So in an episode of Family Guy titled “Brian Writes a Bestseller” (season 9), Stewie convinces Brian to write a self-help book, after discussing the failure of his previous book Faster than the Speed of Love. So he bangs out a generic self help book, after verbally slamming the genre, which ironically ends up a best seller. Per usual, hilarity ensues.
The best part of the show is when there is a live action scene with Brian on “Real Time with Bill Maher” (even though I can’t stand that guy), where he gets slammed for writing “crap”.
Specific books, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and Purpose Driven Life, get thrown under the proverbial bus over the course of the episode, which I didn’t think was entirely fair. Anything that helps a person find some positive perspective and grow is okay in my book, and while the latter isn’t a stand out favorite of mine, I enjoyed it and I know a lot of folks who were genuinely inspired by it. A lot of what I write (and what I want to continue writing) could probably be categorized as “self help” and doing it to “get rich” doesn’t even pop up on the radar to me.
I suppose I can’t necessarily blame someone with a negative stigma of self help books and a portion of their audiences. A lot of religious literature in particular, especially these salesman slick proponents of the so-called prosperity movement (this might be controversial, but Joel Osteen gives me the creeps), seems to prey on the perpetual victims and validate weak minded thinking. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to me, is an example of a strong self-help title because it advocates asserting responsibility, being resourceful and taking the intiative.
Here are a few tips to avoid becoming a “self help sponge”.
1.) Any literature that doesn’t essentially tell you to put your big boy / girl undies and deal with it is trying to sell you something.
There is a level of moderation here, of course, because you can go too far the other direction and try to take too much upon yourself, but any book that either excuses you from responsibility because of your past or does not advocate taking ownership of your future is doing you a disservice. It may not be your job to save the world, but giving other people or circumstances licence to dictate the course of your life leads to a pretty myopic and limited existence.
2.) Output should at least = input.
The golden rule of weight loss: burn more than you intake. It’s common sense, and it’s a rule that affects our emotional and spiritual well being as well. If you inhale a lot of material, such as self-help literature, and never apply it practically, you’ll develop the equivalent of spiritual obesity or lethargy. Without action on your part, whatever positive growth you are trying to make will ineffective and won’t lead to anything of value. You’ll just move on from one “meal” to the next. You are going to have to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone in order to improve and maintain your emotional health.
I don’t know about you, but I just stepped on my own toes.
“Your milage may vary.” The problem with writing self help-esque work is that everyone functions differently. As the writer, you have to present truths that are universal without pushing your pet convictions on people. That said, as the reader, it is up to you to find a proactive way to apply what you just read. Find out what type of learner you are, then make the effort to reinforce the gems you gleened from whatever you just read or are currently reading. I am finding that I need a way to visually represent the concepts I am trying to implement into my life; that is how I learn. You might be more tactile / kinesthetic, maybe you need to hear it or write notes as you learn. The milage you get out of anything depends largely on knowing how you learn and approaching it with some creativity.
4.) If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t take self improvement too seriously. Sometimes you need to dig deep and put in some elbow grease, but if the fruit of “self help” isn’t a more enjoyable life, then something is wrong in presentation or execution.
In fact, in light of yesterday’s post, instead of focusing on overcoming the negativity, I sat down and wrote out what I wanted to do over the next few months to a year, things that I really enjoy or would have fun doing, and I found just by exercising the right to do something positive, it took care of the rest. And ultimately, if “self help” need exist at all, that should always be the end result.