I’ve no idea exactly how many personal development or popular self improvement books sell each year – but I do know that self help is the fastest area of growth in the publishing world with millions of books being bought every year. I also know that, if you tune into your evening news, open any newspaper or go browsing the web’s chat-rooms and forums, these self help books are making precious little difference.
Surveys testify to people being more fearful, stressed and bewildered than ever before – even a world war didn’t give rise to such abject fear as we are witnessing in a century where we all swallowed the idea that humankind was finally rising to a new plane. In fact, the wartime spirit that galvanized nations throughout the second world war, has vanished from a world where obsession with money – fear or losing it, wanting more, not having enough – is the order of the day and it’s every man for himself. What the hell is going on – and I use the world ‘hell’ advisedly because it appears to me that the normal life is much nearer to hell than heaven.
Bestsellers like ‘The Secret’ and ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ point towards a brighter, better life if you use your mind in the appropriate manner. In contrast, Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, ‘Smile or Die’, claims that positive thinking has destroyed the US and ruined the world.
Having worked in the self help ‘business’ since 1996 – having started out before it was fashionable to confide in your friends or colleagues that you were ‘into it’ – I am firmly of the belief that people reading these self help books are not just fooling themselves but are a danger to themselves and those around them. They read a little, get a ‘feel-good’ after-glow, perhaps even put a little of what they’ve read into practice for a bit and then con themselves into believing that things are either better or, even more dangerous, about to get better – the all-too-common general excuse for taking no action while the wheels come off your life.
Books don’t change your life. Action changes your life – real action on a daily basis – action that you have to take yourself. And I’ve seen precious little evidence of action. Sure, I see lots of reaction – but everyone reacts, we’re experts at is and it makes matters worse rather than better.
So, close up your self improvement books and ask yourself this probing question? What action could you take right now that can improve your lot if life? Not knowing your life, I’ve no idea whether major change is called for or, perhaps, it’s just something little. But I do know this – I am regularly questioning myself, challenging myself to ensure that I keep taking the little and large actions that need to be done to push – yes, you’ve got to push yourself – my life towards more and more happiness and excitement. And I regularly see the results.