When all seems lost, we sometimes resort to self-help books to improve certain aspects of our lives. These books rose to popularity during the turn of the 19th century when the most popular forms of literature focused on the strength of one’s character.
In recent times, self-help books on the subjects of habit formation, goal-setting, weight loss, productivity, and mental health have become increasingly prevalent. Since these are what many of us are suffering through these days, it isn’t a wonder why the demand for these books is incredibly high.
Self Aspiration recommends thinking things through before deciding on the path to self-help. After all, whether or not there is actually any merit to these books is a question still begging to be answered.
When Self-Help Books Work
Yes, self-help books can work their magic on your life, but not all the time. This might sound strange to you, given that most of these books claim to be the result of extensive research made by academic psychologists. However, the uniqueness of personal experiences often makes it difficult to produce blanket-solution books.
Also, quite recently, these books have been proven to not be as effective as they claim to be. In some books, certain areas they claim to “work on” haven’t actually been studied extensively. Since you already bought the book, where does this leave you?
We definitely don’t advise anything burning or paper-shredding related because the book might still be of use. How, exactly? You just need to check if they align with the following guidelines:
1. When it focuses on providing solutions to problems
Self-help literature runs the gamut of topics, from increasing productivity, improving relationships, and boosting mental health to getting fit, losing weight, and knowing your purpose. These tell you there are two types of self-help books out there: development-focused and issue-oriented.
The latter focuses on offering advice for specific challenges like depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, lack of motivation, and more. Conversely, the former puts emphasis on more general topics, like how to grow your career, find happiness, set goals, and improve relationships.
As far as problem-solving goes, self-help books have shown evidence of their efficacy. For example, when it comes to treating depression, it has been proven that reading self-help books about the mental illness bears results akin to hiring a therapist. Similar outcomes have also been observed for going the self-help route for mild addiction and anxiety.
2. When the advice isn’t old-school
Certain pieces of advice don’t actually carry on from generation to generation. As society changes, so do people’s experiences. Thus, what applied then might no longer apply now.
When picking out a book that offers advice about relationships, make sure it’s based on recent studies. When a book offers dated advice, not only could it not improve your situation, but it might even make it worse.
3. When the advice has been proven to work empirically
The stigma surrounding self-help books these days mostly centers on the lack of research that went into a particular topic. Hence, it’s crucial to secure a piece of self-help literature that’s actually been proven to work.
Whether the book is development-centered or of the problem-solving variety, if there is empirical evidence supporting its efficacy, then it will likely apply to your unique situation.
4. When it is also about challenges and not just dreams
Self-help books that tell you to dream big paint such a pretty picture of the life you could potentially have. However, when it doesn’t present obstacles lying in the path to these dreams, you might want to evaluate how true-to-life it actually is.
As inspiring as it is to hear about what your life could be like when you remain positive, focus on your goals, and continue to believe, these don’t really teach you anything about conquering challenges. Trials and tribulations are part of life’s great reality; there isn’t any way to avoid them, no matter the path you walk.
Both paths of the privileged and the poor have their own set of bumps and potholes one is expected to overcome to obtain success. Sure, the road to success for the less fortunate might be harder to traverse, but the point is, problems still exist for those on the greener side.
You can’t rely on books that tell you to dream yet fail to disclose the potential challenges that can stand in the way of those dreams. It just wouldn’t be realistic and could throw you for a loop later on.
How Your Self-Help Journey Can Be Successful
At the end of the day, self-help books do help in one way or another. Still, how effective they can be in your unique situation depends on how they meet the above-mentioned guidelines.
With that said, you want to be more discerning of the books you pick out. Make sure they’re based on empirical observation, support principles, and don’t focus too much on the good side without including the bad.