Self-Help Books Don’t Work — Here’s Why

Cristofer Jeschke
Aug 8, 2018 · 3 min read

Some of the best-selling books of our time are self-help books. Some of the best performing stories and articles online also fall into the category of self-help. Nothing’s wrong with that by itself. The problem lies in the fact that despite the enormous quantity of self-help information available, it doesn’t work.

While people lose themselves in a sea of advice, suggestions, routines and “hacks”, they also lose sight of the fact that no amount of information will change this simple fact: in order to succeed or improve in any area of your life, you need to actually do something.

There isn’t anything wrong with advice. But unless you’re actually using it to do something it doesn’t count as anything more than entertainment.

Therein lies the problem. Reading articles about how to “Achieve Massive Success in Three Simple Steps” cheers you up. It makes you feel like anything is possible. It’s exciting. It’s great to think about how all you need to do is those steps, or face the “Seven Brutal Truths About Winning” and you’ll be all set.

In fact, it’s so exciting that many people stop there. You don’t feel as miserable anymore, or your problems don’t seem so big anymore. So you continue doing what you were before.

A few days, or maybe a couple weeks, later you’re down again. So you look to the internet or a new self-help book for another “fix”.

In the end the self-help book or article becomes a sort of crack that temporarily pulls you up, only to let you fall back down again.

In that regard, the self-help category of literature can start to resemble a drug. It makes you feel better but its effects are only temporary.

But it remains wildly popular. Because guess what? Actually improving things, actually working toward success, actually getting healthier, these things suck at first.

Reading a self-help book doesn’t. It makes you feel better right away.

Try getting in shape. Those first few weeks are miserable.

The truth is, most people don’t need self-help books. Most people don’t need articles telling them how to be healthier. Most people don’t need advice on how to be happier.

Bold statement, I know.

But think about it: Do you really need a book to tell you to stop eating 200 grams of sugar every day? Or to do something you’re passionate about? Or to stop hanging out with negative people? No.

It’s just so much easier to keep reading, keep studying, keep thinking, keep planning, etc., than to actually confront the amount of discipline it takes to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ever read self-help books or articles or listen to advice? No. Being able to learn from the successes and mistakes of others is an incredibly valuable asset.

It just means that if you’re wondering how to improve yourself or your life you should stop looking to someone other than yourself. Chances are you already know the first 15 things you need to do.

You just need to actually do them.

If you want to keep reading then, go ahead. But read to learn, read to actually apply. Don’t just read to be entertained or temporarily reassured.

Cristofer Jeschke

Written by

Photographer and Educator living in the Pacific Northwest | Contributor at The Startup, Art+Marketing, and more |

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