We live in a world obsessed with growth and progress.
Almost everything we do is geared towards trying to advance, to self-actualize, to expand our horizons. We want to be bigger and better.
This is an extremely admirable pursuit. Growth is an important and rewarding part of life, and the desire to achieve and expand has led to many of the greatest modern technological advancements of all time.
Naturally, this obsession with becoming the best versions of ourselves has led many to seek out information on how to do so. We want to know the best way to get ahead. We want to get better at getting better.
As a result, the self-help industry has emerged.
What is Self-Help?
Self-help is a tricky thing to talk about. While it is decidedly a genre, it is very loosely defined and has a lot of heterogeneity in it.
On the surface, self-help is anything created with the intention of helping you become better in some way.
As you can imagine though, this definition can apply to nearly anything. If you read a cookbook, that helps you become better at cooking. If you read a book on relaxation, that helps you maintain a better work-life balance.
In this sense, self-help is more of an attitude than a specific collection of features. You can view fiction as self-help if you focus on cultivating empathy for the characters. You can view binge-watching Netflix as self-help if you focus on unwinding so you can return to work fresh and motivated the next day.
For this reason, we can see that self-help exists more as an outlook on life than as a hard boundary between content and activities.
Why Do So Many People Engage in Self-Help?
Now that we see that self-help is really just an attitude, it calls into question why so many people flock to the self-help section of bookstores. Isn’t it unnecessary to buy books about getting better when you could just focus on getting better?
Well, yes and no. While self-help books may not be directly necessary from an informational standpoint, most people aren’t really reading them for information.
Instead, people seek out self-help because it’s inspiring and motivating. They like engaging in activities that make them focus on growing.
Subconsciously or consciously, self-help junkies rely on self-help primarily because the act of reading about getting better inspires them to get better.
It isn’t that self-help books are the key to taking up a new hobby or reaching your small business goals. Rather, it’s that reading self-help books puts those goals at the forefront of your mind. It makes you feel a greater sense of commitment to your goals, helping you stay disciplined in the long term.
Should You Read Self-Help?
If you’re drawn to self-help, there’s no reason to give it up. Self-help books or seminars can be powerful motivators.
They can also provide you with a sense of community, helping you connect with like-minded people. Over time, this can help you expand your horizons and learn new information.
That said, there’s nothing magical about self-help. If you don’t find it compelling, you don’t need to read it. Just focus on finding inspiration in whatever way works best for you.