The self-help industry, in general, is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it is still growing. Learning from others through self-help books is an efficient way to grow and become successful. At least that’s what they say, as millions of people across the globe attest that self-help books have changed their lives for the better. Consequently, you might be asking, “then why am I failing at everything after reading all the popular self-help books?”“Why do I feel like my life has not changed?”, or “why does it feel like things are getting worse instead?”

Why Self-Help Books are Not Helping You

  1. Unrealistic expectations 

“If you do X you are going to get Y result”; “if you avoid road A, then you will definitely reach road B”; “all you need to do is think about what you want, and you will end up getting it”; etc. You have probably come across similar statements in popular self-help books that marketed their revelations as some kind of “magic pill”.

What was the result after reading these books and incorporating these ideas? You probably felt good that day or that weekend, and then it was back to normal. And then you probably rushed to another book store to purchase another “magic pill” and the cycle continued. But are you really going to find a cure for a lifetime of anxiety, low self-esteem or negative thinking over a weekend? Sadly, the answer is no! Self-improvement is a gradual and continuous process that is often painful (just like muscle growth after going to the gym); there is no quick fix or magic formula. You might want to avoid books that provide “quick fixes” because they might just treat the symptoms, not the underlying condition.

  1. You are not taking action

Learning from others through self-help books is actually a good thing. But, of what value are those lessons if you are not taking action? It is commonly believed that, “knowledge is power”, but it might be more accurate to say that, “knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action”.

So, what does this mean? It means that you can manically read one hundred books about starting a business, but the only way to truly start a business is to convert some of that information into action plans and get started. Additionally, you will unquestionably have better results if you read a few business books, note the points that are relevant, formulate a plan to implement those lessons, and take action as opposed to glancing through one book every few days.

  1. Replacing one addiction with another

Another reason self-help books might not be helping you is because you might simply be replacing one addiction with a “healthier” addiction. Think about someone who goes from being a gambler (and not being able to keep a job), to someone who now spends too much time incorporating lessons from self-help meditation or exercising books (and is still not able to keep a job).

Meditating, exercising, and learning from others by reading self-help books are excellent habits,but they should not be done all day or in a way that will prevent you from attending to other important responsibilities. Instead, these habits should help you become more productive, in this case, not just help you keep your job, but also help you to be better at it. Just remember that too much of a good thing (i.e., self-help books) can be a bad thing in the long run.

Learning from others through self-help books will undoubtedly provide you with valuable information that has the potential to change your life. It is important to note that self-help books are tools and guidelines that can change your perception of life; but you alone can change your life by incorporating relevant concepts, adapting them to your unique circumstances and taking action.

Categories: Learning

25 Comments

S. Jakes · February 29, 2020 at 4:53 am

duppydomTEAM—here is part of a comment I made in response to a duppydom I read in December 2019: “I think because I am shy, I don’t know what to say to people, so it’s like I try to hide within myself. I am much better than I used to be, probably because of the self-help books I have been reading”. Over the last few years, I have read so many self-help books trying to increase my shyness, confidence, personal development, effectiveness, etc. I cannot begin to tell you how much this article is right up my alley. I do agree—some self-help books help, and some do not. It all depends on how easy it is to follow the steps in the book and how willing you are to change your life. Thank you duppydom 👏

    duppydomTEAM · February 29, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    S. Jakes – thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the article. We agree with you. The most essential impetus for change is the willingness to “make the change”. Some people continue to purchase self-help books because it has become a habit—they buy the books, read the books 📖, but don’t ever plan to implement anything they have learned 👩‍🎓

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:35 am

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    Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:34 am

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Adaego M. Azi · February 29, 2020 at 7:10 am

duppydomTEAM— I do agree that “learning from others through self-help books is an efficient way to grow and become successful.” Although I can’t say I have ever been a fan of self-help books—for two of the reasons you mentioned. For me, self-help books are like propaganda; they will make any claim in the book to sell it. And this might sound bad, but the people who buy them are probably in a bad place in their life, so they are clinging onto anything that might help—so they have “unrealistic expectations” and think their life is going to change overnight. I was surprised by this article. I would have expected it to be telling us why self-help books are worth buying. Thanks, duppydomTEAM.

    duppydomTEAM · February 29, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you Adaego – self-help books should not be propaganda. If a self-help book is going to have a long shelf-life, it cannot simply be making unsubstantiated claims. The teachings must be based on empirical research 👩‍🔬 or real-world evidence. Here are 15 Science-Backed Self-Help Books.

      Amie Warwick · March 1, 2020 at 12:41 am

      Agreed!

      Bruce Peters · March 1, 2020 at 3:42 am

      Thanks much for the link.

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:28 am

      Thank you for the weblink 🤗

    Lisa Steffler · February 29, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Great points Adaego.

