Every time I am in a bookstore I wind up browsing the self improvement section. Most times I have the same thought:
“Hmm…if this book can actually change my life forever, for the better, they should probably be charging more than $20 for it. And they should probably say something that hasn’t been said before.”
As far as the best self improvement books, how should we measure them? Books that galvanize us to better actions? More productivity? Greater happiness? Is a book actually capable of doing any of this for us?
A lot of people hate it, but I still love The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It says The Same Old Thing in a way that resonated with me the first time I read it. This was true even though I saw that he was basically writing words inside circles, copyrighting them, and rattling off cliches like “Visualize success” and “be brave” and “Go get it if you want it!” and “Surround yourself with good people.”
But shortly after finishing it, I made some changes to my life and began taking some small steps that would eventually help me change the way I thought about some things that were stifling me.
I knew a lot of it was corny and trite, but it still helped me. Was it because of the book? Is it one of the best self help books of all time? I don’t know. But based on results, the timeline looks like this:
- Struggling with specific problems
- Read 7 Habits
- Found solutions to specific problems
The associations are there, whether or not there’s any causation.
Others, like Anthony Robbins’ Awaken The Giant Within feel so insincere and saccharine and patronizing and cloying to me that the mere sight of the book at the library gives me hives. I hated every single page of it, even though the message of the book (well, the message that is not Come To An Anthony Robbins Seminar!) was as positive as any other self improvement book I’ve read.
But plenty of people have told me that the book changed their life. If it really works for them, I’m glad and I hope it leads to the realization of their wildest dreams.
I don’t know exactly why I respond to these books the way I do.
Have you read any self improvement books that you can recommend? If they helped you, do you think you could have gotten the help another way?
And by “self help,” let’s try and limit it to the sorts of books you might actually see in the self help section of a store.
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