Want to make your house tidier? Lose that extra 10 lbs? Communicate with coworkers just a little more efficiently? It’ almost Autumn— a season of self improvement and change. Maybe you have an entire to-do list for the next few months and you have no idea where to start. The good news is, there’s almost certainly a book out there to help you figure out how to achieve your goals.
That’s one of the things I love about self-help books. They are full of life hacks, skills, and new ways of looking at the world. I view them as a source of encouragement, exchange of good ideas, and a chance to examine my own process for doing certain things, rather than as a quick fix. My favorites include The Universe Has Your Back, How to Live a Good Life, and You Are A Badass.
Before I delve further into this, I want to address one of the main misconceptions about the genre. These books aren’t gospel. They won’t magically transform you overnight or eliminate all your bad habits in one go. For example, let’s say you buy one of those fancy electric tooth brushes. You wouldn’t expect to fix cavities or whiten your teeth if you never actually used it. In the same way, you have to actually put the skills and strategies in self help books to use. I guess what I'm trying to say is, these books help make a difficult complicated process (really getting to know yourself), less difficult and complicated. They just don't do the hard work for you. After all, it's all about YOU and what fun would that be?
Here are 10 reasons I love self help books along with a few things I’ve learned from them:
- Think of yourself as a work in progress. These books don't encourage unreasonable standards of imperfection. Instead, they offer concrete individual steps for improvement. Having reasonable expectations for yourself and your accomplishments is an important part of being kind to yourself.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people. Almost every self help book I've encountered echoes this message across the board. Everyone is different. I could never create the art of another person— I can only create my own. That's a beautiful thing and it means we can take the pressure off ourselves. Instead of looking outward, we can look inward.
- Focus on the present moment. Today's fast-paced, results-oriented world of constant motion makes it hard to stay grounded and aware of what's going on right in front of you. It's hard enough to tear away from your phone without feeling like you might be missing something important!
- Give you a chance to evaluate your personal process. Knowing yourself is an important part of reaching your goals.
- Full of good ideas and strategies. Even with the power of the internet at our fingertips, we can't find every life hack or every personality quiz.
- You can learn from someone else’s triumphs and their mistakes. Of course, everyone is different and part of the journey is figuring things out for yourself. But hearing from a more experienced person as they write that no, not everything you do has to be perfect or to suggest that maybe that crushing failure is actually a chance to reassess and try again. There's nothing like a fresh perspective when you're at a crossroads!
- Convey meaningful stories, anecdotes, and fables. Whether it's a cringe-worthy tale of a mix-up at work or a missed opportunity or even a tragic childhood disappointment, self help books aren't all facts and strategies. There are stories woven throughout to illustrate the authors ideas, points, and experiences. These give a way to visualize how the author came to their conclusion.
- Help you identify your areas of growth. None of us are perfect. But our blindspots are...well...blindspots. We don't necessarily know where they are and what they might be. Trying new things gives us a chance to identify our faults or weak spots and come up with new and better ways to improve.
- Gives you a chance to see what doesn’t work for you. So maybe you pick up a self-help book and read it. Something doesn't click with you. The author's stories don't speak to you. Something isn't quite right. That's okay. You've still learned something important. Knowing what we don't like is just as important as knowing what we love. Plus, I guarantee, there's another book out there with your name on it!
- Build good habits to craft a life you love. Okay so maybe this is a little plug for my own book Craft A Life You Love, but it comes from my sincere belief that each of us is a beautiful work in progress. Not everything in our lives need to be perfect and many self help books emphasize this while going on to say how encouraging this fact actually is. There is room for errors and mistakes, especially if we use those moments to learn and grow from them.
If you're interested in trying out some of my faves, let me know in the comments below!