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Why Self-Help Books Never Worked for Me

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It took a lot of honesty to finally realise why self-help books never worked for me. When I finally discovered my own barriers, my life began to change.

If you know me personally, you’ll know a good majority of my home library is full of self-help books. I’m talking everything from relationships, money, spirituality, kids and ‘finding’ yourself. You name a problem; I can pull out a Self-Help book for you!   

Now to be honest, the majority of these books were unfinished and been on my shelves for over 10 years. I’d buy a book, get home and enthusiastically read through a few chapters thinking, “This time, “I’m gonna sort this shit out!” 

By the end of the week I’d conclude the author has no idea of what ‘I’m’ going through, so this is NOT going to work for me. That would be my cue to make space on the shelf, where the book would stay gathering dust. Then, months later the same issue would arise and I’d go out and buy a new book! 

“Why do we find ourselves going around and around of wanting to change something but not really having the willpower or motivation to actually do it?” 

I’ve recently been reflecting on how I’ve made so much life changes in a relatively short space of time after my 40th Birthday.  What were the real reasons change was so hard for me in the past? 

As I sit down to write this now, I realise I had no intention of really changing the situation.  That’s the real reason why self-care books never worked for me. I just needed to tell myself that I had ‘tried’ to seek help, knowing full well that I couldn’t actually be bothered to change anything. Does this sound familiar? 

Below are the three conclusions I made after being totally honest with myself about why I could not change and why self-help books were not working for me. 

Are your reasons the same?

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Why Self-Help Books Never Worked For Me 

1. I Wasn’t Trying to Change Myself

I approached each problem with the notion that it was other people or things around me that needed to change.  Obviously missing the clue in self’ help! 

My starting point would always be; what am I going to ‘get’ when they or it changes.  I wanted everything external to adapt into my idea of perfect.  That way, I could just keep plodding along with the same old me, but everything else will be bent to my will – making me happy! As far as I was concerned, I did not need to change.  

Back then, my understanding of self-help was; finding information for ‘me’ to change external things – by myself. How ridiculous this sounds when I write it down.  But it was true.  I didn’t realise focusing on the weaknesses of others allowed me to deny my own short comings and reinforce my belief that it’s them – not me.  With my ‘what am I going to get’ mindset, I would read enough pages of the new book, realise what the author was asking of ‘me’ and the book would be closed and placed neatly on the shelf.  

2. I Wanted the Result But I Didn’t Want The Process

OK, so rational me knows, where we find ourselves in life, took years to get there. However, when I decide I want to change it – I want it changed RIGHT NOW – TODAY! I was looking for the quick fix. I needed some Fairy God Mother type stuffWave that magic wand woman and make it all better now! 

I would start off all guns blazing. Buy new note pads to plan this new life. Share all the aha moments with my husband and then look around one week later and think – nothing’s changed!  Now, bear in mind for that one week – I had only read the books.  I hadn’t actually taken any action from the advice. Quite remarkably I must have thought that by reading what needed to be done – would get it done.  

Why didn’t I take action? Well to be honest, some of the advice, steps and workbooks were so time consuming and there was no guarantee it would work for me, (no matter how many PHDs the author had to back up their advice).  “You want me to do what? For how long?”, was my reaction about four chapters in.  

Also, my mind kept coming back to stories I repeatedly told myself about failure in the past. My excuses rang loud in my head.  Armed with an arsenal of reasons why this would take too long and may not even work, the book would again be placed neatly on the shelf.  

The Process Quote Pinterest
3. It Questioned the Core Beliefs I had About Myself

Have you ever read something that exposed things you know about yourself but was not prepared to admit? Some of those books got personal, I mean hard core personal!  Sometimes you stumble across a really good book.  You and the author are vibing, they really inspire you. You’re convinced you will follow through this time and then bam!  Chapter six just goes and messes everything up.  

When that happened, my instant reaction would be “That can’t be changedthat won’t change or I don’t want to change that. You mean, I have taken all my time reading five chapters, only to find out the author doesn’t know ‘that thing’ can’t change in my life!”

The disempowering voice in my head had kicked in to protect my disempowering beliefs I was not prepared to go down those emotional routes that challenged my whole entire being and identity. And without reading chapters six to eleven, the book was quickly retired to the shelf. 

CAN YOU RELATE TO ANY OF MY REASONS WHY SELF-HELP BOOKS NEVER WORKED FOR ME?

My Break Through

Unbeknown to me at the time, was every book returned to the shelf unfinished and unventured, left a part of my own power on the shelf with it. The books started to serve as a constant reminder of ways I had not followed through year after year. 

Following my mid-life crisis epiphany, and my resolve to change my life, I stumbled upon a sentence in the book Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, (yes, I was still buying books even after my epiphany!). I finally understood the reason for my three barriers to why self-help books never worked for me.  The sentence read: 

“All that you really want in life is to change the way you feel” 

This was a major aha moment.  It’s not that my life was shitty and I wanted to run away and hide or start over again.  It was just yearning to ‘feel good’ in this present time in my life.  

I realised it wasn’t about the books, the authors or the subject matter. I had structured my life in a way where my happiness was dependent upon something I cannot control – ‘Them’ and ‘It’. 

The stories I repeatedly told myself about why things where the way they are, kept creating my same life experience over and over again.  I had beliefs, habits, people and systems that all supported my story.  

It was Time to Change My Story!

That one sentence propelled me from being ‘interested’ about change, to being ‘committed’. To start doing the work to change the way I felt. It made me realise that reading is one thing –  but finding the motivation to take action is an entirely different beast.  

The notion of ‘wanting to change the way I feel’, was the ultimate breakthrough with my relationships with self-help books and what I actually wanted in my life. I was no longer interested in changing the external things around me. I was committed and motivated to the goal of receiving genuine emotional rewards for my life.  

Taking the prompts from Tony, the first thing I did was evaluate my value system. Who was I, what did I need, what emotional states do I value most in life?  This created the basis of what my true desires in life were and gave me a starting point for the goals I wanted for myself.  

By figuring out my true set of values created a compass for the direction of my life. It enabled me for the first time to have clarity on what’s important to me, guides my every decision and best of all helps me make decisions much quicker.  

Read my blog How I Changed My Life at 41 to download my Values Setting Worksheet

It’s time to get clear on what will truly make you feel happy.
Change your story quote
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Over the last few years I revisited the majority of the books abandoned on my shelf. But now I know why self-help books never worked for me, I approach them with a different mindset.  

I’ll be honest, some of them I still could not get to grips with – but that was OK!  I no longer felt defeated if the whole book did not give me tools to unlock the emotional states I was looking for.  My plan was not to follow everything down to the letter, but rather use the books as a pick and mix of strategies to change the way I feel and therefore about my life as a whole.  Creating more balance in my life. 

After discovering what my values were, I knew exactly how I wanted to feel each day.  I took small intentional actions, one after another and slowly started to shed old belief systems to create a life that serves my true emotional needs.  I’m not saying it was easy at the start.  But looking back, I can’t even recognise the person I was before – so I know it was all worth it.  

And here I am world! Happier, kinder to myself  and excited to live each day!

Let me know in the comments below the one thing that is holding you back from taking the steps to becoming the person you really want to be. 

What’s keeping you back from committing to change?

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