell ill and she died and I was unable to be with her. I have had such tremendous guilt, such heaviness and pain. Every day I was so hard on myself that I wasn't there to hold her hand at the time of her passing. I had been berating myself for two years. Suddenly, I heard something you said to Glenn. I simply realized that I could not have been there when my mother died for no other reason than the fact that I wasn't. It wasn't good; it wasn't bad. It just was the truth. I don't know why or how this happened, but the heavy burden spontaneously lifted. I am no longer plagued by guilt. It happened in an instant. I don't understand it, but I guess I don't have to. I am very, very grateful."

If you truly listen to what somebody is saying, not by comparing what he or she is saying to what you already know or agreeing or disagreeing with what is being said, but if you are listening to hear it from the other point of view, this act of listening is enough to pull you into the moment. However, you have an incredibly facile mind. You can race ahead in your thoughts and finish another person's sentence before he or she gets to the point. Or you can take exception to a word he or she uses and stop listening altogether. If you pay attention, you will see that there are many times when you have an internal commentary on what is being said rather than just listening. If you can train yourself to hear what is being said, from the speaker's point of view, it takes you outside of time and into the current moment. This is a magical space where, once accessed, the by-product is Instantaneous Transformation.

The act of listening pulls you into the moment, and the moment is where transformation happens. Transformation is not something that happens in the future; it only happens in the present moment of now. Being fully engaged in an activity pulls you into the moment, which sets the stage for transformation. In the case of this book, we suggest reading without adding anything, such as applying it to your life while reading, agreeing or disagreeing with what is being said, or commenting to yourself as you go. The act of reading will then be akin to truly listening, and it will access the moment, thus creating the possibility of Instantaneous Transformation.

True Listening is actively listening to another with the intention of hearing what is being said from the other's point of view.


When it is grappling with something new or unfamiliar, the mind finds something it already knows, which it perceives as a reasonable facsimile, and then groups the two together. In essence, the mind compares what is new in this moment to its memory bank of moments to help it understand something, to give it a context. This is almost always off target. Comparison limits the possibility of living in the moment. At best, it cuts out the nuances of living, and it is in the nuances where the richness of life is born. At worst, our interpretations are totally inaccurate.

When a friend of ours was little, she heard the song "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean." She had never heard of a "bonnie." It wasn't in her vocabulary. So, instead, she interpreted what she heard as "My body lies over the ocean. My body lies over the sea ..." Hearing the words she thought were part of the song would always bring to her mind images of someone floating on his or her back in the calm blue ocean. Now, as an adult, she realizes that she misinterpreted the lyrics. What seemed similar or the same was not the same at all. Whether we are old or young, our minds still function like that.

Here is another example of how it works. A number of years ago we were in Quepos, Costa Rica, when Marcella told us about her new business. She works at a charter sport fishing company where we had been clients for years. Marcella is a lovely woman with wavy hair and a boisterous nature. We liked to come into her office from time to time and sit in the cool of the air-conditioning and hear tales of what the fleet of sport fishing boats had caught and released in the previous days.

On one such day, she said to us, "You must come to visit me one evening at my new business! My boyfriend and I have opened a new topless bar. It is up the hill in Manuel Antonio."

She looked so proud. We were surprised.

"Do your bosses here know that you run a topless bar?"

"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed. "Maria and Patricio are two of our best customers."

We looked at each other. How could this be? We knew the owners of the fishing company were Italian, and perhaps they were more liberal than we knew. She made a topless bar sound so normal, sort of like going to McDonald's or Applebee's.

Trying not to let our eyes dip to her chest as we imagined the scene, one of us tactfully asked, "Do you work at the bar?"

"Oh, yes, I do. Mainly weekends but often on weeknights also. We're getting very busy. You can see our restaurant on the right, just after you pass the Barba Roja restaurant. Look for it and come in. I'll give you a free drink. We have all sorts of typical Costa Rican finger foods. You'll like it. You can bring your groups too."

