Why do “self-help” books fail to “help”

When I was introduced to the world of books, there was a vastly famous genre that came across me. The genre of self-motivation, self-growth and inspiration. In general terms, we call these books: Self-help books.

Like your life, I too was facing failures at more points than I can count. And just like a sinking hand will grasp anything that can keep it floating, I got hold of the self-help books.

“How to win friends and influence people”, “Think and grow rich”, “The 7 habits of highly effective people” and “You are a badass” were a few of those that came to my hands with a goal to reach my soul.

I read these books with utmost sincerity and dedication (And I had to as those were the BESTSELLER survival guides available to me).

And those books surely did help. But the help didn’t last long. I didn’t reach my goals. And since then, I have been analyzing the reasons for why self-help books fail to help at a consistent basis. Here are my observations and opinions.

Self-help books succeed in one thing: HOPE. The books are selling hope; a better tomorrow, a bright future and a happy life. They push us to believe that the dreams we have are achievable (And in no way I am saying that they are not achievable).

After reading these books, we are motivated and inspired to not give up on goals and that they are achievable. We are hopeful that we will reach there where not many have reached in past. But,

A hope of a plate full of your favorite food-items can only bring saliva into your mouth. It can’t make your stomach full.

When I started believing in my dreams and started running towards my goals, it was like a 10 year old trying to finish PhD. It was like a district level cricketer aiming at scoring the winning runs of World-cup final at Lord’s.

I am not saying that dreaming is a crime. But ONLY dreaming is definitely a crime.

With the self-help books, I succeeded in believing that my dream is achievable. But what I forgot is that there is a long, tiring, tedious, torturing process to follow. Rather than focusing on the process, I kept dreaming of achieving it and did not take any steps towards it.

I was missing the essential part for the success: Hard work (and smart work).

I was missing the key point that the probability of success is still very close to zero (though not zero).

I was so mesmerized with the BIG PICTURE of my success that I forgot to take small steps.

I was so excited to jump towards my goal that I missed all baby steps that are required on the way.

So, at one point, I decided to come out of this trap of “ONLY HOPE” and started focusing on “PROCESS” and “METHODS”.

The self-help books didn’t fail. I failed to help my self. I failed to understand that the probable dream of destination doesn’t take away the compulsory journey that I need to go through.

So, I decided to frame my thoughts on what to do to succeed beyond the motivation. Below is a summary of the same:

1. START. No matter how small your first step is, it will take you closer to your goal than you were before. “I CAN”, “I WILL” can give you the goosebumps, but the reality will always demand action. So start acting for that better future.

The dream of hitting a century starts with taking the first run- no matter whether you are Sachin Tendulkar or Ajit Agarkar. The methods can be different. But the existence of method is fixed.

2. STRUCTURED PLAN. Taking steps is not worthy if the direction is not clear. When you have identified your goals, you need to sketch the path. The plan needs to be as structured as possible.

3. MEASURE. Understand how long your journey is going to be. Understand how long will it take for you to reach to the top. If the path is 10,000km long- you can reach in 3 years if you walk 10km a day and 1 year if you can run 30km a day.

The speed is in your hands, but the distance is not.

Thus, self-help books is the booster that can help you intensify your speed, but it won’t help you bring the goal closer.

Till next time, ciao!


7 Comments Add yours

  1. KP says:

    @ArjunaAtWar, Great draw on Distance is the same, Speed can be different!

    I am not saying that people who read these books are doing anything wrong, but I have always felt that everyone’s goals and expectations are unique and learning methods from so called proven methodologies may not work since environment, people, demands and generation shift which surrounded them is not constant !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Arjuna@War says:

      Exactly Krutarth. I really appreciate you sharing your opinion. The different speed don’t matter in the long run as long as you’re able to reach the goal.


  2. Anonymous says:

    True. Small steps everyday consistently make difference

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Arjuna@War says:

      Exactly. ☺️


  3. Pragnesh Sutaria says:

    उद्यामेन ही सिध्यनती कार्यानी, न मनोरथै:
    न ही सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रवेशंती मुखे मृगा:।
    Dreaming is one part (like chalk out plan or road map on paper) but execution is much more important n for that u may hv yr own method to make to articulate the dream in to reality….its like find a way or make a way. Lord Mahivar said that अप्प दीप्प भव । Be your own light….others light will not help to reach your destination. It will help to reach you their destination, not yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    *to make or to articulate the fre in to reality


  5. Pragnesh Sutaria says:

    *to make or to articulate the dream in to reality


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