Over a decade ago, feeling Buddha-level enlightened after reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I dragged my friend Vicki into the nearest bookstore to convert her to the self-help brigade.
Around that time, I thought I was going insane. I was fighting nonstop with my husband. I felt trapped, sad, angry, and unable to control my pendulum-like emotions. Tolle’s book, which found me at just the right time, helped me identify my emotional triggers and manage them before pandemonium broke loose again.
Even though I was already a bit of a self-help bookworm at this stage of my life, Vicki and I found ourselves in the self-help aisle under a bright, artificial light, completely intimidated by the hundreds of book spines surrounding us. Where were the warm and fuzzy sun rays we’d anticipated?
This is why I don’t recommend diving into self-help without some tips, unless you’re ready to feel completely overwhelmed. There is a lot of really catchy material out there without any "meat between the buns." This applies not only to books, but also to YouTube, podcasts, blogs, online courses, apps—even people on the street telling you how to save your soul.
Self-help is meant to make you feel good. In control. In touch with who you really are. Confident. Strong. Empowered. Happy! If you’re actively seeking these things, I applaud you, and my heart sings in excitement for the journey that awaits you. And as a bonafide self-help junkie, here’s my crash course in getting started.
3 Steps to Help Yourself
1. Identify your need(s).
You may have more than one, but choose the most pressing for now. Are you struggling with confidence? Does your relationship need work? Are you overwhelmed and over-scheduled? Do you want to connect with your spiritual side? Articulating your current need eliminates 90 percent of unnecessary material. Exhale!
2. Think about how you like to absorb information.
Self-help material is not like watching a rerun of Friends or tuning into Spotify’s Top 100. It requires an open mind and a little focus. The good news: The more you consume self-help, the more receptive your mind becomes to it. A friend of mine squeezes in self-help on the go all the time (she listens to two to three hours’ worth of material per week when she's on the subway with just her iPhone and earbuds).
The good news: The more you consume self-help, the more receptive your mind becomes to it.
Ask yourself: Do I like to read books and articles; listen to audio tapes and podcasts; watch something like a TED talk; or be inspired at a live event, seminar, or workshop? I'd suggest choosing at least one, maybe two for flexibility.
Bingo. Now you understand what you need and how you like to receive it. With the ocean of free material online, you can start your personal development party today—wherever you are!
3. Start with one self-help "teacher."
Here’s how it works for me: I love books. Books speak to me more than any other form of information. I read a book. I love the book. I then search the author who (inevitably) has talks on YouTube, a podcast, live lectures I can attend, maybe even an app.
I get to know an author through their writing first, then explore their work in other ways. Depending on your interest and needs, here are some kick-ass teachers I’d recommend to help you get started. (Almost all have free audio or video resources online—no need to even wait for an Amazon arrival!)
Improved health and physical wellness:
Manifesting desires into your life:
Increasing your wealth:
Dealing with change:
Spencer Johnson: Who Moved My Cheese?
Improving your romantic relationship:
Gary D. Chapman: The Five Love Languages
A big dose of perspective:
Viktor E. Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
Creating the career of your dreams:
Overcoming procrastination and getting sh*t done:
Breaking free of cubicle life:
Brene Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection
Don Miguel Ruiz: The Four Agreements
Dale Carnegie: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Shakti Gawain: Creative Visualization
Marianne Williamson: A Return to Love
Following your calling:
Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist
As I read, I make the impact last by jotting down my favorite sentences, quotes, ideas, and thoughts from each source. I keep these in journals that I refer to whenever I need a boost. Referring to these messages for later reference and inspiration keeps the positive influence going for years.
A line like Marianne Williamson’s “Joy is what happens when you realize how good things really are,” or “Peace begins with me” can shift my mood in an instant. Refer to your learnings often—otherwise it can become the forgotten “shelf-help” that doesn’t keep you going in moments you most need it.
Once you notice the shifts, you might become a bit of a self-help junkie too. Side effects may include more confidence, mental strength, resilience, improved sleep, a sense of inner calm, better physical appearance, more dough in the bank, motivation, joy, and a huge inner feeling of "yes." Is there a more awesome addiction?
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!