We had a hard time imagining bringing the participants from one of our Self-Discovery Adventures to a topless bar, but we did our best to be gracious.

We left the fishing office that day amazed that there was a topless bar near the tiny fishing village. We had been going there for years, and, although there were many drinking establishments, sports bars, and eateries, we had never heard of or seen such a thing.

As our taxi took us up the hill to our hotel we scanned the roadside for any sign of Marcella's new topless bar, but we didn't see a thing. Several trips up and down that road didn't reveal its whereabouts even though she claimed it was easy to find.

The next week we went into the fishing office for the recent news and sat once again in front of Marcella. The conversation took an unexpected turn.

"I looked for you last week at my restaurant," she said.

"Yes, we looked for the sign but didn't see it."

"I was hoping you would come in for some tapas."

"Tapas? What are tapas?"

Marcella looked confused. "Tapas," she said. "You know, tapas bar or finger food bar. Food you eat with your fingers. That's what we serve. Tapas is the Costa Rican word for finger food. Obviously that's why we call it a tapas bar."

We burst out laughing and explained the joke. She had been saying tapas, which we heard as topless since we hadn't heard this word before. Our mental computers just filled in with what they knew as a reasonable facsimile. When we asked her about her topless bar, that word was so outside of her reality, she filled in with what she expected to hear, tapas.

As we left that day, we thought it was a good joke and an excellent example of how we only know what we know and how anything that is outside of our reality doesn't even exist. It also showed us how three people who were sincerely trying to communicate with each other could so totally and utterly misinterpret what was said.

Chapter Two


Copyright © 2009 by ASK Productions, Inc. Click here for terms of use.

Let's say you don't know where you are in New York City and you want to get to 72nd Street and Broadway. You can look at a road map and you can find out where Broadway and 72nd cross, but that alone won't help you. First you have to know where you are. If you don't know where you are in this moment, you'll never find where you want to be.

The starting point is to discover where you are. And then, when you know where you are in this moment, something can shift. This takes a degree of surrender to how the circumstances in your life are showing up.

When you are in water, if you relax, it floats you. If you struggle, if you tense up, you sink and drown. Well, it's that way with life.

If you are present with what's happening in your life in each moment, life supports you totally. But if you are worrying about possible futures, you're not present. It's as if you're breathing in when you're underwater. You sink and drown. That's why many people's lives feel overwhelming to them. It is a function of trying to live their life right rather than noticing who they're with, what they're doing, where they are in their life in this moment.

Noticing or neutrally observing your life without trying to manipulate or change what you see is actually the essence or key component of Instantaneous Transformation. Another word for this nonjudgmental seeing is awareness.


You don't need to work on yourself. In order to be fulfilled, feel deeply satisfied, and live life to its fullest it is essential that you learn just to notice, to be aware.

What it takes to wake up or transform is to bring awareness to whatever is going on in your life in the moment. "Bringing awareness" does not mean you have to do something with what you become aware of. You don't have to do anything about it. You don't have to fix it or change it. You simply have to be aware.

As simple as it is, this is a hard concept for people to understand, because usually when people see something about themselves that they perceive as negative, they judge it and don't like it and try to change it. This is not awareness. Awareness is neutral.

Awareness is a non-judgmental seeing. It is an objective, noncritical seeing or witnessing of the nature or "isness" of any particular circumstance or situation. It is an ongoing process in which you are bringing yourself back to the moment, rather than complaining silently about what you perceive as wrong or what you would prefer.


