Self-help books, when combined with critical thinking and creativity, are some of the most powerful tools for personal transformation. Unfortunately, some people follow the advice of gurus because of the fame of the guru rather than because of the value of the ideas themselves. When we listen to others, it should be because those people are effective at helping us see insights that empower us to create the lives we truly want.
We’re free to listen to anyone we want, but we are the ones who have to live with the consequences of our choices. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of books but I doubt if any of those authors are going to give me any money back for the advice that didn’t work. And even if they did give my money back, they can’t give me my life back. My lost time is *my* lost time. The popularity of a book or teacher can’t save you or I from the hard work of taking personal responsibility for our own growth.
Some people respond to this fact by choosing to be contrarians about everything. If a book or teacher is popular, they dismiss it. But contrarianism won’t save us either. What makes a decision intelligent or wise isn’t how popular or unpopular it is, but how consistent it is with our own priorities and principles.
Socrates once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That doesn’t mean your life is hopelessly worthless if you haven’t examined it. It means that the process of examining your beliefs is essential to a meaningful life. “Self-help” is short for “Self-help Philosophy.” In theory, it’s supposed to be the application of philosophical thinking to the process of helping yourself grow. Unfortunately, the self-help industry has become a bit disconnected from its philosophical roots. In many ways, it’s less about using logic and more about following the latest motivational superstar. As a result, many people either reject all forms of self-help philosophy without consideration or they become lifelong seminar attendees who spend all their time and money chasing the latest personal growth technique.
Put the philosophy back in self-help. If you really want to make progress in personal development, be a critical thinker. Being someone who questions everything is much better than being someone who automatically believes everything or who cynically believes nothing.
Here’s a post from Tamina Zaheri on the value of questioning everything.