Why Most Self-Help Books — Are A Waste Of Time
When I started reading self-help books I quickly realized that most of them are a waste of time.
This forced me to developed some questions, so I know which ones to read.
When I say self-help books, I refer to a type of book that is written to help me solve a personal problem in my life or develop skills.
This could be to improve my communication, my relationship, be more productive, create more constructive habits or help me live more peacefully,
This article will share some valuable questions I ask before I pick and read any self-help book that has helped me get out of my own way.
For the sake of not driving you crazy with the word self-help books, throughout this article, I will refer to self-help books as just books.
1. Do I Need To Read This Book Or Can I Get The Information From A Blogpost?
Over 90% of books main takeaways can easily fit into a well writing blog post.
The information in most books is an expansion of an idea.
It is an understandable move, to reach the quota of making a book, but the consequence for me becomes that the exact point is being made, at different times throughout the book, written almost the same way.
I don't know about you, but I feel disrespected as a reader.
Firstly I am not slow stupid, nor do I have special needs, that I need to be told the same thing a hundred different times.
Secondly, it is an insult to my time to deliver information in such an inefficient way.
2. Is This Science Or Is It A Personal Interpretation Of Science
As an academic who delivers more questions than answers, I see that most books are written in a way that interprets science to support their claims and advice.
If you read a lot of non-fiction books like I do, after a while, it becomes evident that the same study will be interpreted in different ways by different writers in different books.
The fact is, that there are not more than a couple of good studies in any given area out there, during the existing paradigm in that particular topic that I am reading.
(A Paradigm is a standard, perspective, or set of ideas over a specific time frame)
Most books produce and deliver conclusions that are not explicitly set in the study itself.
In other words, there is a lot of reasoning and bending of the truth going on, and in most cases, to the extent that it becomes a lie.
The problem I have with most books is that the author uses studies that are not that reliable.
A book based on three or four scientific studies that are not reliable to begin with, is not help
I would be better off if the author were, to be honest from the get-go, and said:
This is a study, and this is how I interpret it.
It is not THE TRUTH. It is my way of seeing things, and it is what I believe, and therefore It has helped me reframe some of the sh…t I am going through.
3. Is This Book Being Honest With Me?
I believe that most books are nothing more than an interpretation of how the author experiences life.
The author will write about solutions to a problem he or she experiences and bend a couple of studies to support their claim or advice, portraying it as a universal truth.
When you start to isolate the science from context, environment, culture, gender, and race, you start to see how it is all a personal interpretation.
I have learned that what I call the truth is often my own interpretation of the world, and most often, I lack more information than I dare to admit.
Therefore I am always looking for writers who are more open and transparent and say:
This is what has worked for me, this is how I did it, and obviously, this might not work for you.
That would be a lot more helpful.
For me, it is a huge warning flag when a book delivers a standpoint that is:
This study supports what I am saying, and everyone should be doing this.
This is not only a very disrespectful way of communication with me, but it also makes me uncomfortable, and of course, I end up not buying the book.
4. Is There Any White Or Black Thinking Going On?
In my experience, most books can be found on two shelves, toxic positivity or embracing trauma and suffering.
None of the two categories found on the different shelves focuses on constructive change to get me out of the rut I am experiencing.
I no longer read books that apply this kind of black or white thinking.
The idea that I will be perfectly happy and if I just follow the advice my life will be perfect, is not in alignment with how I see the world.
Life cannot be fixed with rigid formulas, because life is not white or black.
The solution to my problems is not a destination, it is more like a complex journey in grey landscapes, full of questions along the way
That is why I love coaching people because I get to stop giving advice and start asking powerful and transforming questions.
A couple of weeks ago my father asked me:
What's the difference between a consultant and a coach?
A consultant will give you answers, a coach will give you more questions.
The best self-help is derived from asking good questions, only applicable to the person asking and answering the questions.
I know deep in my heart that most self-help books are trying to help and alleviate suffering, but most end up making people feel worse when they don't ask good questions.
Making most of the book pointless.
5. Is The Book Telling Me What To Think — Or Telling Me How To Think
The last big issue that I have with most books is that they focus on teaching me what to think rather than how to think.
This is a crucial distinction that I make when picking what books to read.
I read the first few and last pages and listen very carefully to the author's tone.
If the author tells me WHAT to think, the book stays on the shelf.
If the author is telling me HOW to think, how to view my life, and HOW to view things in general, — I am all in.
I always tell my students to go with the books that will teach them how to think, rather than what they should be doing and what they should be thinking.
Before You Leave
I have some additional criteria that I use when choosing books that might be helpful for you in the future.
A good book has to help me clarify and understand the mess and emotional state I am currently finding myself in.
It has to provide me with terms, words, and language that helps me clarify the internal state I am struggling with.
This is a big help, especially if I struggle to put words on what I am feeling and communicate this to others.
Without this, I am limited to the language, insight, understanding, and vocabulary given to me growing up.
If I have minimal language to express hurt, distress, or anxiety, I am stuck in a prison of vagueness and nonspecific in most situations I find myself in.
A well-written book will provide me with an understanding and some framework to capture, describe and elaborate on my triggeres
It also has to provide me with practical guidance on how to get started, by helping me identify where I am.
A bonus is if the book provides me with the most common pitfalls that most people experience when making the shift I am encouraged to make by the author.
Finally, I love when a book leaves me with some good questions that generate reflection in one or more eras of my life, especially if they are connected to the topic that I just finished reading.
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More practical transformational guides to living a more peaceful and fulfilling life:
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What do you need to start creating an open dialogue that allows you to express yourself clearly and openly?