Reading a self help book is a little tricky. Either you try to apply everything you read all at once, causing a mental (or physical!) breakdown and fetal position rocking, or you read it all…and never do anything with it. Both result in no tangible improvement whatsoever. Clearly, neither are suited for the young enthusiast that you are, trying to improve your life. Turns out, you can do it differently. How to read self help books isn’t quantum physics, you just need to keep these simple things in mind.
For the longest time, I actually fell into the Read & Not Do Shit category. I read every self help book I could get my hands on but never really put the things out of the books into practice. Before I used to beat myself up over that, but now I realize that self-help books are a very specific, weird type of book that should come with a manual on its own how to most effectively read them! And making mini-manual is my JAM, son.
This how you best go about reading self help books.
1. How to read self help books? Read with your own life in mind.
The first thing you should always keep focused on is how the book can help you with your life. Otherwise, you fill your head with the author’s story, information you can’t really use, tips that aren’t even applicable to your situation and that’s not going to very helpful.
I mean, I think it’s great that Example Eddie found a partner by applying Social Strategy #432, but I think my boyfriend would get a little upset if I did the same thing. Just like it has no use for you to learn how to do a great job interview while you have a great job and no intention of leaving. I mean, you can read it, but keep in mind that it’s less important than the stuff you could use to improve your life right fucking now.
2. Take it slow.
This is not a fiction book where you can skip over a boring conversation or rush through the riveting build-up to get to the plot. In these books, if you read over stuff, you’re going to miss stuff. So really try to take it sentence by sentence. Let it sink in a little, think about a certain phrase or quote for a minute before you go onto the next part.
3. Take notes.
This, to me, is absolutely essential. Scribble in margins, grab a notebook, put in post-its, underline, mark up, all that. I make my books look like I’m a kid in high school, doing homework. There is a gap between the author’s helpful written words and the practical use for its information into my life, and I bridge it through ferocious note taking. By reading so actively through taking notes, I make those words practical immediately. It ensures a better and more concrete understanding of what I’m reading.
So (ab)use your self help book like you did your books in school. They’re to-do books, notebooks. Make them yours so the information becomes more yours too.
4. Try doing a few of the assignments in the book.
Often, these types of books come with assignments or tips. Try them. Seriously. I’ve heard they are in it for a reason and not just for decoration. Crazy, right?
You can’t do everything at once. So, as you read or after you’ve read it, make a list of the things you’d like to try.* Pick one, two max, to try and implement into your life the upcoming days and weeks. By picking (a few) small thing(s), it becomes simple and concrete to take immediate action and just try out how it works for you.
*If you want, you can make it a mental list but honestly, if you knew how much it helped to think on paper, you’d write that shit down.
There’s the real punch line: just because some smart ass wrote it down desn’t make it a universal truth. Epiphany: not everything will work for you, not even if it did for somebod else before. So, if you’re a night owl and meditating at sunrise does not give you mental peace but overwhelming rage instead, maybe it’s not the best idea to keep trying. And if the Cabbage Diet give you gas, for the love of God (and people around you) please realise you need to try something else.
If it works, if it’s effective and you’re reaping benefits, continue. If it doesn’t work, you can either try to tweak it so it can be effective or you stop and start doing something else. Just do whatever you need to do to make something work for you.
I hope this short guide how to read self help books helps you on your way. (Obviously) I LOVE self help books and I truly believe they can lift your spirits, help you make better choices and live your best life. As long as you don’t overdo it of course.