Self Help Books Don’t Work

This week my attention has been turning to the books and literature which argue that self help, self improvement, personal development books do not work.

A lot of people are cynical about the power of self help books to change lives. I find the ‘books don’t work’ argument very difficult to accept.

The same people who argue this would no doubt readily accept that a fiction book, play or film can change people’s thinking and thereby change their lives. Some of the cynics would also no doubt celebrate that because the change was triggered by ‘art’. Many artists set out to change peoples thinking via their medium. Why are self help writers seen as less noble? In one sense we are more honest. We are not making any attempt to disguise our underlying motives with a veneer of drama.

But a much stronger argument against the ‘self help books don’t work’ lobby is that if that is the case, no books can work. And if that is so, we ought to let all the Universities in the world know that one of their key mediums for learning is no use. Learning from books is a key technique used in schools, colleges and universities the world over. We give people books to help them learn. So if you can learn useful things about cooking, history, sex and investment from books, why can’t you learn about personal problem solving from a book? Why can’t you learn how you can help yourself from a book?

A related argument is that self help books offer easy and instant solutions to difficult problems or at least create that impression. I make no such claims. My position is that more success only comes with effort. However, in my experience, the amount of effort needed to make big changes is probably far less than people think. What often prevents people from taking action is what they believe about a problem. They are regularly put off doing things (taking action, making the effort) by what they believe about the enormity of a problem. What they believe about the size of the problem may not be related in any way to the size of the problem.

Many people are not very clear about what they want and they are even less clear about why they want the things they vaguely want. This is where my self help book really works. Design for Life™ puts you on a journey which will help you achieve some clarity about what you want and why you want it. Your vague goals and poor current understanding of your own motivations will be replaced with clear objectives supported by genuine motivations. This can deliver you some real changes in your life.

That’s why I wrote Design for Life™ – to help people make the changes they want. In the end, whatever arguments people use to say that self help books do not work, although I will consider them, I will always dismiss them, because I know they work for me. And because I know they work for me, I know they can work for you. Why not give them a try? Why not start with Design for Life™.

John Cornbill