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Tara Richardson view profile
Ajax, Canada
Bio: I am 29 years independent woman! I work at a mental health hospital in Whitby, ON. I enjoy reading, writing (I am writing my memoir!) and crafting in my spare time. I love to talk about all things from mental health all the way to fashion. (Two completely different worlds!) And of course, I love my exclamation mark!
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Beyond Self-Help Books: Incorporating Learning into Your Life

As of yesterday, there were 38,436 books on that popped up with the search term “self-help books women”. That’s a lot of self-help information…and that is narrowing the field by adding the word “women”. I won’t talk about any of the negative aspects associated with reading self-help books, although there are likely a few. Instead, let’s focus on the empowerment piece of learning both valuable life lessons and new skills.

A lot of you might be scoffing at me right now, thinking, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but who says that is true? (Or, that besides our cuddliness we are even remotely comparable to dogs!) Regardless of your age, there is always the opportunity to learn something new. Might it be more challenging? Perhaps. My 80 year old grandmother recently received an IPad as a gift. Could she glare at it and think “I’m too old for this”? Absolutely. Has she? In frustrating moments (for everyone!), yes. But if she’s accepting of the fact that she is not technologically savvy and she wants to improve her skills then she will be more likely to persevere through difficult teaching moments. And subsequently, read my blog online like the rest of you internet intelligent women.

Willingness to learn, to change, and to leave perfectionism behind is critical in creating the environment to actually learn and change your life. An example that might leave you rolling your eyes at my naïve 29-year-old self but is applicable regardless: I have recently started knitting and I really enjoy the different projects but I can’t help but have these perfectionistic thoughts. “I will never be a professional knitter because I didn’t start at 9.” Or, “what’s the point in trying something new now if you’re not going to be good at it?” The point is, well first, I don’t want to be a professional knitter anyway, and second, perfectionism can be an inhibitor of new, positive experiences and learning from your perfectionistic standards is an important life lesson that we are all imperfect at something- that’s life, ladies!

My two examples thus far have been directly related to learning a new, somewhat tangible skill but self-help books can be an amazing avenue for the not so tangible skills, such as learning confidence, patience, positivity, acceptance- all these wonderful concepts we think of and would love to incorporate into our busy worlds but just don’t have the time to explore. So, I am providing you with a cheat-sheet on how to get the most from your self-help books because why read them religiously if it only makes you feel guilty for not changing your own behaviours?

Tips for Using Self-Help Books Effectively

1. Don’t just read. Take notes. I know that sounds like school and you feel like a dork but it’s worth it. You are more likely to remember what you write down. I highly recommend self-help books that have short chapters. It’s so much easier to stay focused on the material, plus it’s easier to put down and pick up when life gets unavoidably chaotic.

2. Do your research on which books are most appropriate for your situation. And guaranteed, there will be tons of books relevant to what you’re looking for. Check out your local thrift store- they often have these books at a fraction of the price in book stores. Someone’s discarded book may open a new chapter in your life.

3. Be willing to not only read, but to change your behaviours as an outcome. Willingness is going to be the hardest part in exploring how to better help yourself but is absolutely necessary in moving forward.

4. Think about how you can use the information to apply to your own life. It’s great to read a book or magazine and think, “WOW, I want that”, but it’s more effective to plan the how you can start adding these choices to your own life. I think people often believe that if they just want to change they will do it. Not so simple. Go back to the beginning of the book and look for how the person has evolved, not how much they wanted to change. Sure, stages of change are important while reading self-help books but sometimes you might be in a contemplative state, read a wonderful book and decide to prepare yourself for action. One book that I found super helpful was Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before”. It’s a book designed to help change your behaviours and in reading that I got a better understanding of what makes (and breaks) habits.

5. Be willing to expand your horizons. Perhaps you don’t need a self-directed book on divorce but your friend is dealing with this currently. Sometimes when we give advice, we think we’re being helpful but we’re often not. Have some compassion to what this person is going through by reading about others’ similar experiences. You will only grow as a person through showing support and empathy.

6. Don’t expect magical transformations… but welcome them if they do happen! I read a lot of books on happiness and positivity, often to counteract a depressive state I’m stuck in, but being open to new ideas on how to get out of ruts is important. And you never know which book will spark that adrenaline rush to change unless you give it a chance.

My final point of this blog is to reiterate that self-help and learning new skills provide a feeling of both pleasure and accomplishment, which in terms of your lifelong happiness, means a lot. Reaching a goal is so immensely satisfying- just make sure it is realistic and achievable. And remember:

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” ~ author unknown

[Image Credit: Dylan Luder, StockSnap]

Posted on March 13, 2016 in Wise Advice by Tara Richardson

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