I’ll admit it: I’m a self-help book junkie. I love reading about how to improve my memory, be more resilient in times of stress, and impress people in only 90 seconds. Now, you may not have the same addiction to self-help books as I do, but if you’ve ever read one in an attempt to change or improve something in your life, chances are you’ve faced this truth: reading a book usually isn’t enough. It’s great to get that knowledge and that outside perspective, but it’s not enough. Reading a book about dieting won’t lose that 30 pounds for you. Neither will a workshop or seminar, or even speaking directly to an esteemed guru. So how can you improve yourself, then?
“But you just said that reading wasn’t enough,” you may be thinking. I did. In most cases, it isn’t, but it’s still an important step. For many of us, learning something new can be the catalyst to get ourselves to take some kind of action. You have an epiphany, and suddenly the motivation you could never find is there, or you find some new trick that makes dieting (learning a dance, overcoming your fears) so much easier. For some of us, though, learning becomes an excuse to not have to take action. It’s easy to tell yourself, “I’m doing everything I can. Look at how many books I read and how much research I did!” Don’t use that as a reason not to act. In the days of the internet, there’s always something more you can learn, more articles you can read, but there comes a point when you have to move on to the next step.
For me, there’s a huge difference between speeding through a self-help book and taking a few minutes now and then to think about what I’m reading. Like anyone else, I find it hard to motivate myself sometimes (even if we’re talking about a goal I really want to achieve!), but sometimes just letting my mind mull over new information is enough. Suddenly, I jump up and write an article, clean my room, or step on the treadmill. But I never get that reaction if I don’t set the book down for a second and allow myself to think. The next time you’re researching how to achieve your goal, step back and just think about it for a few minutes. Let your curiosity take over, and your imagination might just do half of your work for you. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?
Once you’ve read a few books, you probably have some ideas about where to start. If you’re trying to treat your diabetes, you may have come across some foods that you should and shouldn’t eat, or maybe you found out about a revolutionary new treatment that’s showing promise. Don’t just stand there; give these things a shot. In the case of a health condition, it’s a good idea to discuss these things with your doctor first, but don’t let your doctor dictate your treatment. Patients who are more involved in their treatment do better and recover more quickly from illness than patients who simply obey their doctors’ commands.
This doesn’t just apply to health conditions, either. If you’re trying to overcome a phobia, actively seeking out ways to beat your fears will get you more relief than assuming there’s only one way to do things (or worse—thinking that there’s no solution for you). Don’t lose hope when your first try doesn’t pan out. Different things work for different people. Just because something didn’t work for you doesn’t mean nothing will. If you really want something, be creative. There are a million different things you can try, and it’s likely that something will eventually pay off. How many times have you heard a story about someone who tried everything, then just as they were getting ready to give up, they finally found the one thing that changed their life? If you stop before trying everything, you may miss that miraculous solution.
No man is an island, and neither is any woman. You may think you can handle things on your own, and maybe you can…but that doesn’t mean you have to, or that you should. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust, whether it be your mom, your spouse, or your best friend. Tell them what you’re trying to do, and see if they have any suggestions or want to join you in your journey. If you’re trying to get in shape, ask a friend to be your workout buddy. If you’re sick, ask someone to go to the doctor with you and hold your hand. You might be surprised at how much better you feel or how much farther you can run with a friend by your side.
Now that you’ve learned how to approach self-improvement, it’s time to start working toward your goal. The takeaway from this article is that, although it’s a great idea to learn from those who have traveled your path before you, it is not a replacement for learning and experimenting for yourself. An experience is worth a thousand books. Just reading this article won’t change your life, just like simply watching an exercise video won’t make you buff. It’s what you do with the information you have that matters. It’s being willing to take charge of your life and deciding that you’re ready to make a change that makes the difference. And a little help along the way doesn’t hurt.