Amara Kone · February 29, 2020 at 6:20 pm

Although I can understand the popularity of self-help books, I have never bought or read one. Perhaps it’s just a matter of personal preference. If I want to learn about a subject matter or attempt to change a behavior or attitude of mine, I would much prefer to read a research article or scan the internet for information.

    duppydomTEAM · March 1, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Amara – we appreciate and agree with your comments. It is very hard to quantity how many people across the world (or even in North America) read self-help books. Although some researchers have argued that it’s about ½ the North American population. And people read these books for varying reasons – one reason that seems to be common is that the person is going through some sort of transition (e.g., a divorce💔) – and of course, people have many ways/preferences to resolve a transition.

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:29 am

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Lisa Steffler · February 29, 2020 at 11:04 pm

duppydomTEAM – I enjoyed reading this article. A friend of mine has quite the selection of self-help books. One day while babysitting for her, I read one of her books on improving emotional intelligence—it was quite interesting. Funny enough, I have never asked her why she has so many of these books and if she finds them effective. The next time I see her I will have to ask her.

    duppydomTEAM · March 1, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    We would also be very interested in your friend’s response regarding the efficacy of her self-help books – the research findings on the effectiveness of these books is very mixed 📣. A common response from those who find self-help books useful say, “the books changed their life”. Two common responses from those who find self-help books ineffective say, “the books gave wrong and sometimes harmful advice” and “the books were overly simplistic and gave no real advice”. Thank you very much, Lisa.

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:29 am

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Amie Warwick · March 1, 2020 at 12:43 am

I once bought my husband a self-help book and he wasn’t impressed at the thought of me giving it to him—I think he found it insulting. So, I will say that I have more of an interest in them than he does. For me, it’s just a way to look at the world through someone else’s eyes—no insult was intended. I really like the idea of “replacing one addition for another” – I think if someone is too much into these types of books, it could cause a problem. Thanks, another very interesting article.

    duppydomTEAM · March 1, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Amie – we have all experienced the surprise of buying a gift for someone only to see a look of disappointment or disgust on their face (another common example – buying your significant other an exercise bike 🚴‍♂️ for their birthday only to receive a perplexed reaction). The assumption here is that your husband thinks he has the wherewithal to solve any problem he is facing; he does not need any outside help. Thank you very much for your comments.

Bruce Peters · March 1, 2020 at 4:16 am

Yes, I can see the pros and cons of self-help books. First, the advice given must come from someone who has experiential knowledge about the topic. Second, people who buy these books must have realistic expectations about the results they will get from following the advice. I agree that self-improvement is a continuous process and if you truly want to improve, there is nothing wrong with getting advice from many different sources. I also visited, “15 Science-Backed Self-Help Books You Need To Read”—I love the title of the book, “Leaders Eat Last…”—this totally sums up how leaders are supposed to behave.

    duppydomTEAM · March 1, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Bruce, thank you for your insights. We agree, self-improvement 👨‍🎓 should be the central reason for buying a self-help book. Bruce, one way to prevent getting entangled in the unrealistic expectations of self-help books, is to read biographies instead (or in addition to). Biographies help put hard work, abilities, knowledge, perseverance, timelines, etc., into perspective. Here are 25 Recommendations For Life Changing Biographies.

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:32 am

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    Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:30 am

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D'Gauntlett · March 1, 2020 at 5:29 pm

Team duppydom – Over the past 50 years I may have purchased 2 or 3 self-help books and really didn’t get any “Light a Fire” advise from them, just the basic. Maybe they were the wrong choice of books. Some self-help books to me are like cook books, after buying them you realize you’re the one who should have written a book because you haven’t learnt a single thing you didn’t already know.
That said, there must be a few self-help authors that provide effective information and solid guidance that readers can implement with success.
I believe determination and Implementation is what’s lacking most of the time, so we keep on searching. Two weeks ago I realized what self- help really mean to some folks. My online Facebook group for New Bloggers allow questions if you’re stuck and needs a quick answer. I posed a question and quickly got a Link suggesting I can purchase a kit for XYZ $$$. I was stunned. Needless to say, I didn’t get an answer.
A clear demonstration – Monetizing is Self-help, whether it’s helpful to the buyer or not.
Thanks duppydom.

    duppydomTEAM · March 1, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    D’Gauntlett – Thank you for your thoughts. You have raised some interesting points. Firstly, there are tens of thousands of self-help books on the market, and this industry is for-profit; which means that at times, it will seem like the authors’ sole purpose is selling their wares. Secondly, it might make more sense to read several different kinds of self-help books (i.e., different authors, different genres, etc.) before passing judgment on the entire industry. Lastly, people who read self-help books must remember that the sole reason they are reading the book is for self-improvement (front and center) 👩‍🎓 – they must not lose sight of this fact. “Self-improvement is the act or process of improving oneself by one’s own effort through actions and processes of making you better and a more knowledgeable person.”

      Adaego M. Azi · March 2, 2020 at 3:34 am

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