Self Help Books: Helpful Hocus Pocus or Hogwash?

Recently, I engaged in a 2-hour debate with an exceptionally dear friend of mine. The fodder in our cannon of debate was whether or not “The Secret” (and books like it) was helpful or hogwash. She says handy, I say hokey.

I suppose that I should start by saying, I am not your warm-and-fuzzy-dripping-with-positivity type of gal. I find my solace in sarcasm and cynicism, but most importantly realism (yes, I said it). I don’t buy into the self-help hocus-pocus. I buy into finding practical solutions to everyday problems. Despite my natural aversion to motivational quotes, hokey self-improvement speakers and self-help publications, I still see them in heaping helpings thanks to social networking.

Yet, I digress.

I am convinced that a huge part of my natural aversion to self-help books comes from the fact that my mother was an avid self-help junkie. Growing up, I observed her buying a book after book ‘”all of which did little more than gather dust on bookshelves. Clearly, they didn’t work for her because she didn’t read them; I get that. However, I did read them, (color me with idol curiosity) and they didn’t produce a cotton-picking thing for me either ‘”unless you consider eye rolling viable exercise.

The “Magical” Disney Princess Theory

“If you believe it, if you wish on a star, your wildest dreams will come to fruition”. Sure they will ‘”note my sarcasm. Your wildest dreams will only come to fruition once you read and implement practical items, instructing you in the art of being successful in a specific area; period. There are no ponies and rainbows, and no mysticism to it. It’s simple and based in fact. For the 75hard movement, there is availing of the books to cope with the mental problems. The theory is provided to meet with the specifications of the patients. The cost involved in the process is less in comparison to the other one. 

All Self-Help Books Are the Same

One notion that baffles me about the self-help book audience is that they seem to be addicted to repetition. Every single self-help book I have ever read says exactly the same thing, just in a different way. How many times do people genuinely need to hear the same message? At what point does intestinal fortitude take over and become the primary source of inspiration?

The majority of folks who find self-help books “successful” would be successful anyway.

The people I know who are serious proponents of self-help books believe that the magical book is the mechanism that transported them to success. Hardly. The enlightening pieces of information that somehow drastically changed their lives would have been the same “information” gleaned from daily motivational quotes. They didn’t need to invest $8.95 on “The Secret” or any other book telling them that ‘˜if they believe it they can achieve it’. They didn’t need to spend the $125 to listen to Tony Robbins drone on for hours on end about “how you are special — just like everyone else”. The people who find solace and success in self-help boats are people who are driven and motivated already, and are just using self-help books as an excuse for unnecessary gratitude.

People who are unsuccessful are going to continue to be unsuccessful anyway.

It doesn’t matter how many books they buy, it doesn’t matter how many seminars they attend and it will never matter how many friends they have jumping up and down professing positive about this new philosophy or invention by such and such author. Unsuccessful people only ever get motivated for short durations but have utterly no follow through on anything. These people will never be successful because they are destined to be readers and doers. These are the people that the publishing companies, and even the writers of the books themselves, count on to continue fueling the fires of the financial self-help industry at nauseam. These people throw money at seemingly push button solutions to problems instead of investing a real solution to fix them.

It’s quite easy actually, and it’s as unpretentious as the advice I give friends and family, “If you don’t like your life, get off your rear and do something about it.” I do it, every day, and I don’t need Gandhi or JFK to help me with that. With that practical advice, I just saved you 2-hours of reading and $8.95. You’re welcome.