Reading too much self-help can cripple you, but it’s rarely about confusion. It’s more about inaction.
One huge cost is your time. If you read a lot, you don’t do other things in that time. It’s an opportunity cost. You could’ve allocated your time better.
But it’s a minor problem. Reading self-help is vastly superior to other forms of spending leisure time — scrolling on social media, playing video games or watching funny videos on YouTube for hours. Those activities actually damage a part of your brain responsible for conscious thinking. Reading improves this part.
The main problem is different - most people feel that they are taking care of their problems simply by reading the relevant content. Nope. You can tackle your problems only by taking action.
Data Driven Analysis
I write and sell personal development books. There had been a time when Amazon rewarded authors for how many books people borrowed. I made a decent chunk of my royalties putting my books in that program.
Then, Amazon changed the rules. They started remunerating authors not for many books were borrowed, but for how many pages readers actually read.
And I discovered this sad truth: 80% of people who borrowed a book ‘for free’ (they paid some pocket money to Amazon for a privilege to borrow books) never read it. My remuneration for the program dropped overnight like a rock when Amazon introduced this change.
The only logical explanation is that people borrowed personal development books on impulse and satisfying this impulse alone made them feel they did something to improve their lives.
Feelings Instead of Action
The feeling of ‘doing something’ is more important for them than actually doing something. Borrowing a book is a very cheap substitute for reading and implementing what you read. One click, and you alleviated your anxiety.
The same goes with actually reading without implementation. The act of consuming content substitutes for action. You ‘do something.’ You feel good about yourself.
So, the real danger of reading too much self-help is fooling yourself that you are improving your life while doing so.
I read too many personal development books for my own good. Frankly, my level of implementation doesn’t justify my time investment.
However, I read more to stimulate my thought processes, than because I need to fix my life. If I can take away one actionable tip from one book, I’m more than happy.
“The book you don’t read won’t help.” — Jim Rohn
I have read hundreds of personal development books, but I implemented just dozens of tips, advice and disciplines they taught. Yet, the return on investment was immeasurable. My life is so much better now, only seven years since I started actually pursue my own personal development.
Originally published on Quora.