In Defense of Self-Help: My Current Love for Personal Development

For most of my life, I have been a little embarrassed to be seen reading self-help books.  I aspired to convince myself and others that I was much more intellectual and wasn’t the “self-help” type (if there is such a thing), forcing myself to consume only classical literature or Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction or work by otherwise celebrated writers. God forbid someone would find me in the self-help section. 

So for years, I read perhaps one book a year for pleasure (which it wasn’t actually), finding it difficult–at times, painful–to get past more than a page or two in one sitting.  Occasionally when I was lucky, I found a page-turner to get lost in.  Thanks, J.K. Rowling.  But most months, books sat on my nightstand untouched and collecting dust.

Granted, it can be hard to read for pleasure when you’re in college or graduate school or a profession that requires a lot of reading (like law).  But it’s even more difficult when you don’t have a genuine interest.

Have you ever done that: forced yourself to do something you truly didn’t enjoy just to convince yourself and/or others that you are someone you’re really not?  Perhaps it was a hobby, sport, or type of music?

Well, that’s what I was doing.  Looking back now, I cringe at how much I could have been enjoying reading all those years.

Luckily, somewhere along the way, I got over it and embraced the personal development and self-help world.  I realized that, in the book world and in life, there really is something for everyone to love.  You aren’t going to like every book you read even if it’s “a classic”… and that’s perfectly OK.  Keep searching until you find what speaks to you.  For me, I had finally found people who I could understand and who I even felt understood me! It was like they were speaking directly to me.

Then, I started a business, which took my love for personal development to a whole. new. level.  I’ve been on a major personal development binge ever since.

So, here’s my brief defense of the self-help world for any of those who faced the same dilemma I did all those years:

First, personal development books can help fulfill the desire to pursue knowledge, but at your own pace and at a relatively nominal cost.  I’ve always been a lover of learning–hence, 20 years of school and two postsecondary degrees–and a believer in lifelong learning.  Personal development has allowed me to continue in this pursuit and improving myself in so many ways that directly impact the quality of my life.

Second, books written by or about successful individuals can provide incredible insights into their minds, philosophies, and strategies.  These authors spend hours upon hours writing and sharing years of experience and observation, resulting in what essentially becomes a user’s manual on their path to success; why wouldn’t you want to unlock their secrets and download that knowledge for $20 or less?

Third, they say that some of the most successful people on the planet are avid readers, so they must be on to something.

Here is a list of the personal development books I’m reading now and what I want to read next.  Give some of these a try if you haven’t already, and see if it sparks any interest.  (If they do, leave me a comment to let me know!)

Last Book I Read

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Currently Reading

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor

Next Up

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Have you read any of these? Which ones did you like or dislike? What books are you reading now and do you plan to read before the end of the year?

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