Ever Been Tempted to Read a Self-Help Book?
Self-help books are a multi-million-pound phenomenon, with many of us having read books and articles that purport to offer tips enabling us to become the best version of ourselves.
We will all have had times of reflection, of introspection, times when we’ve resolved to sort out our bad habits, improve our motivation or get to grips with the new skills or promotion that we’ve been thinking about for so long.
Certain times of the year are especially geared to self-improvement. New Year and New Year’s resolutions are often a favourite, but birthdays and anniversaries can be a positive trigger, too, as well as significant life events, like getting divorced, starting a new job or even booking a holiday.
Some people might set themselves a goal and systematically work towards it, which is good whilst their focus and motivation lasts. Others may feel that they need extra help or have associated issues they want to work on and so might choose to see a therapist. But therapy for some people feels too much of a stretch and they may be disinclined to talk to someone, even though that person is a professional, or they’re apprehensive at what it will involve, or are not able to afford to pay for it.
Self-help books are a good way to start regaining control of your life and many people have benefitted from using them. But you need to find one that deals with your areas of concern, is written in a style that suits and will work for you, one that you can stick with.
For some people this means a workbook, where tasks, exercises, homework and journaling are involved. They treat it as a course, a mini-programme of stepping-stones until they reach their chosen destination. Others prefer to relate to stories and anecdotes which capture their imagination and fire their enthusiasm. My books contain shortish sections on a variety of topics (like work, relationships, home and bereavement), with bullet-pointed tips and hints towards the reader’s desired outcome; it may be better sleep, managing stress, being more assertive.
Often self-help books are common sense. They may include sections that explain what happens to us when we miss sleeping or become over-stressed, but essentially their goal is to help us reacquaint ourselves with tips for better self-care whilst reiterating why it’s important and beneficial to look after ourselves well. We may just need to be reminded of things we already know but have forgotten, or be given a nudge to start doing things that we’ve let slide.
Sometimes new insights and ways of looking at things might prompt a lightbulb moment to occur. An observation or phrase may suddenly prompt a whole new perspective on something we’ve been struggling with for a time. It’s important to be receptive and open to new ideas and ways of thinking when reading a self-help book. We may not agree with some of the viewpoints or feel that our lifestyle could bend sufficiently to accommodate them at the moment, but making us think about other options may be time well spent for the moment.
Another advantage is that we can take a book with us wherever we go and read appropriate sections whenever we have time, at a break, on the train, before bed. Some people might link this with keeping a journal in order to process their thoughts, feelings and record their progress. It may be relevant to set lists or goals for the day, week or month ahead, which can be a good way to set new habits in place and afterwards monitor how they progress.
Failure can be an interesting concept when reading a self-help book.
How fast should we proceed, what if we don’t complete all the designated tasks or reach our initial goal or target?
Should we feel guilty, consider ourselves a failure or be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished in settling certain steps in place?
Would doing that be settling for less than perfect, a way of letting ourselves off lightly, or should we view it as a practice run for next time?
Often the only accountability with these books is to ourselves or to our personal workbook, though some people may decide on a group initiative and work together to motivate each other. That can work well, but is problematic if one or more people lose motivation and decide to drop out.
Often a self-help book is an important first step in dedicating some personal time to yourself. You remind yourself that you’re important and that taking time to care for you is a valuable investment in your health and wellbeing. Also, others benefit when you feel good about yourself. Enjoy the journey, appreciate the opportunity to think differently about things and treat this as your time to learn and grow.