I have a lot of problems with “self-help” books. Most of them are hocking some ridiculous diet that no one can possibly expect to follow 100% of the time and is bound to actually make you gain weight like eating nothing but paper.
But I can eat all of the paper I want
Anytime I see a book for “60 days to 6 pack abs” or “Mastering Mastery” part of me dies a little because literature is dying too.
Disclaimer: This is not a real book, I hope
That's because the purpose of 99% of Self-Help books is to make you believe that all you really need to make your life better is spend 25.95 on Jillian Michael’s new Metabolism friendly cookbook. They want to make you buy into the latest fad diet where they tell you to eat all gluten-free almond paste in January, then tell you in March that you shouldn’t be eating fatty proteins like nuts and instead you should only each spinach and cottage cheese. And don’t worry if the $30 you spent on "The Remake Your Life Training Manuel" didn’t work because there will always be another meditation DVD for you to buy because the mega-million dollar self help business isn't actually built on fixing people; it's built on getting people to pay to "better" themselves while working to keep them essentially the same.
This is in-fact a real book. I am not endorsing it.
What is the most depressing though is how badly I want to read self-help books of actual substance. I love improving myself. Seriously. I am the person who believes if we aren’t actively trying to make ourselves do something better at all times, why are we even breathing? I fashion myself as a less annoying female version of Chris Traeger, although I am sure if you talked to most people that hang out with me, they would say I am, literally, just as annoying as he is.
I am 100 percent sure I am 0 percent sure of what to do.
Goals are the difference between people who work a boring job for a paycheck and those who see the value in all experiences. Trying to better ourselves is the difference between waking up in the morning and thinking about what lies ahead and a stoner who honestly believes that we are human/ape slaves controlled by an omnipotent alien overlord who placed us on earth to mine gold.
But too many self-help books nowadays focus too much on what you’re doing wrong, and not on why you are doing it, and what you can do to be better. Which brings me to The Power of Habit.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
I can't praise this book enough. It's the perfect combination of non-fiction storytelling with self-help guidance and miraculously doesn't make you feel like crap for not being perfect already. Duhigg combines the scientific dissection of success and failure in the same way Malcolm Gladwell did in Outliers with the practical knowledge of how to actually better your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Outliers, but it’s not a self-help book as much as a documentary of success. I remember in one chapter, Gladwell writes of an experiment about how kids who were held back a grade in Kindergarten by their parents were overwhelmingly more successful in life than their counterparts who started Kindergarten on time, because they were older, more mature and developed faster than their contemporaries. It was fascinating information, but it did absolutely nothing to help me in my present situation, especially since I started Kindergarten at age 4 and was apparently supposed to be a failure.
The brilliance of Duhigg is the same scientific information set to practical application. Did you know that habits occur on a physiological loop, based on Cue, Routine and Reward? Neither did I. Or that cravings are practically impossible to overcome once they have been “cued,” so instead of just making yourself miserable not eating a brownie, try instituting a new routine that makes you crave exercise instead?
What I learned from Duhigg was how I could use the existing science of habits to deal with my own problems. Charles Duhigg doesn’t know that practically every morning since I was 12 I’ve hit the snooze button on my alarm clock multiple times, and that on mornings I sleep in extra late I tend to eat a breakfast of Toaster Strudels as opposed to mornings when I wake up on time and I eat grapefruit and eggs. But that didn’t matter, because he knew that if I changed the “cue” of hitting the snooze button, I would invariably eat a healthier breakfast in the morning. And so far he is correct.
I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. It’s an extremely helpful and entertaining read. You’ll see the routines in your life in an entirely new light through Duhigg’s writing, and you’ll find it’s not so difficult to change it for the better.