Self-help books are valuable — if used properly

Utilizing methods like treating self-help books like furniture can improve their usefulness

Don’t knock a self-help book if it doesn’t work. PHOTO: Delano Ramdas / Unsplash

by Victor Tran, SFU Student

Self-help books are filled with words that can promise accomplishments like becoming a productivity superhero and gaining financial independence. This could be enticing for the struggling student, but these books often don’t mention how to adequately use the knowledge they bring. Most of the time, readers consume the knowledge, become happier for a while, and then do nothing. However, from a self-help enthusiast, using these books is one of the best ways to improve a lifestyle, and to do so these resources need to be used smarter, not harder.

We have to be careful of what self-help resources we choose to consume. Every year, an excessive amount of self-help reading fills bookshelves and new best-selling books arrive on a daily basis. Because of this, the industry is now market-driven rather than peer-reviewed, which has some questioning the true helpfulness of these resources.

To bypass this potential deceitfulness, we should buy a self-help book like we would carefully buy a piece of furniture. Choose something that has 10,000 reviews with 4.5 stars. Search for dedicated YouTube reviews, blogs, and more. In short, do the research; the right book won’t just miraculously appear. But sometimes, the furniture bought just doesn’t match the style of the house. What then? 

Let’s say there is a minimalistic house and a colourful, patterned 80s couch is bought for it. Should the whole house be changed to match that couch, or should the couch simply be removed? The couch could be used as a unique feature piece in a simple layout, or it could simply not match the style. The answer would not be known for sure unless the combination is tested first.

Self-help resources are the same. All tips will not resonate with all people, but regardless testing those tips is crucial for exploration. For example, a person may work better at night, but a self-help book may say that waking up at 5 a.m. will make them a millionaire. Before the person thinks the tip is trash, they should test it. They cannot truly know if having a morning routine will make them more productive or help them reach their goal faster unless it is tried. Just like they cannot know if a couch does not look good in their house without putting it in their living room.

Despite this, a self-help book may ultimately be incompatible — but it is never useless. An irrelevant book can still help bring someone one step closer to a book that does help them. Trial and error, though time-consuming, is the optimal method for consuming self-help books.

Additionally, after finishing a self-help book, some people might feel amazing and that tomorrow they will make moves to change their life forever. But for the next 30 tomorrows, they do the same things and end up feeling sad again. So, they might buy another book to feel that magic again. This is called mental masturbation, where a person continuously seeks mental stimulation either through daydreaming or buying a self-help book to make excuses for not taking constructive actions. To avoid this, self-help books should be read slowly, and tips should be practiced as much as possible. When they are, it is easier to successfully find a good, productive workflow. 

Reading self-help books may not always provide the best results, and using them might not be for everyone. However for people that do want to use them, in utilizing proper methods it is possible to make the most out of every single book and help to change your life for the better.