What is the biggest problem with self-help books and advice?

Adrian S. Potter
3 min readFeb 2, 2023

Be picky.

Photo by Seema Miah on Unsplash

If you are like many folks, you might have gone through a self-help period in your life. Or maybe, like me, you have been stuck in an endless loop of one for years.

Perhaps you bought countless books on personal development, attended lectures and courses, or hunkered down and watched motivational videos on YouTube.

I won’t deny that I have gleaned amazing tidbits of information from all the self-help material I’ve absorbed over the years. It has helped me develop new positive habits, alter my perspective, and add tools to my toolbox as I build my success.

But over time, I learned that there are limits to the self-help game. And if you do not understand those limits, you could run yourself into the ground trying to improve yourself to death.

If there is one absolute that I have learned from studying tons of personal growth media, it’s this — personal development is not one-size-fits-all.

Photo by Pramod Tiwari on Unsplash

A certain method or philosophy might help one person, or even a billion people — but it doesn’t guarantee that it will mesh well with your personality, goals, attributes, and moral structure.

It’s important to not view any piece of self-help advice as a panacea or a perfect antidote that will cure your shortcomings.

Learn from the best, but always adjust the lesson plan to make it work for you.

Try to treat self-help advice like your daily decisions on what to eat. Be as picky with your self-help as you are with your dietary choices.

Don’t swallow every meal these so-called experts are heating up and serving. Sometimes they are dishing out slop, warmed-up leftovers, or bad-tasting imitations of other people’s flavorful recipes.

Pick out the palatable parts, digest them, and make them a part of you.

But make a conscious decision to leave all the crap that doesn’t agree with your system on the plate. You’ll be better off pushing away from the table if that’s all the self-help world is offering on the menu.

Adrian S. Potter — the antisocial extrovert — is an author, engineer, consultant, and public speaker. When he’s not busy silently judging your beer selection or record collection, he writes poetry, short fiction, and articles on various subjects, including creativity, leadership, optimism, and personal growth. Adrian is the winner of the 2022 Lumiere Review Prose Award and the author of Field Guide to the Human Condition (CW Books) and Everything Wrong Feels Right (Portage Press). His next book, And the Monster Swallows You Whole, is forthcoming in May 2023 through Stillhouse Press. Visit Adrian at http://adrianspotter.com/. Say hi. He won’t bite.

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Adrian S. Potter

Antisocial Extrovert · Writer and Poet, Engineer, Consultant, Public Speaker · Writing about self-improvement, gratitude, and creativity · www.adrianspotter.com