Here are my rules for successfully™ reading self-help books. Like a self-help book, those rules work for me, but they may not work for you.
- I am OK if 99% of the book isn’t at all helpful. Since self-help books are written to improve the most basic and important areas of our lives – health, love, family, work, time, happiness – even if I get one habit or one sentence out of the book, it might be a worthy addition to my life.
- I automatically disregards any even semi-unrealistic-sounding claims in the book. Just disregard, skip, forget. For example: YOU WILL LEARN (in less than 30 minutes each):How to lose those last 5-10 pounds. Or […] reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity. Or Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people…
- I ask a lot of questions to myself: Why does this technique work? For what kind of people does it work? Would it work for me? Why would it work for me? How hard would it be to try it?
Self-help books are harmful only if we believe in what they say, not if we use them as a motivation to think deeper about how we operate and why we do the things we do.