The Problem with Reading Personal Growth Books

posted in: Productivity, Writing | 2

I recently discovered a problem with reading personal growth books. But I love these types of self-help books! In 2018, I read more of them than fiction (which is saying a lot, for me)! It was toward the end of that year that I noticed one big issue with the genre. Maybe you’ve encountered it, too?



I was building both a book and a blog, working full time, and tutoring after school twice a week. Listen, I needed all the time management/goal setting/stress reducing tips I could get! So I consumed personal growth books like lemonade on a hot day.



Then I started to notice some of the books contradicted one another. No big deal, right? Many different authors, many different opinions. Besides, everyone’s different! So what works for someone else may not work for me. Over time, though, I saw a pattern in my own behavior.




Collecting Good Advice

Turns out, I was collecting good advice like some women collect ceramic bear figurines. (I’ve never understood this, but I admit my cute-o-meter seems permanently on the fritz. Why is a teddy bear figurine holding a balloon “cute”? You can explain it to me in the comments) The more I read, the more I compared conflicting advice, analyzed it, decided what would or would not work for me, and went on to the next book.


Over time, I found I was reading some books just to compare them to my favorites so I could shake my head, cluck a little, and poke holes in the newest hypotheses. I’d do this without even trying the techniques, and I found it immensely entertaining.




Always Reading, Never Implementing

I think it comes with the territory. If you’re super busy like I was during that time, you’re likely pushing yourself to do everything more efficiently with less wasted time. But we need down time, and our brains will find a way to get it if we don’t provide it. In my case, I started using my study time as entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with this! In fact, I needed more intentional down time that year.


[Check out my post on Creative Rest here!]


But I was blasting through personal growth books without ever giving the contents a chance to help me. It’s true, when one listens to intuition, some advice will be an obvious no-go. I’m weakest with tedious, fine details work, so a growth technique involving the upkeep of an intricate database would be a bad fit. You’ll come across similarly incompatible methods, too.




Keep It Relevant

Now, I limit personal growth books to one per month. It has to be a book that relates to an area I’m struggling to improve. (Right now, I’m reading The Genius Habit by Laura Garnett–very insightful!!)** This way, I can slow down and really digest what the author has to say. I can still analyze and critique what I read, and I still judge whether the advice is a good fit for my life.


But I’m not reading personal growth books as a sport any more. They’re not my escape. Lately, I’ve been escaping outside into the forest or garden. It’s easy to get into a habit of racing through self-help gurus and mentors, when what I really need is to pause and implement and test. More isn’t always better.




NOW YOU: Do you ever find yourself collecting advice from personal growth books? What do you do to slow down and digest the information before moving on?





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2 Responses

  1. Writingdianet

    Come on now, Cole!!! Get out of my brain!! Yes to all of the above.

    I am currently reading Michael Hyatt’s “Free to Focus.” I’m finding it helpful, but some of the ideas I knew already from other brainy people. Like you.

    You got me started bullet journaling. I got the book BY the bullet journal founder, by the way. Of course I did! “The Bullet Journal Method” has helped me put LESS (in number) but MORE in importance tasks on my daily to-do list. And I’ve gotten in the habit of making “brain-dump” notes in my Bullet Journal instead of on dozens of scraps of paper. AND, I wrote down my BIG goals in the back of the journal so I can review them daily. A lot of this is stuff I learned from YOU (And your recommendation of “The Miracle Morning,” another self-help book. Hahaha!)

  2. Cole Smith

    I’m *so* happy the bullet journaling is proving helpful, friend! Those two books are definitely at the top of my list as far as life-changers go 🙂

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