Why Self Help Books Often Fail

You’ve just purchased the latest book on managing your time, your waistline, your relationships or your career, and you’ve set aside the time to read it. You read it, understand it, and think the advice and suggestions are good. But implementing the suggestions are a different story: We often fail to make the necessary changes to improve.

The problem is that habits are hard to change and how we manage our time, eat, deal with people, navigate our careers, etc.. is largely based on the habits we’ve developed. How to Be a Better
Covey describes three aspects of habits:
– The knowledge of what to do and why to do it
– The skill of how to do the new behavior
– The desire to change the behavior

Dr. BJ Fogg, who has been researching habit change at Stanford University for over 18 years uses a similar structure. He focuses on:
– The motivation to change
– The ability to change
– A trigger to prompt the change

It’s probably safe to say that a single reading of a self-help book will often not provide enough of the necessary ingredients to implement a lasting habit change. Multiple readings will be more effective, but many people are not willing to spend another 5-10 hours re-reading a book.

Three techniques that have proven more successful in effecting change are:
– Take an in-depth training course in the material
– Use a support group or peer support mechanism
– Use a systematic process to internalize the material and act on it

In summary, self-help books are great, with loads of valuable information, but if you want to see results you’ll have to go beyond an initial read.