“If you wanna make the world a better place / take a look at yourself, and then make a change” – Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson

Self-help is exactly that. As the “King of Pop” put it, take a look at yourself. Hence the reason the phrase is termed “self” help. But making yourself a better person doesn’t have to be boring either.

Yeah, I’m sure that when you think of the phrase the first thing that comes to mind are either the weird gurus of self-improvement (ex: Tony Robbins) or dry books. Or maybe both.

But these days there are some entertaining and fascinating documentaries that can enlighten as well as give you the inspiration to make that first – and hardest – step toward becoming a better you.

And the even better news, is that for a low monthly subscription to Netflix you can see a lot of them for free!

Here are a couple I suggest you check out:

Food, Inc. (2009) – Rober Kenner, Director

When you think of documentaries regarding food, I’m sure that Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me is the first to come to mind. But one of the best at explaining the entire way our food supply works in the country has been around the longest.

Robert Kenner does a masterful job of breaking down how food companies give the illusion of healthy choice while really filling the aisles of our stores with processed foods that contain the dread corn syrup as an ingredient.

In addition to be truly educated on the food supply, Food, Inc. goes that one step further to helping consumers learn how they can make changes – from something small like purchasing from a farmer’s market to something larger like demanding legislative change.

Happy (2011) – Robo Belic, Director

A lot of energy is spent in our society on exploring and trying to cure all the negative things like depression, sadness, anxiety, etc. To be honest, there is probably too much time spent on that.

But self-improvement usually comes down to one essential question: What will make me happy?

Robo Belic takes that question to heart. He also takes it around the world. In this documentary, he travels the globe looking at different cultures and their definition of what it means to be happy. From the healthiest people in the world – physically – in Okinawa to a 60-year old Brazilian surfer, you’ll get a wide-range of what makes different people truly happy.

You very well may be inspired to go on an inner search of your own happiness. And that just may inspire some change(s) you never thought about making.

Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things (2016) – Matt D’Avella

Many people are looking for self-improvement because they feel stressed. One of the largest causes of stress is stuff. Some physical; some emotional. But all just stuff.

It stands to reason then that de-cluttering the stuff in your life leads to less stress which in turn leads to a happier you, right?

Matt D’Avella follows two gentlemen – Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields – as they travel on a speaking engagement tour espousing the very idea that you may not necessarily need ALL the stuff you currently have. Ryan and Josh refer to themselves as “The Minimalists” and are scientists by trade – so there’s some very interesting scientific fact behind their advice.

The great thing about this is that they don’t preach getting rid of everything, buying a tiny house, and moving off-the-grid. That’s a bit radical to start. They simply preach looking around you and taking stock of what you have. Then asking the essential question: Can I live without that?

Change doesn’t have to be huge and radical. It starts with one small step. Or in this case, eliminating one needless item.

Miss Representation (2011) – Jennifer Siebel Neusome, Director

Unless you gentlemen have been living under a rock, you know that treatment of women is a very large issue in our country right now. And those movements started with women in media stepping forward and saying “enough”!

While Miss Representation is technically 7 years old, it is as pertinent as ever.

Using film, television, music videos and media anchors, Neusome looks at how women are portrayed; and how those portrayals lead to certain perceptions in our society. In addition, she provides some very eye-opening statistics to back up her assertions.

While it doesn’t get overtly into sexual harassment, as current movements have, it will/should make you ask a few hard questions about women in the media workplace. And that’s half the battle.

Life Itself (2014) – Steve James, Director

Self-improvement can sometimes be achieved by learning and watching someone who simply shows joy in every moment of what they do for a living. If you’re looking for that type of inspiration, Life Itself is your film.

For those of you gentlemen of a certain age, you’ll no doubt remember the movie critic Roger Ebert of Siskell & Ebert fame.   For those of you gents in the younger demographic, you need to watch this! And probably do some research on Mr. Ebert afterward.

This documentary looks at Mr. Ebert’s life. And it highlights one big thing: The sheer joy that he had in every moment he got to be a movie critic. He truly had a passion for films and it showed in all that he did and wrote – even when he panned a film.

Later in life, Ebert contracted throat cancer. He eventually succumbed to the disease in 2013. But even the “c” word couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm for his work.

If you’re looking for just a small change – like enjoying your work more – then the time spent watching this will most definitely not be wasted.

I hope in the early throws of this new year you can find inspiration and information in the above films to help make some change in your life. It doesn’t have to be big. It just needs to be personal. As MJ said, “take a look at yourself”.

Until next time gentlemen….