Excerpted from Working on Yourself Doesn't Work by ARIEL KANE SHYA KANE Copyright © 2009 by ASK Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: How to Use This Book
Chapter 2: Where Are You?
Chapter 3: The Principles of Instantaneous Transformation
Chapter 4: Prejudices
Chapter 5: Instantaneous Transformation
Chapter 6: The Birth of the Present
Chapter 7: W.O.R.M.S.
Chapter 8: Decisions Versus Choices

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Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Can Instantaneously Transform Your Life 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
jen_led More than 1 year ago
Like a flash of lighnting, my first “transformation” came when I heard the title of this book – “Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work”. Up until that moment, all I had read was any self-help book I could get my hands on, trying to figure out why my life was not how I thought it should be. “What is wrong with me?” was a common question that I wrote in my journal and continued searching to answer. Finally, the solution came, but in an alternative fashion; a different point of view and approach that I had never seen or heard before, and it immediately began to alleviate the discontent I was feeling with my life. As I read this book, there were many AHA moments (continued transformation), where I could relate either directly or indirectly with the stories shared by the Kanes. Each story illustrated the meaning and application of the 3 Principles of Instantaneous Transformation. Simple concepts such as True Listening, Awareness and “Being Here” (living in the current moment of any given experience), drove home the ideas of how the ease of transformation can bring about a wonderful completely fulfilled life. I am so happy to have discovered this change in thinking and a new approach to life. It’s made me realize that there’s NOTHING wrong with me; never has been, never will be. Life is completely satisfying when I’m living in the moment and not trying to work on myself! Thanks to the Kanes and this book for pioneering and role-modeling how to relate to life and the universe around them. Bravo!
PamelaSPS More than 1 year ago
Inspiring read! Simply put - this book is inspiring.  The Kanes present the possibility that life can be easy and it is!  I can see how before reading this book, I would spend so much time thinking about my “problems”.  What the Kanes have allowed me to discover is that my constant thinking about them was keeping them in place.  By seeing them and allowing them to be, all those “problems” have just gone away!  I particularly love their idea of being right versus being alive.  I can see all of the ways that being right kept myself and my team at work from functioning in true partnership.  By being alive and allowing for others to be brilliant, we are working together better than ever!  
Claudia9 More than 1 year ago
Before I met Ariel and Shya, I spent years reading self help books, going to work shops on how to improve myself, listening to audio and video recordings. I was expecting things to change, to somehow be better than they were. I was always thinking that this one book is going to make a difference...and I was not very happy. Until I read this book and then met Ariel and Shya. I now allow myself to just the moment. I’m not trying to “fix” myself anymore. I love who I am and life is so much easier. Now, I don’t profess to have stopped all judgement. But now, I allow it to be, and it dissolves. Being in the moment is life renewed that brings new awareness to those things around me and that enrich my life. Thank you Ariel and Shya.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WORKING ON YOURSELF DOESN'T WORK Working On Yourself Doesn't Work is a powerful book that introduces the reader to the three principles of instantaneous transformation.  The book is easy to read yet profound.  Of all the brilliant nuggets, one such gem that stood out for me was the distinction between being right vs. being alive.  By being right in one's own mind, one can not listen to another person's point of view and ultimately makes the other person wrong.  Being right keeps one out of the current moment of one's life.  The cost for continuing this behavior is enormous -> one's feeling of being alive, loving or being loved.   Stop working on yourself, it doesn't work, but learning the three principles does.  Read this book and transform your life. Beth S
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who grew up in a competitive culture where constantly working on myself was the only thing I knew how to do (and the right thing to do, clearly), I greeted this book with deep skepticism. After reading Working on Yourself Doesn't Work and a little over a year later...I don't work on myself anymore. I don't work on anyone else either. I've learned an entirely new way to look at life that enriches me, my love, my friends, my family, anyone I come into contact with. And though it blows my mind on a near daily basis my life keeps expanding and paradoxically gets easier the more I'm in the moment. From this book I discovered my center and when I lost it for a time, this book was waiting for me as though completely new to help me find a new path back to my center again. Each time I read this book a new gem I glossed over or didn't quite understand yet reveals itself to me.  This book stands apart for ditching the fluff and sticking to the good stuff. It's a treasure trove.
