Self-Help needs to be Self focused


Self-Help books are a false promise

I love the idea of self-help books. I love the promise of a life free from whatever ails you. The covers are always so punchy and you just know that you’re gonna be get the best care. Of course the author is gonna be hard on you but they know you’re doing your best.

But I’ve always known they’re mostly bunk. That’s a post for another day but I’ve found that they mostly cater to us self-help junkies. We read but never implement. More often than not because we know deep down inside that the books are not truly helpful for our brand of stuck and confused. If we were that troubled we’d go to therapy not reading about finding our inner tiger. And if we were already peppy go-getters we wouldn’t be browsing the self-help section in the library. We’re trapped between knowing what needs to be done and finding the energy to actually do it.

So when I went back into the productivity/self help sphere (or as it’s called now, self optimization) I told myself I would of course not read all these popular books. I’m not entirely sure how I would get relevant information but I vowed to not be tricked by gurus out to make a buck. Instead I would get my information from young youtubers with amazing editing skills. Surely a 25 year old millionaire with an amazing view over a sprawling city would know just what a middle aged mother of two needs in her life.

How should self-help look?

But I wanted to know what the youtubers I was watching got their information from. I thought the spines of these books looked awfully uncracked and all the zooming in the kids on youtube are doing nowadays made me zoom out. And since I’d also started up my PKM skills again I thought I could read some books and practice my note-making skills.

First out was James Clears Atomic Habits. As I razzed it, reading sections aloud to my husband and giggling I started taking notes. And then more notes. Then it wasn’t funny anymore. I found myself pondering why some of the things I’ve read, that in some ways were so very basic, had never occurred to me. I’ve always known that doing something was better than doing nothing. But James Clear whispered in my ear that there’s a difference between knowing and understanding. I finished the books and I think that it’s still the note in my Obsidian vault with the most links.

A wooden door with a stone arch surrounding it. The stone arch is littered with cogs and clocks

And now?

Sometimes stuff seems so easy looking back. There wasn’t any big earth shattering revelations. But I found cog after cog that help the machine that is me to run a bit smoother, at least in the way I approach life. The books isn’t the only reason I started blogging and do youtube, but it’s one if them. The fact that nothing will happen if you do nothing is so basic, but sometimes you just miss a tiny cog to make you tick. Atomic Habits was one of those cogs. It made it click in my mind that its okay to do something instead of nothing. Even if that something isn’t amazing. So James Clear, if this post finds you, I’m sorry for razzing your book, it’s awesome.


Right now I’m working thru some other productivity books both newer and a bit older. I’ll probably write reviews as I go. I have a post called What does productivity mean to me where I describe where I’m at right now with this concept.

The take away

But remember that no single book can make you better. Because you need to know a rough cut of what “better” even means to you. And this isn’t in any book. But when you have an outline of what you want to shed and what you want to gain I’m now a convert. Or maybe a revert. Read all the self-help books you can get your hands on. But only to get the crumbs you need for this outline to be more polished. Skim them, pick up what you need, put that information in your Obsidian vault, or your Bullet Journal or just on a sticky note at the bottom of your bag. Then do the same for the next one.

After a while you’ll branch out and then you start thinking for yourself again. Sometimes we’re just so stuck that we need a few voices telling us that change is possible. But then you need to do something. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

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