Although the title of this article refers only to books, the guidelines given here will apply equally to similar self-help articles and newsletters found on web sites dedicated to the subject. Whatever form it takes, the intention is to provide people with the knowledge and skills to develop their potential. We all have within us the capacity, the ability, to step out from the crowd and go forward to the realisation of our dreams and goals. Self-help books are a necessary part of learning and developing, of taking each of our talents and turning them into a powerful force that will carry us through to success. After all, you wouldn’t attempt to repair a car, or build a house, without a good knowledge of what is involved and what you have to do. Almost certainly you will have to turn to a book to gather this information. So, how could you ever hope to build your life or develop your hidden potential if you didn’t know how to go about it. We weren’t given an owners manual when we were born, so with the assistance of self-help books let’s start to experience the glorious thrill of discovering our latent talents, and how we can seize the opportunities that will be opened up for us.

Self-help and self-development are the disciplines that are necessary if we are to achieve anything of substance in life. And one of the finest ways of doing this is through reading, and using, self-help books. Our formal education teaches us a lot about things academic. A typical school curriculum will cover diverse areas from Mathematics to Geography, from chemical formulae to a good command of our native language, and these are, of course, of great value when the time comes to go out into the real world to seek employment. However, most of us are not taught the value of life-skills, how we interact with our fellow beings, or about why we think and act, or react, the way we do. Nor are we shown how, if we are able to recognise our shortcomings, we can set about improving ourselves. This is where self-help books are so essential to us. They are the tools which, when placed in your hands, and acted upon, can fill your mind with thoughts of the advantages of acquiring knowledge, and are the means by which you can mould a successful future for yourselves. Remember though, at the end of the day you will only get out of a book the effort you put into reading it, so if you just flip through the pages and then toss it aside, no matter how well written the book is, or how much you paid for it, you have wasted your money and your time.

INTEREST: An important aid to any kind of studying is having from the outset an enthusiastic interest in the material. Sometimes this may prove difficult as there are so may distractions around us clamouring for our attention, and so self-discipline is needed to sustain that enthusiasm, and keep our minds focussed on the task. Read the book with an interested, enquiring mind, maintain the desire to learn, and you will achieve far more from your endeavours.

LIST OF CONTENTS: When you have an exciting and promising self-help book in your hands there will be a tendency to rush straight to the first chapter, eager to soak up the information. But hold on a minute, you will be helping yourself a whole lot more by giving some attention to the table of contents. Here you will be shown chapter titles, which will in turn be broken down into sections and sub-sections, all acting as a valuable guide to using the book and gaining as much knowledge as you can. They are an integral part of the book, put there by the author for your benefit in order to guide you through though the chapters, and giving you a clear idea of what to expect. The table of contents is also a great help for when you wish to refer to a certain passage again.

A good self-help book is not something that should be read with an indifferent manner as you might with a piece of lightweight fiction. It is specifically a mentor, a guide, to prepare you for the pitfalls and the hazards you will invariably encounter along the way, and how to avoid them. When you open up your book it must be with the attitude of – I mean business, so what has this book to say, and how will it help me? Devote yourself to it and strive to master its teachings. Keep it near you for constant reference. Concentrate your mind on what it has to say, absorb it fully, and let it stir your imagination. When you take that leap of faith and strike out into some new experience you will be excited at how your life will be changing for the better. Your newly found positive attitude and maturity will help you to overcome life’s challenges, and in due course you will emerge as a happier and more confident personality.

We cannot depart from the subject of self-help books and their immense value to our development without touching upon the art of reading. While it may seem at first that reading is a natural and relatively simple thing to do, the essential skills involved could never be covered adequately in an article of this length, and it would be foolhardy to attempt to do so. It is recommended that you get hold of one of the many excellent books on the subject of reading and study it carefully, applying at the first possible opportunity what you learn along the way. What you get from a book depends on the depth of study you are prepared to give. One of the basic rules is that you must be truly interested in the subject, and give to your reading a totally focussed mind. However much we concentrate on our reading, our efforts will be to no avail unless we make a point of committing to memory all the salient points and principal details of the material presented to us. The rewards are many, for reading not only instructs, it teaches you how to think, how to be a better person, and provides you with an abundance of creativity and fresh ideas.

Give yourself some quiet time to think about where your true interests lie, and what you consider to be your weaknesses and your strengths. A good self-help book will stimulate your determination, help to shape your goals, and will be a constant reminder of what is at stake. But never forget that reading self-help material is by it’s very nature an active process, so it would be a mistake, not to mention a waste of money and opportunity, just to skip through the book and then put away to be forgotten. Reading, writing, good note taking, discussing and acting it out will establish more firmly in your mind what you have learnt, and what it is you must do to achieve those glorious dreams. Put into action what you have read, for the most comprehensive, best written self-help book in the world will be of no value whatsoever if action is not taken. Intelligent and well-prepared action is the key to all forms of self-help. Without this nothing will be achieved, and life will continue to be one of mediocrity, frustration and bitterness. You must believe that somehow, someday you will succeed. The spirit that refuses to accept defeat never fails to achieve something profitable and worthwhile. Through reading and using self-help books you will be making your journey that much easier, as well as enriching your life, for they are not only a rich source of ideas and information, they provide valuable short-cuts to achieving outstanding results.

Roy Burton

Author's Bio: 

Roy Burton was born in north London and has been a keen student and advocate of self-improvement for many years. He has travelled widely, and is now based on the Isle of Wight. He welcomes suggestions or comments and can be reached on rdbur8@aol.com