Essence of Self-help Books

Self-help books are those that tell you how to be a better person. These focus more on inner development than on external material success. This is the core topic of the scriptures of many religions of the world and the teaching of most of the saints of the world. However, modern man needs everything in a “secular” and “rational” package. This has given rise to several authors (most of whom are quite religious people in their personal lives) come up with self-help books, which are independent of any religious denomination. Over several years, I have read several self-help books. Here are the essential points from a number of books put together. All the points are needed because each one touches on a different aspect. None can be ignored.

  1. You are responsible for your life
    • What you are today is because of your decisions in the past. You are responsible for your decisions now and in future.
    • Your future is your choice and your responsibility.
    • No one can help you change unless you decide to change.
    • No one can force you to do anything. You have the freedom of choice.
  2. Don’t compromise on integrity
    • You speak the truth because it is the truth. There is no compromise. You need not say everything you know. But you need to say what is needed and you need to speak the truth and nothing other than the truth. If you are not sure, you need to say you are not sure.
    • If something is not yours, it does not belong to you. When in doubt, it is better to leave what is not yours than to take. What is yours will come to you. What is not yours will not stay with you. There is an infallible moral order in the Universe. It may be slow, but it surely works.
  3. Have a goal
    • Have long-term goals and short-term milestones towards the goal.
    • Your goals can change over a period of time. But think deeply and decide them. Note them down and review them regularly. This will help you to focus your energy.
    • If you don’t have goals, you will land up spending your entire life working for someone else’s goals, without any sense of fulfilment at the end of your life.
  4. Work efficiently
    • To work is the only way to achieve goals.
    • Just sitting and watching people do exercise will not help your body. Just watching people work will not take you closer to your goal.
    • Work hard and consistently. Regularity and perseverance is needed.
    • It is OK to get into some inconveniences of skipping some sleep or some food or entertainment to get something completed. Be ready to sacrifice smaller joys for bigger achievements.
    • Manage your time well to be able to put effort towards your goals.
    • Work smarter than harder. Identify the key actions that will give maximum results and work on them. Identify the main bottlenecks that prevent the results and clear them.
  5. Strive for win-win
    • A personal success about which several others feel cheated and defeated is not worth it. Take everyone along with you. Win as a team.
    • If you win and the other person loses, you may have won the deal but you would have lost a friend. Human relationships are equally or more important than winning.
    • You never lose by giving to others. Help others as much as you can.
    • Collaborate instead of competing.
  6. Be humble
    • Be humble in success and hold on to your dignity in failure. You can do this only if you have given your best and also are grateful to everyone who helped.
    • What you are if because of the help and good wishes of a lot of people. Count your blessings.
    • Always remember the people who have contributed to your success and be grateful to them.
    • This will give you peace of mind.
  7. Keep improving
    • It is your duty to develop your talents as much as you can and contribute by exercising your talents.
    • Never stop improving. Keep going forward.
    • Look for new avenues to contribute to society. By that you will be helping others and yourself also.
    • Always complete with yourself and try to become better.

All self-help books explain the above with stories, real-life examples, some framework to justify them, exercises on how to achieve them, etc.

These are the essential stepping stones for a Spiritual Life as well. So, anyone who aspires for a successful life – material or spiritual – can take these points and implement them in their lives.

If you want to read only one self-help book, go for “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. You might want to read it several times to assimilate it well. So buy a copy for yourself.

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