Getting the Most from Self-help Books

You might have been advised to read more so you can be better. Or maybe, you read a lot and you have taken it upon yourself to read more this new year.

Someone told you about this book and you found what he said interesting. The book is about personal development he said. You are interested and you find the book so you can read it. Wait. Before you proceed, it is necessary you know some things before you jump into that delightful ocean of reading. I bet it will be worth your time.

  • Reading is good. Reading self-development books (or self-help books for short) is particularly awesome and life-changing, provided it goes well as it promises to be.
  • Reading books can be tiring and frustrating especially if you aren’t like some of us who find it an unmatched rewarding activity.
  • Reading can be fun for some people but to a majority of people I have come across, it can be particularly boring.
  • Reading academic books is compulsory, we can’t get away with it but other kinds of books can be forgone for good. Fictional stories may bore to the bone but it is super worse with self-help books.

The truth is that these books were written to sincerely help. They contain a wealth of knowledge we may not fully tap into by just reading the summary or listen to someone talk about what they got from reading them. The authors of these books write them because they found those principles to be very crucial to achieving that success we want.

Good self-help books have in them timeless and effective principles that are, in fact, tested by the authors themselves.

Someone said reading books is tapping into the minds of great people to learn their wisdom and secrets of their successes.

The problem then is how do you then get the most help from self-help when it seems all odds are stacked against you?

Here are a few things you need to do:

1. Decide why you want to read the book

It is important to clearly define your goals for reading a book especially a self-help book if you really intend to get the best out of it. What you do intend to gain from the book? This is the question you should ask yourself before you get yourself buried in the pages of the book.

Well, this may sound a bit odd. Why try to know what to know before you know what you need to know? It’s because you don’t know that is why you read. Yeah, but an undefined journey ends nowhere.

Some may argue that reading a book with a preconceived opinion distort the information you get from a book. True. But you would not pick a book and start reading for no reason.

If you don’t believe, why then do you think you get bored when a book is not interesting to you? Ask yourself why you read your school books so hard even though you are not entirely interested in what is in it . It is because you had an aim which was to pass your exams and without reading those books, you would reduce your odds of passing.

The best reason you have to read to a book is that you want to educate yourself. But go further when reading a self-help book, get a better and clearer objective to read the book. You know about a book somehow, so whatever attracted you to the book should be clearly established in your mind before you start. Maybe the title fascinated you, make sure to read the “about the book” before you start consuming it.

Decide to read a self-help book because you have a reasonable reason to read it.

2. Take it one bite at a time

And when you have started reading the pages of the book, that natural instinct comes to make you want to consume the book in one gulp like you would with a glass of water when you are extremely thirsty. Remember what happens when you try this with water, you drink to a point where you choke and spit all out. Or maybe like me, you drink to breaking point and start wasting the precious gift of nature.

The same also happens with books. The information chokes us when to take too much in. So, be deliberately calm and take it slowly when reading self-help books. Digest every bite before you rush on the rest of the book.

Meditate on the words. Make sure you internalize every key thing as you proceed with the rest of the book.

3. Be flexible and accountable

A common trap we set for ourselves in the bid to ensure we read the entire book (trying to cure what I call Must-Eat-It-All Syndrome) is that we put ourselves on a time schedule. We do this to ensure we finish reading the book at all cost. Well, this helps some but, based on what I know, it does not work for 90% of the people. Be flexible. Take your time.

Some fall prey to this Must-Eat-It-All syndrome because they want to read another book so they assume it is mandatory to finish the current book before another one. Well, who says you can’t read two or more books at once?

Here is a bit of honest advice I got from a senior reader, “you can read as many books you want to at the same time. What matters is you getting the best help out of these books and so you have to be accountable.” It all depends on you.

You need to find a way to be accountable to yourself on what exactly you are getting out of these books. To do this, I keep a book review journal. I have friends who keep notes of the ideas and opinions they get as they read. Some do it by underlining or marking out portions of the book they find extremely important. Just do what works for you.

Don’t hinder other aspects of your life because you are reading a book. Be accountable for whatever you read.

4. Act it out

Self-help books won’t help you if you don’t allow it to. In fact, it could make you worse. You’ll just end up being a fellow who mined gold from an ore and kept it in crude form in his lock safe. Of what use is it to him? Whereas he could refine this gold and sell it at an expensive price or perhaps use it in beautifying himself.

John C. Maxwell summed it up when he said: “Remember, the ultimate aim of learning is not knowledge but action”.

Don’t be a rich but poor and foolish fellow. Read self-help books, get the best help you can and live it out.

Read your way up to the top! You can be better and you will be.


What do you intend to correct in your reading habits from today?


One thought on “Getting the Most from Self-help Books

  1. That’s why I suggest just read 30 mins per day only. More if you want but a minimum of 30 mins. After one year of doing that you can get through 15 books. That’s what I did and I’m a lot better person for it. I don’t particularly like reading either. Before I was 37 I had read 1 book. Since then I’ve read close to 30 now. You’ll be surprised at what just a little bit each day can do. Thank you for your post and insights.

    Liked by 1 person

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