Are self-help materials a waste of time?

The way most people will answer the question is like – ‘Well it depends…‘ or ‘They may help some people but not everybody‘. And that right there represents the market for people who will more than likely purchase self-help books (SHB). Now calm down – I’m not saying that SHBs are bad. This post will focus and apply to a range of self-help materials (SHMs). The prime issue is ‘time’. I’m sorry but time has a cost, which is also valued in monetary terms even if people don’t see that or like it. Your scratching in front of a computer has a cost even on a Easter Bank Holiday when you’re not at work. You just don’t know it – and you don’t need to believe me!

What are SHMs?

SHMs cover a whole range of things like:

  1. Diet.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Relationships.
  4. Better command of a language.
  5. Home economics.
  6. Fixing cars and other items.
  7. Divorce.
  8. Thinking skills.
  9. Sex.
  10. Finance.

…and the list goes on.

Who wants SHMs?

These are people who as so unsatisfied with their lives, that they seek something to help them out. Some of them will seek or have sought: gurus, teachers, mentors, counsellors, psychoanalysts, health clubs, gyms, fat-fighters programmes, retreats, religious guidance – and the list is endless. In essence SHMs are covered by a big industry. Billions are spent every year on these things. The overall transaction is transfer of something, from those who have something to those who want that something – and there is exchange involved. In other words there are needs to be satisfied among those who want to exchange something. Usually that exchange is in the form of money.

There are of course free SHMs, which means that the transaction involves no tangible exchange from those who need, to those who provide. The people who receive free SHMs are unaware of the new economy of the internet i.e. that for every free thing several others may pay (imperceptibly). I have no problem with free SHMs and I do not wish to be distracted by that. The issue is ‘Are they a waste of time?’ Focus! Chrysst!

In general

The captioned question, “Are self-help materials a waste of time?“,  is out there on the net and obviously the question invites a ‘general’ response. My response to the generality of people is that SHMS are a waste of time. How very dare I say that?! Well I dare and I do say it!

Since other people can use the ‘everybody’ thing, I can do that tooooo! Right – so if ‘everybody’ could read one or more SHMs and sort themselves out, there would be no problems in life for those sorts of people. It’s the dream – isn’t it – that some guru out there writes a lovely book or gives a great podcast to help people, then people read, take it in and they’re sorted. It is the dream that gets people buying these things, or spending their time on free materials.

More specifically

Most SHMs give some insights that may be useful and they also give a lot of structured suggestions for action. Ahhhh… and that’s the problem right there! Yep – action, or rather lack of it. If ‘everybody’ could just take the actions necessary – after their self-discovery through these materials, then life would be fine! The suggested actions for improvement usually means a change in behaviour or thinking. Sounds good. Changing behaviour and thinking is not easy. Why? Because most behaviours and thinking is the result of patterns developed over many years.

Patterns are not easy to break out of or to modify. Understanding ‘why’ doesn’t give the punter (SHM-purchaser) any greater power to shift patterns. How? Why? Because realistically, the only way to change a pattern is to do something new or different and that’s has little to do with understanding. But there is a grand social delusion (aka myth) that once somebody understands, they’re half-way there to solving their problem(s). Sorry – I disagree. It’s about DOING! Washing out a dysfunctional or repeatedly self-defeating pattern means doing something new over and over again, until the old pattern is washed out. It takes time and effort. Wut? Who want’s that? Time and effort? Life’s too short – right? So after the punter spends time and/or money taking in stuff from the SHM, invariably the SHM will be shelved. Effort? What wants to do that?! What people want is stuff with no effort.

Winners and losers

But who are the winners and the loser in transactions that exchange money for SHMs? It’s YOU who are the loser! You’re not going to get your £5 to £40 worth, cuz you’re too lazy and undisciplined anyway to practice doing things differently. And if you’re satisfied to get the stuff for free you’ve wasted your time. Hey ho – if you’re just satisfied with an interesting read – then you got your money’s worth or time’s worth, and the author is delighted to have types like you around. Loveleeee – so the SHM author is happy for your purchase or patronage. You’re happy with the ‘purchase’ built on a dream. You’ll probably tell 10 other people what a great SHM or SHB you’ve ‘read’ – and guess what? A certain percentage of them will purchase/or access for free. So, you’ve just helped the author for free! Good on your – I should say. Have you helped yourself? I think not!


I’ve asked a question that contains a silent binary. The answer has to be either it is a waste of time or it isn’t. I’m not going into ‘it depends’. Why? Because ‘depends’ people are the types who are afraid to pick a side. They feel a need to be seen as flexible etc.

Well no – I do pick a side. I’m perfectly aware that SHMs may help some people. My belief based on long experience of people, is that more than an estimated 51%, waste their time and money.

So what does that mean? It means that it’s good business for producers of SHMs.

I think that producers of SHMs gain more benefit from the punters who access these materials.

Disclaimer & Guidance

The reading of posts on this blog is subject to the Terms & Conditions. Unpalatable truths and personal experiences may be told. Nothing posted on this blog is directed at any identified person. On occasions individuals are quoted anonymously. That does not mean that they have been identified to the world. Should any person or organisation reading this blog find something that makes them feel or know that they  are being referred to – any such perceived identification does not mean ‘identified to the world’. ‘Stupid‘ is an impish figment of my imagination who occasionally is allowed to pop up – and does not represent any known individual, individuals or groups. The treatment of  ‘Stupid‘ is not representative of the way people are treated in real life. Adverse inferences made are dismissed in advance.  

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