My disdain for self-help & motivational books

December 09, 2023

It’s middle of the night and I am thinking about people who have a whole section in their shelves dedicated to Self Help books.

Many years ago, a close friend and I were sitting along with our coaching centre’s star maths teacher in his well-lit, full-of-mathematical-books office when my friend remarked that “I am feeling demotivated”. We all talked a bit more about it. He said — with such high energy and motivation — that he so much wants to read a “XYZ” book. I cringed. It was apparent that he thought he will be changed after he finished reading the book.

Do they need this external motivation? Do they want to “understand” themselves? Or perhaps, they just want to feel productive by completing a bunch of books? An escape?

Frankly, it’s beyond my imagination.

The authors of these so called self-help books have made a career and living out of these books.

These books are either:

  1. Broad strokes of generalisation — “Do this and you will feel that”
  2. Not backed by science — the things they describe are written by people just looking for 💰
  3. Full of survivorship bias — Something might have worked for one person, but will not work for others

Self help books are snake oil.

From the time I have taken charge of my life and thinking: In my experience, motivation comes from doing work that aligns with one’s long term goals.

One needs to reflect on what those long term goals are. When one knows about what they want to do in the long term, motivation to do the work comes automatically.

Sure, there will be periods of disinterest or fluff works but honestly, one has to just push through it.

The above paragraph is what every motivational book boils down to, I think. Wanna spend days reading through hundreds of pages to feel motivated? Be my bizarre guest.