Present Tense

Self-Help Me!!!

I’ve reached my saturation point with self-help books.  I had an epiphany last night while perusing some of the books that Amazon recommended for me in one of their countless emails (they know my weaknesses and exploit them nicely….bravo).  I looked them over, carefully reading the blurbs and all of a sudden, it hit me: I’m done.

DONE with self-help books, done with the ‘strategies for a better you’, done with lists, exercises, quizzes (well, maybe not quizzes…) and ‘action lists’;  all of it.  I’ve read thousands of pages hoping for that bolt of insight, that one little nugget of knowledge that will change my life and I finally realized that it doesn’t exist.  It ain’t out there like low hanging fruit, waiting for me to harvest that one  juicy, jewel of truth.  That juicy jewel already exists in me; in my actions, my reactions, my path, my decisions, my judgements.  I have the tools and the knowledge and now it’s merely a matter of DOING, instead of gathering.  Time to harvest the fruit that I’ve grown.

I’m not saying that everyone should come to the same conclusion. I have a list of books, authors, lectures, etc. that have had a profound impact on how I see the world, both personally and professionally.  In fact, I’ll post that list someday, in case any of you are interested, but what I realized is that all of these books essentially reinforce the same message, because it’s the message that expresses my values.  I’m merely consuming books that reinforce my gut instincts.

The mind blowing revelation was that I already HAVE this knowledge, these tools, these instincts and ONE MORE BOOK won’t catalyze me to act.  Take a minute to think about the many self-help books/articles that you’ve read; I’ll be willing to bet that they are all amazingly similar.  There are tons of different self-help categories and I think that most of us concentrate on a couple of them and read the same message over and over, in different packaging.  After enough books stressing the same message, it’s time to act. Don’t get me wrong; I think that constant learning and insight are as important as food and oxygen, but if you’re merely reading the same message over and over, it becomes a way to avoid making the changes in your life that you’re seeking.

January 9, 2010 - Posted by | Musings | , ,


  1. And yet another truthful jewel oh wise one. It’s all inside.
    Your rock!

    Comment by Margie Jennings | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. I also came to this conclusion as well, right after I read Dennis Prager’s book, Happiness is a Serious Problem. But it is good to know that the written word backs up what we should be doing. In the end, it all starts with what we really already knew, or guessed to be true. Great blog Jane!

    Comment by Sherry | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. I LOVE Dennis Prager and have always wanted to read his book. I’ve heard him talk about and the concepts that it contains, a lot on his radio show.
    Thanks so much for the note!!

    Comment by janelondon | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  4. You know what grabs you from all those bookstore shelves groaning under the weight of self-help books? The titles. The titles are brilliant, and promise so much, when the books themselves deliver so little. After about a million purchases, I FINALLY realized that these authors don’t know any more than I (or you) do.

    Comment by Maureen | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  5. I look forward to the list of books you will post.

    Comment by imasink | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  6. I’m always struck by the promises the title elicits. From the grocery store checkout line to the high end bookstores to the newspaper magazines, the self-help catches my attention. However, when I get beyond the cover they are often filled with common sense statements. I was looking for the aha moment and they were looking for a book sale. They got what they wanted, but I didn’t. I continue to search.

    The real helpful statements are repeated (ad nauseam). The best example is one you might be familiar with, E+R=O. Its repeated and applied over and over. There are many in the Bible that I carry with me wherever I go. But seriously, how many do you remember from a book you may have read last year. Rarely, in my opinion, do they change your life, unless you pick one and ruminate on it for a long time.

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    Comment by Big Steve | January 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Right. So much of this stuff is regurgitated common sense, merely repackaged in a way that makes it seem easy or exciting. I guess we all need reminding, OVER AND OVER:) As I mentioned in the post, it’s a way to avoid actually PRACTICING these principles.
      thanks for the comments! mucho appreciated

      Comment by janelondon | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  7. The best ‘self help’ book I have ever read was not a self-help book at all. “Love” by Leo Buscaglia changed the way I looked at the reactions and interactions I had with every person I came in contact with. One of those people just happened to be me. No love is not the answer to all of life’s issues, but for me it was a great place to start.

    Comment by Kandis | January 10, 2010 | Reply

  8. I gave away all my self-help books after my SECOND divorce.

    Haven’t read or bought any since; and I’m happy!!!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Big Sis | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  9. Guilty! One area I’ve read about for years is health and fitness. Two months ago I actually began to seriously exercise! I feel great, who knew the endorphin rush was so awesome! I’ve read about it for years but hadn’t experienced it until, you know it, I got into the ACTION of doing exercise.

    Jane, I think you are onto something! What’s that saying ” action speaks louder than words”? I bet this principal applies to everything, perhaps that should be my new year’s resolution.

    Comment by Linda | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  10. There you go! I’m convinced that after 3 self-help books on the same subject, you KNOW what to do, right?
    Good for you on the fitness front!

    Comment by Jane | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  11. Very interesting post – I’m a self-help junkie too. My experience is different from yours, though. First, I don’t think it all boils down to one thing, or one jewel/nugget. I glean from each book (usually) one or two key learnings and it contributes to who I am as a person. I feel I am a work in progress. Sometimes I recognize that “yeah, I knew that” but hindsight is 20/20 right? I will say that as I get older (I’m 36) I DO find fewer and fewer revelations in these books – because I have more life experience, and, maybe I learned them on my own or maybe it IS a repetition of something I read before.

    Second, I don’t think I’ll ever be DONE. Sure, I reach a saturation point periodically and back off of the self-help for 6 months or a year, but I always come back. In other words, there are times when I feel like you do, but after an absence (and some action), my passion and openness to learning is renewed. I’m always trying to find that balance between reading/studying and taking action. Life IS about living (taking action), but I do find value in reading/studying about living too. Does that make sense?

    Comment by Donna | January 14, 2010 | Reply

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