Self Help Books: How to Render Them Useless

Written by on June 18, 2019

Stop castrating your chance of success in life. It’s not too late to quit these 6 things about your next self-help book.

Self-help books are the darling of personal development.

Imagine taking the wisdom of someone’s years of experience and expertise on a subject and condensing it to a 300-page book. It allows us to consume the most important aspects of a topic and helps us digest it in a way we can use in our own lives. Yet why do self-help books have such a bad rap?

How do we manage to take something designed to help us succeed and still end up failing? Let’s explore how we chop our chance for success at the knees with each self-help book we read.

Have no outcome in mind.

Why are you reading it?

Is it to improve in a particular area or just to “get better”. Having a nebulous purpose will ensure a nebulous result. Know exactly what you wish to accomplish by reading the book and you’ll be much more likely to find the answers that you seek.

If you are unsure of what you need to improve, I would recommend starting with the book that launched me into a personal development addict: The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven Covey.

It has powerful principles that can be applied to a broad area of life.


Don’t empty your cup.

The two most devastating words to your personal development are “I know.” Let’s face it. If you knew already, you wouldn’t need the book.

One of my business mentors told me once that it’s what we learn after we think we know it all that makes all the difference in the world. What he means is that no matter how good we get, we can always get better and that the difference between great and excellent is razor thin.

The only way to give new information a chance, however, is to be willing to put the old information aside and be open to new ideas, ways of thinking, and information from your book.


Start but don’t finish.

This is a classic folly.

We all love to start something new. It’s like our attitude at the beginning of the day, fresh and full of possibility. Then we actually have to do some work and we end up finding any reason we can to avoid it.

Usually, we will stop reading the book at the first sign of discomfort. The moment it hits too close to home, we shy away. But this is growth knocking on the door.

If you can push through the discomfort, you can find that new beliefs, valuable techniques, and higher self-worth may be on the other side. Ironically, quitting is the one thing that will always keep you from success.


Read it when you have time.

Nobody really has time for self-development.

It’s like going to the dentist. We do it because it’s good for us, not because we have extra time to sit in a chair and have our molars poked and prodded. This common excuse we use is just another way to delay doing what’s in our own best interest.

With our busy lives, we seem to only have time for the necessary. Make sure your personal development is necessary (see #1) and schedule it into your calendar.

Even committing to reading 10 pages a night will make you amongst the most well-read in the world.


Don’t take a single action.

The worst thing you can do to a self-help book is to only read it.

These books are not novels and are not for entertainment purposes only. That’s the lottery ticket you just bought and lost money on again.

If you don’t ever take action on at least one thing in the book you are reading, you might as well not even read it. In fact, learning without applying is a great way to lower your self-worth, the exact opposite effect you were probably hoping to experience.

Pick out one thing that you can apply to your life, business, relationship, career, or success and put it into action immediately. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, such small tasks and new habits can transform your life over time.


Try to take all the actions.

Finally, a word of caution against trying to do everything at the same time. It will lead to defocusing, confusion and eventually quitting.

Most self-help books are designed to be read multiple times. Each time you read it, based on your level of development at the time, you will pick up different lessons and actions.

Take the most immediate and applicable ones to your original intentions for reading the book and apply no more than a handful. If some piece of information doesn’t feel right, leave it alone.

Always take the good and leave the bad with every book you read.



When we see all the ways in which we sabotage ourselves and our personal development, we can begin to do something about it. Take this list with you the next time you read a book and be sure to violate every step.

  • Do you have a story you’d like to share about an experience you or a friend have had with a self-help book?
  • Was this article impactful in any way?

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