Self-help books are consistently among the top-selling published works across all genres in the world. Most self-help books are written in a positive, encouraging tone. And with all the negativity out there, there’s a benefit to simply immersing yourself in that sort of reading material.
But many critics have disputed their actual value. Self-help books tend to offer generic advice. Sure, you could pick up something new, but what you need is something specific to help you overcome a particular problem or situation. And that’s where the limitations of the genre come into play. For specific advice, you still need to consult a specialist.
Surrounding yourself with positivity should just be the starting point of your journey to improvement. At some point, you have to go beyond that immersion. Here are some principles to help you take constructive, purposeful action in any scenario.
Dealing with procrastination
You’ve probably encountered the Eisenhower matrix in some form. It’s a system that lets you sort tasks according to urgency and importance. Most people don’t have trouble dealing with the low-hanging fruit in this sort of system; think checking emails, responding to messages, and the like.
We tend to need help with the big stuff on our task list. It makes no sense to keep on dealing with small wins. That would be like someone skipping their daily latte but not taking the time and effort to find the best mortgage loans available.
One reason why primary goals aren’t accomplished is their intimidation factor. Fear leads you to procrastination. In your head, you believe that planning more will help you find the right approach. Then you can make swift strides forward, overcome obstacles, and win.
As the fable of the hare and the tortoise has been telling kids for ages, this belief fails all the time. You’ll never have enough time or preparation. The world keeps changing. The jobs of tomorrow will require skills that are only emerging today. Meanwhile, your big personal projects fall into neglect and become irrelevant even if you do get around to completing them.
No one sprints to the finish line in life. Instead, you can make progress by breaking things down into smaller components. This lets you chip away steadily, even if you can only spare 1-2 hours a day.
Keep learning across disciplines
Sometimes you want to aim big, and you’re not afraid to fail, but your goals are too complicated. This can be true in many fields, but particularly those that are being constantly reshaped by technology.
Suppose you wanted to launch a personal website for your creative portfolio years ago but never found the time to work on it. Starting now would be a waste of effort unless you also learned the new skills to work with modern platforms. You might even be able to establish your creative presence through social media alone if you target the right community.
No matter what goal you’re aiming for, whether it’s for career progress or personal satisfaction, you can never go wrong with becoming a continuous learner. And while you’re at it, be sure to dabble in different disciplines.
If you keep on learning, you’ll naturally focus on an area of expertise. Again, this could be something tied to your profession, or simply a hobby you enjoy. By supplementing that with learning in a breadth of other fields, you inevitably make new connections. You become more open-minded and innovative. It enriches your specialization and lets you do things that others would overlook.
Stop obsessing over perfection
Fear and complexity hold many people back from improving and taking steps towards their goals. But another common obstacle you might have to overcome is the obsession with perfection.
This is often portrayed as a good thing in popular culture. We even have a saying that “practice makes perfect.” But in most complex disciplines, that’s not true. Practice simply approaches perfection. Otherwise, professional sports players would make every shot, for instance. Instead, even the greatest superstars can miss when it matters most.
It’s not helpful to aim for perfection except as a reminder of what you’re trying to achieve. A more practical approach is to test continually, as though you’re conducting experiments to work your way forward.
You might not get it right after the first, or a dozen attempts. But you’ll be thinking critically, getting a better sense of what works, and eliminating things that don’t help. Without really noticing it, you’ll be making progress.
No matter what scenario you’re facing, take constructive action instead of dwelling on plans and inspiration. That will invariably bring you closer to your goals.