Somebody recently said to me that people should stop reading self help books and should just get on with achieving what they want to achieve. For a few seconds, I did wonder if he was right. Do we inherently know what we need to do to achieve great things? If we just acted, could we take our lives to the next level? In some respects, I think hes right! Action is the key, youve got to do this for yourself, not just read about it. So where is the balance and where do self help books fit into the picture.
From my own experience, and therefore one of the reasons I wrote a book about personal development, is the short cut they provide. I agree most people have the capability to do, but where do you start and how do you avoid getting it wrong and making costly mistakes. Self Help Books contain other people's wisdom, experience and often detail on their journeys. So, you must take your own journey, but learn from others to make that journey easier.
Learning is one the threads of our lives that we discuss in great detail in Strength to Strength. We dedicated the whole first chapter to this subject, because we never stop learning. One of my favourite sayings is A Clever Man Learns From His Mistakes, but an even better expression is that A Wise Man Learns From the Mistakes of Others. Thats what self help books do for you. They provide the learning to ensure you get it right.
To many people believe that life is a struggle, that you have to work hard to be successful, that nothing comes easily. So although I agree that you do have to work hard, it doesnt have to be hard work. If you find something you really enjoy, or The Thing that makes your heart sing as Barry (Strength to Strength Co-Author) would say, then work can become pleasurable. Therefore working hard becomes pleasurable, and already your journey is easier.
Again, this is where self improvement books can help. Using many of the exercises authors of such literature provide, can help you identify what that thing is. Its a form of coaching or help from somebody who is totally detached from your situation and can be completely objective. Self Help Books and these sorts of exercises really get you to look inside yourself and identify who you want to be, rather than letting life dictate what happens to you.
Another benefit that comes from Self Help Books, is inspiration. We have to believe we can achieve, or we wont even try. These books through the stories and experiences that I mentioned early, often help us see through the challenges of today, and enable us to believe in what might be.
You can change everything, it does require work and self help books do have a part to play. So do read books to help you grow and dont listen to the nay sayers who say dont. Its usually just their way of rationalizing their own existence and lack of achievement.