The self-help book industry has grown substantially over the years. Market projections show that the industry could grow to $14 billion dollar industry by 2025. The industry also increased by 11% from 2013 to 2019.
If you’re like me, you probably have dozens of self-help books. I have over 20 that I’ve accumulated in my kindle alone. Everything from improving fitness, mindset and to generally optimizing your life.
This comes with a problem. I’ve checked my journals over the years and noticed that not a whole lot has changed. Intellectually I know what I need to do to improve my life but there hasn’t been anything to back it up.
This ended up causing me even more frustration. I obsessed over having the perfect morning routine, then fizzled out in a week. I obsessed over having this insane workout plan because I wanted to run a 100 mile ultra.
I learned a few things in the art of self-improvement.
Understand Progress Is Slow
When you start a journey of self-improvement, you must understand that progress moves at a glacial pace. When you start reading a book to give you ideas on how to improve your life, we try to implement everything right now. Think about how crazy that is. If you’re 20 lbs overweight and don’t feel confident about yourself, what makes you think that will change tomorrow?
It won’t. The journey of progress is one that takes years to a lifetime. It will never be easy but it will become easier.
Try to pick out something from a book you are reading and choose 1 or 2 things from it. If the stakes and time commitment are low, try it for 90 days before giving up on it.
Focusing On The Principles In One Book Is More Powerful Than Reading Twenty
Focusing on one of the principles of one self-improvement book is far more powerful than reading a new one every month. I never thought about this until I read an article from Ayodeji Awosika stating this. I took that concept and started to read all my self-improvement books much slower. They no longer became passive reads that I would pair with an audiobook to finish faster.
I took one self-improvement book and started highlighting areas in it that I wanted to reflect on. I took those highlights and then started to journal out what I thought that meant in my own words.
This concept became far more powerful than reading a dozen books with similar concepts that are worded differently.
The principles of the book will become apparent once you start taking actionable steps toward them. When you make a change in your life, it does feel weird at first.
Last week, I started waking up at 5:00 am every day to work out and write. The first few days definitely felt weird at first but now that I’m past that first week, the weirdness is starting to fade.
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Take Small Actionable Steps (I Can’t Emphasize Small Enough)
When reading a self-improvement book, try to take every step in it in small chunks. Not every principal will perfectly work for you but it is our job to figure out what parts of it do work for us.
I’ve been known to try new things out quite a bit in the past. What ends up happening to me is that I don’t start small enough. For example, several years ago, I got really into yoga. I went to a yoga class for 25 out of 30 days. Then I fizzled out. My attention got caught in something else and instead of making a commitment to go to yoga once or twice a week, I stopped going completely.
This was an all-or-nothing mindset. Taking small steps from the principles you’ve learned in any self-improvement book is a better way than flipping the chess board and starting over.
If you are trying to lose weight and keep it off, do one small thing that will help you towards that journey. Maybe it’s swapping out one meal for something healthier or walking for 20 minutes each morning. These are the things that are easy to blow off but they become powerful in the long run.
If you walked 1 mile a day for a year, that’s 365 more miles than you walked that year. The average calorie burned for 1 mile is about 100 calories. So that means you would burn 36,500 more calories throughout the year than you would have sitting on the couch. There are 3500 calories in a pound so that is a little more than 10 pounds that you burn throughout the year through one small step.
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Celebrate Your Wins
Yesterday morning, I had some difficulties waking up in the morning to work out. Last week, I made a commitment to myself and my coach to wake up at 5:00 am each morning and to hold myself accountable I was going to take a selfie at 5:00 am in my kitchen each morning to prove that I am awake.
5:00 am rolled around and I got out of bed, went to my kitchen, fed my dog, and sent my daily selfie. These thoughts went through my head, “you’re tired, you sent the selfie, you don’t need to work out today, you’re stiff. Go back to bed for an hour and wake up at 6:00 am to write.”
The other side of my mind said, “what the f%ck are you doing? If you go back to bed, you’re going to wake up at 7:00 am and not write. You have your coaching call this evening and then what are you going to do? Are you going to lie and said you woke up at 5:00 am every day this week when you didn’t? You would be a fraud and cheating yourself.”
I chose the ladder. I stayed awake, did a yoga workout, and got my 45 minutes to an hour of writing in. That was a small victory where I was proud of myself.
Celebrate your small wins each day. Even if it is as simple as not giving in to the resistance when it is at its best.
The small wins can be as simple as choosing an apple instead of a chocolate bar or walking for 10 minutes when you would have walked for zero.
We tend to neglect to recognize our small wins since our brains are so often wired to focus on the negatives of everything. If you’re trying out something new from a self-improvement book you read, try to be sure to celebrate all the small wins.
The self-improvement book market is only going to keep growing. Personally, I read self-improvement books to gain different perspectives on life. To make those perspectives stick, you do need to implement them into practice. When I look into my Kindle and see the twenty self-improvement books in there, I ask myself, “could you summarize the principles of half these books?”
The answer would probably be closer to what the summary is on the back of the book instead of an intellectual summary.
What principles are you going to take away from your next book?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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