KatRoss1 More than 1 year ago
I’m one of those people who grew up thinking that you have to learn from your mistakes and typically when I did something “wrong” I had to be hard on myself so that I wouldn’t do that again. I used to walk around completely stressed out about how I can do my life right. Since reading this book that has completely changed. Ariel and Shya say that you can’t do it wrong, that you are perfect just the way you are. And you’d think that if you stopped trying to change things for the better that life would just stop and that is absolutely not true. When you stop being hard on yourself you then have the freedom to do the things in life that bring you joy, including finishing personal and work projects. Life is perfect just the way it is and that really is a miracle.
LMSchnee More than 1 year ago
I always used to think that 'living in the moment' was an abstract concept that you could only achieve by meditating for years on a mountaintop. I wanted it, but couldn't understand how it could possibly work for me, with my busy life and all of my goals. Well, Ariel and Shya Kane and their incredible book have shown me that not only is living in the moment possible, but it is fun and practical! The Kane's approach to living in the moment puts the light back in enlightenment; their book is written with humor and compassion and is a joy to read. It combines simple, profound ideas with their own personal stories and experiences. After reading their book and attending their workshops, I have experienced so much transformation in my own life. So much of the stress and pain I created by "working on myself" for years has dissolved and been replaced with a sense of ease and an urgency and passion for living my life! Possibilities and opportunities have emerged that were once beyond my wildest dreams. If you are tired of living in a constant and painful loop of thoughts and are interested in experiencing more satisfaction in all areas of your life, pick up this book today!
BD42 More than 1 year ago
Someone people believe they need to work on themselves because there's something wrong with them. Reading this book helped me see that I'm the perfect me, I can be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you, Ariel and Shya Kane, for this magical book. For years I have struggled to be consistently calm, happy, and centered. I have done yoga, meditation, various clinics and workshops, read numerous self-help books, and even gone to therapy in my quest for inner peace and happiness. Little did I realize it was always available to me if I simply stayed present and aware in each moment. Suddenly, life is fun, engaging, and easy! This book presents three principles for instantaneous transformation: what you resists persists and grows stronger; no two things can occupy the same space at the same time (in other words, you can only be or could only have been exactly as you are/were in any given moment); whatever you allow to be exactly as it is without judgment will complete itself. The Kanes provide information in a very accessible way, with many anecdotes to help the reader absorb the concepts presented. The book is a fast read. And I’ve reread it several times over the past year, finding new jewels of insight each time. Achieving transformation does not require doing anything or changing anything about yourself, which, for me, was a bit confusing after a life time of trying to “fix” what was wrong with myself. It turns out, there is nothing wrong with me. I only need to look at life with a nonjudgmental sense of curiosity and say yes to the way my life is showing up. Since discovering transformation through the Kanes’ book, my life has become incredibly expansive. All aspects of my life are fulfilling and promote my happiness and well being. Work has become easier and is enjoyable each day. I’m in a loving relationship with a wonderful person. My relationships with friends and family are enlivening and precious. Each moment brings surprising, special, and delighting experiences. All I can tell you is that life is magical, and I’ve discovered that through the Kanes’ teachings on transformation. Anyone who wants a magical life should give themselves the gift of transformation!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Putting forth 3 principles for transformation, the authors provide insight and a consistent message for living a more centered life by living in the moment and stopping living based on our past or future.
AaronSF More than 1 year ago
This book was my introduction to the Kanes’ work. It was such a departure from all the other books and things I have tried in the past to find happiness and joy in my life. I was taken with the idea that working on yourself to become a better you doesn't work. I saw in my own life, I have tried to work on things I didn't like to improve my life. However, I was always left with an empty feeling after the attainment of my goals and I was then on to the next goal. Discovering this moment is such a gift. This book has led me to work with the Kanes and my life has never been more fun, easy, and satisfying in all circumstances!
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