Are You Wasting Your Time Reading About Personal Development?

By Ali Luke

October 10, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Walk into any bookstore, and you’ll see shelves full of books about personal development. You’ll know the titles of some classics, even if you’ve never read them: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting Things Done, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway … and loads more.

You’ve probably read some of these books, or at least come across major personal development ideas in magazines or online. If you’ve been reading Dumb Little Man for any length of time, you’ll definitely have soaked up a lot of great personal development advice.

You might even spend time every day reading personal development blogs and books, or listening to audio.

But … are you wasting your time?

Just Reading Won’t Get You Far
When you want something to change in your life, it’s tempting to look for a quick fix. And books can promise a lot – with titles like I Will Make You Rich.

Can they really deliver?

Yes – but only with a bit of work from you.

The problem is, many of us find that simply reading about personal development gives us a little boost. We read 7 Habits and we feel like we’ve done something productive … but we might not quite make the leap into actually doing something with what we’ve read.

Have you fallen into this trap? Do you find yourself buying book after book, or reading blog after blog, hoping that this time, you’re finally going to find that secret which will help you change your life?

The problem is, you might never find it. Because unless you’re engaging with what you read, nothing is ever going to be any different.

Do You Really Want to Change?
It’s a tough question, but it’s an important one to think about. Do you really want to change?

That might seem like such a no-brainer. Of course you want to get out of your dead-end job. Of course you want to lose weight and get healthier. Of course you want to quit smoking.

The thing is, whenever you change, you’re also giving something up. To get out of your dead-end job, you’ll be leaving behind your familiar daily routine. To lose weight, you’ll have to stop eating so much junk food.

Plus, change can take a lot of energy and dedication. You might have to do things which are hard or scary – like going back to college, facing up to someone, or tackling a big issue in your life.

If you’re not ready to change your whole life, that’s okay. Instead of focusing on far-off dreams, start smaller with your personal development aims. Maybe you’d like to eventually move into a new career – but for now, a good start is tackling your procrastination habit.

Taking Action
I’m a firm fan of good personal development books, blogs, audio programs, seminars and so on. A great writer (or speaker) can open your eyes up to new ideas, give you just the advice you need, and genuinely change your life.

The problem is, most people don’t get as much as they should out of the material they read.

It’s very easy to nod along in agreement with a writer or speaker. You might feel inspired or even determined while you’re reading – only to end up forgetting all about those insights you had.

To help yourself take action:

    • Get clear about what you want to learn or change. You’re probably not just reading a book or blog post out of general interest: there’s a specific situation in your life where you want to improve something. What’s your goal?


  • Choose good material. Ask friends to recommend their favorite blogs or books, or check out reviews on Amazon. You want solid content and a style which makes it easy for you to read.



  • Read with a notebook in hand. Jot down questions which occur while you’re reading, or any new ideas or insights. Make a particular note of anything you want to try out for yourself – a new way of managing your time, for instance.



  • Set aside time not just to read but to act. Try writing down one to three steps to take every single week, based on what you’ve been reading.


So – you’ve just read this post. Don’t let it be yet another piece of good advice that you promptly forget: instead, take a minute now to figure out what you’re going to do differently next time you pick up a personal development book.

Written on 10/10/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: RLHyde
Ali Luke

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