So, you've bought a self-help book. You've identified some aspect of your life that you want to change and you feel you can use a book to help you do that – but the bad news is the book probably won't help you, and here's why:

Instant success is not guaranteed . Indeed, success is not guaranteed but at least there's a chance of success if you work at it. The people looking to instant success want to read a book and immediately see massive and tangible improvements in their life. It just doesn't work like that, the process takes time and lots of dedication. Simply reading the book is not enough.

The "secret" does not exist . There is no secret. There is no magic cure. There is no shortcut to making lasting changes. People become disillusioned when they read books promising secrets that they can't or don't deliver. If the secret does exist at all it's that hard work, persistence and perseverance pays off, unfortunately this isn't a glamorous way to sell books.

The author is boring . The author has a PhD and boy he wants you to know it. The book is as much about how great the author is as it is about helping you. Self aggrandizing authors shortchange their readers because their books contain so much padding and waffle. If you buy a book like this it's likely that you'll give up reading before you get to the third chapter.

The book is out of date . Quite a lot of self-help books written 20 or more years ago are still in wide circulation and still highly acclaimed, and for good reason. Some of these books are good but they use a language and references from a different era, the reader finds it difficult to buy into what's being said and is distracted by the language and the out of date references. Consciously or otherwise the reader finds the book has a lack of relevance to their situation.

Compulsive consumption . Some people read a book and before even taking the time to digestive or understand it, they move onto the next one. The thirst knowledge in the self-help field is enormous. People with problems seem to refuse to tackle them until they have assimilated all of the available knowledge and this prevents them from getting the true benefit from the books they read.

Use it or lose it . The greatest benefit to be had from self-help books is in actually using the material they contain, and in failing to do so the value of the book is lost. If you're fortunate enough to find a good self-help book it is essential that you work through it in full and follow through on the exercises.

You're risk averse . Perhaps you identify a great resource, but for some reason you are put off possibly through having to commit either time or money. At some stage you have to take the plunge if you want to change at all. You could spend years surfing the Internet for free information or you can take action now. Do a little bit of research find one or two books that come highly recommended and make an investment. Get out of your comfort zone and get busy changing your life.

Self-help books can work but you have to drive the process to gain success. My advice would be to choose just one book, possibly a modern and up-to-date book, written by an author whose delivery you can relate to and then stick with it, use it, really use it, until you've extracted all the value from it. Accept that you you will have to work to achieve your goal. Resist the temptation to jump from book to book or intermix concepts from different books. Complete all the exercises and re-read the book until you have absorbed what you need to know – then put it into practice.

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