What do we want? Results! When do we want them? Now!
We read self-help books to solve problems, cope with change, and grow as earthlings. So, how do we get the most out of self-help books? Better yet, how do we reap the benefits of self-help books as quickly as possible?
If you don’t have a plan, even the most inspiring book will be just another book you read once.
You’re better than that. Apply these strategies to get the most out of your next read. The first few tips will help you choose the right book to begin with.
1. Get clear on your goals. There are so many interesting books out there. Without some sort of litmus test, you’ll end up with a packed bookshelf and no hope of reading them all.
Think about what you want to get out of the book. What do you hope the book will help you accomplish? How will you know if you’ve reached your goal? Use the answers to these questions to help you pick your next read.
2. Pick the right book at the right time. That weight loss book made sense last week. But now that rumors of layoffs are swirling about the office, your interest might turn to finding a new job, making money online, and frugal living.
The key here is to get a book that meets a visceral need. You want a read that will help you think out loud about a real, and present danger. This method of choosing a self-help book on the gut level will motivate you to read with intensity and intentionality.
3. Understand the overarching message of the book. Why read 50 pages, or worst, the whole book, only to find that you don’t agree with the premise? Try to get a real feel for the book, from real people.
Sample the Amazon reviews. Read book blogs. Visit GoodReads. See if anyone has posted about the book on YouTube.
If you disagree with the author’s premise, keep moving. There are plenty of other self-help books in the sea.
4. Consider the cost of change. You’ve set a goal. You’ve got the right book at the right time. You understand and agree with the author’s premise. Now you have to be honest about whether or not you are willing to pay the price of taking action.
As an example, let’s look at “Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life,” by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D. The author warns that changing the balance of power in any relationship is bound to cause trouble.
Braiker writes, “You must realize that this shift in the power equation inevitably will alter the relationship and behavior of both parties involved…this may be a scary and emotional time for both of you. Even if your resistance tactics succeed in producing a new repertoire of healthier, nonmanipulative responses from the other person, there likely will be a rocky adjustment period.”
Anyone reading “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” would have to consider whether or not they are willing to pay the cost of the change discussed in the book. The same goes for books about fitness, family, finances, or any topic that requires you to rock the status quo.
Before you get another self-help book, ask yourself, “Am I willing to pay the price that this book demands?” If not, keep a walking.
5. Take notes. Reading an entire personal development book without writing anything down is an exercise in futility.
Keep a reading journal.
Pick up a notepad from the dollar store.
Whatever your method, write down your key takeaways from each chapter. Describe the ways that you will put them into action.
Keep a list of any questions that you have along the way. In our world of connectivity, you can probably reach out to the author with your query. Or at least find someone else who has read the book.
5. Put it into action. Do self-help books really work? Yes. But sometimes people don’t work. Tons of readers never reap the benefits of self-help books because they fail to take action.
You’ve taken quality notes. You’ve given thought to how you will implement your new knowledge. Half the battle is won. Now it’s time to take action.
Write out an action plan. Start with small changes and build from there. It only takes 66 days to form a new habit (or 21 days depending on who you’re talking to).
Keep your book nearby. Take action immediately. Record your successes and setbacks along the way.
6. Find like-minded souls. Change does not happen in a vacuum, unless you’ve lost a few coins under the couch. Real change happens in community. If you want to power boost your action plan, connect with other people who are on the same journey.
It’s great if you can find someone reading the same self-help book. Websites like GoodReads and LibraryThing are good for that. But don’t let it be a limitation. If you’re studying personal finance, find a Facebook group on the topic.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one? Sure, Max Lucado’s “You’ll Get Through This” is useful. But a community of like-minded souls will deepen your knowledge, and hopefully lighten your burden.
7. Hold yourself accountable. Holding yourself accountable is not about beating yourself up. Change is challenging, even when it is neatly outlined in a book.
Holding yourself accountable is about being honest. If you fail to implement a part of the plan, don’t ignore it. Ask productive questions. Am I feeling overwhelmed? Is this still the right time for me to work on this facet of my life? Are there old habits or patterns that are getting in the way of change?
Get to the bottom of the issue to determine if you need to muscle up and get back on task. Or if you need to re-work the plan.
Old School Readers: What are your tips and tricks for making the most of self-help books? Do you think self-help books work?
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