Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My beef with self-help books

"Did you see the girl with the telescope?" 
What is the difference between feeling safe and being safe?
What has this post to do with why birds sing and where trees grow? 

We come back later to these questions. 

I was asking for feedback about a book I wrote but didn't publish.
It was a self-help book.... full of exercises. I thought people would love a practical book instead of all those books full of fluff and almost no practical use. 

I was wrong. 

A good friend of mine pointed out that people use self-help books like talismans. 
They read it once and keep it close to feel empowered. 

I wonder if I asked people how many self-help books they read that really helped them, how many or few that would be. Even if they felt it helped there is a big chance that it was only a good feeling and nothing more. 

That's what I fear most....

Thinking you are fine while the house is burning down, in a manner of speaking. 
Thinking you made it while you still are unsafe. 
It's something that makes for great horror movies. 

That's not what I want to share with people even if it sells very well. 

The truth is that exercise is almost always necessary to create change because the best changes that stick are habits. You can make exercises fun by making it games and you can scale them down so it gets easy to start. 

Rewards are overrated because we feel the most rewarded by internal sources like the feeling you have when you overcome a challenge or when you have finished something. 

Willpower is overrated because it works like a battery. It works fine until it is exhausted and then you feel less motivated than even before because you feel you failed. It's not reliable. 

Many self-help books deal with problems on a superficial level instead of a systematic level that sees you also as a part of a system, in an ecology. We operate on many levels and systems at once. We are whole and a part of a whole at the same time. 

How we define ourselves and what are goals are is dependent on who is with us at that time. It is dependent on the groups we are part of and the peers we have. 

My beef with many self-help books is thus that it is self-centered. 

My second beef is that it tells you it's going to help you. 
I am not even sure that this post is helpful. Better double check that and see if it has value for you.

It's not because something is useful that it is useful for everybody. Every situation is different. 

You see, I have given you the responsibility to make sure you get something out of this.
How can anybody learn something or progress when the responsibility of that change is given to somebody else? 

Until there is ownership of the results and progress no meaningful changes can be made. 
That's why quitting smoking or start sporting or changing any other lifestyle or habit is not likely to stick when you do it because other people asked you to or pressured you into it. 

There is some structure in giving information that helps people process it better and that is slicing it in bite size bits. That is why this blog post is in divided into paragraphs of max 3 lines. 

We learn and remember more when there are a few open related questions made before the material that is presented or material to learn. It helps us look for structure and helps us focus therefore more. 

Did you see the girl with a telescope in your mind or did you see yourself looking to the girl through the telescope? 

How do we check if we have accomplished something?

How do we look for greater patterns when a simple correlation seems not present?

It's all about relationships and feedback. It's about seeing the bigger system to understand a subsystem and zoom out to find the greater ecology. 

What is needed to remember, understand and apply what we learn is thus in short: 

  • Open questions before the material.
  • Bitesize information.
  • Exercise.
  • Ownership of decisions and progress.
  • Understanding how we operate in multiple systems at once.
  • Understand that how we relate to things changes how we define things.

  • Summarise what is learned. 

Those are a few things that could help you.... help yourself. 

Have a great day!