Self-help books have become quite a big deal in recent years. You know, those books that promise to help you live a better, happier life? You’ll find them in every bookstore, and they cover every topic, from building self-confidence to managing your money to finding love. The self-help industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar business, but this leaves us wondering: are these books really helpful, or is it just a way for authors to get money from you?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Whether self-help books are useful depends on many things, such as what the book talks about, who wrote it, your feelings about self-help, and your willingness to try out the things the book suggests. Let’s break this down and look at these factors one by one.
What Even Are Self-Help Books?
Self-help books are a whole genre of books that are designed to assist readers in improving certain aspects of their life. Most of these books will offer guidance, advice, and even strategies to help individuals attain their personal goals may it be anything from getting good and healthy relationships, improving productivity, increasing self-esteem, and even finding peace, you name it and whatever you want to improve, bet you can get a self-help book for it.
Who Wrote the Book and What’s It About?
Not all self-help books are the same. The quality of self-help books can change a lot from book to book. Some are written by experts with real-world experience and knowledge. They might be psychologists, successful businesspeople, or life coaches. These authors often use research and proven methods to give advice.
A great example of this is the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. In this book, Clear integrates scientific insights that help explain why habits exist and how can be changed and taken to your advantage. It’s based on a wide range of research, anywhere from behavioral science all the way to neuroscience.
On the other hand, there are also books out there that aren’t based on science or research. Some might be written by people who only want to sell books, not to really help others. They might make claims that sound too good to be true, or they might promise quick fixes to complex problems. When you pick a self-help book, it’s important to think about who wrote it and what their qualifications are. Check if their advice is based on real, scientific evidence or if it’s just their personal opinion. Trust me; I’ve been a victim of bad self-help books.
The Reader’s Mindset
What might be the biggest factor is you, the reader, not the book. Your attitudes and beliefs can influence whether a self-help book will be helpful or not. If you’re open-minded and willing to try new things, you’ll likely get more out of self-help books. On the flip side, if you’re skeptical or don’t believe in the power of self-help or if you’re finding it hard to accept the ideas that the books offer you, these books might not do much for you.
It’s also important to have realistic expectations. Self-help books can offer tools and strategies to improve your life, but they aren’t magic. I’ve recommended self-help books to other people, and they think that as long as they read them, they’ll magically absorb them somehow. Change often requires hard work and patience, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person might not work for another.
Let’s also keep in mind that if you need to go through a ton of changes to be who or what you want to be, you’ll need tremendous effort and dedication in sticking to these ideas, and at some point, it can even get scary since a lot of these self-help books, especially ones that deal in productivity and financial management, can bring extreme ideas than can be hard to accept but some people blindly accept it anyways, this could get dangerous and will not only make that self-help book useless but also harmful.
Remember, what works for others doesn’t necessarily mean it could work for you! Always take a grain of salt, use your senses, and don’t blindly follow these pieces of advice.
Implementing the Advice
If you keep an open mind and know what to follow and what to avoid, then the next most important thing is actually implementing the advice.
Again, self-help books aren’t magic books that will instantly help you once you read or understand their message; you still have to implement everything!
This is a lot of people fall short; frankly, that kind of includes me.
Again I’m using Atomic Habits here as an example since that’s one of the first self-help books I’ve ever read. Now, I developed a goal of building a habit of exercising more often whilst reading that book. And remember that one of the main points of the book is that great habits only require a constant 1% improvement. So I ended up shrugging off any urge to exercise by saying, “I only need to take one step at a time” or “No need to make a huge move,” but here’s the thing, I really needed to take a huge move to even start my goal! I had to wake up extremely early and pushed through any inconvenience in my path. I now get that the 1% constant improvement applies when it’s time to solidify the habit in your system!
And here’s the thing, without ever fully trying beyond what the book said to me (or at least what I think it told me), I would’ve never applied the actual lessons from it that can actually help me.
So, Are Self-Help Books Useful?
Here’s the thing, I consider self-help books as tools, like a well-sharpened pocket knife. They can be quite useful as you can through life or work with the knowledge and wisdom they can bring. But apply it poorly or carelessly, and you might even get a cut or get stabbed.
You certainly don’t want to use these books to try and substitute them for professional help, especially if you’re dealing with serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or alcoholism. Seek professional help, and a great way to use self-help books is if it’s complemented with your therapist’s opinion.
So I’m gonna sound like a weapons enthusiast and tell you to treat the tools you have with respect and care! And don’t make it do more than it should.
With that said, is there a way to maximize the value you get from your self-help books?
Maximizing the Value of Self-Help Books
I just want to state that I’m not an expert on this, but I’m just sharing what I learned and what I believe to be the perfect way to use one’s self-help books.
Be Open-Minded Yet Skeptical
Like I said earlier, you need to get into a book with an open mind, but you always have to take a grain of salt. Some ideas can be too extreme and yet beneficial to your situation, and some are just extreme but pose a high risk of failing or making you fail. Like with everything else, always keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! The best ideas and pieces of advice I got from these books so far are cold hard truths that can be hard to accept and implement!
One thing stuck with me from a business-related self-help book I read: “Ideas are worthless without the execution; execution is pointless without the ideas.”
Reading a self-help book without applying those ideas in the real world will do nothing. But I don’t quite agree with the part “execution is pointless without the ideas.” Sure, the ideas will help tremendously, but I think if you execute and try to feel what works and what doesn’t, you’ll still eventually reach what you’re trying to do. You might fail a lot, but if in the context of business, those failures can be a stepping stone towards your success.
Of course, don’t blindly execute if you’re trying to solve mental health issues! My point is to execute the ideas instead of letting them sit in your head.
Chose the Right Books
Of course, choosing the right tool for the job is important! You wouldn’t want to use a sharp pocket knife to cut a tree down, would you? You might also not want to use a blade that’s made by a poorly skilled craftsman, would you?
Know what you want and need given your situation to choose the topic for the book, and choose a book that’s written by someone qualified! If you’re unsure how to do this, just make sure to read a ton of reviews from other people who read the book. They usually love to tell who a certain book is for.
Take Notes and Reflect
Self-help books are usually a sea of strategies and ideas, and it’s easy to lose them when merely kept in your head! Take notes, jot down your favorite quotes, and of course, take some time to reflect if you retain the ideas and if you took the necessary steps to execute these ideas in your life!
Discuss and Share
Get to engage in discussions about the book you’re reading; it’s often beneficial to help each other understand what the book is trying to say because, again, it’s easy to get lost in most self-help books. Talk to someone who already read the book, join a book club, or get a friend, family member, or your spouse/partner to read it with you.
So to answer and sum everything up, are self-help books useful? Yes, they are, but again, they can hurt if not used correctly!
What do you think about self-help books? Do you have some great recommendations? Leave a comment down below, and let’s discuss it. Thanks for reading!