Why fiction trumps self help books in the long run


A couple of years ago I stumbled over the self help genre by accident. It was a great discovery that opened paths to the unknown and made me think. To this day there are still a lot of books with that theme on my reading list. But I realised that self helps books can easily lead down a rabbit whole that is deep and dark and difficult to get out.

It also feels that most of what I read in self improvement books does not stick at all. After a book is read the content and the notes are in most cases forgotten.

Fiction books on the other hand often stick for a long time. One example is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Whenever I walk through the graveyard near my house I think of that book, the mood the story created and about the protagonist. The book keeps paying dividends to use a finance term. Fiction books can be associated with a waste of time (same as watching a movie). My experience is different. The value I get from fiction books on an emotional and educational level is far greater than any self help book.

The self help genre has its place but from what I have seen it can be boiled down to the following learnings:

Passive consumption is bad 📺

Passive consumption is the mother of all problems if you ask me. Watching a little tv or enjoying a video game from time to time is harmless. But when you have a habit of spending every day hours consuming passively (youtube, social media, tv, games, gossip etc) than you are wasting your precious time.

Write down your goals and track your progress 🥅

It is a typical Sunday evening and you are watching your favourite Youtuber talking about his habits and routines to maintain a six pack. After spending a weekend on the couch you tell yourself that starting tomorrow your fitness journey will finally begin. Monday is coming and instead of getting up at 6 am to work out you sleep in. You lie to yourself because today was just not the right day to go to the gym. We all know how this story continuous.

Write down your goals, redefine them with time and track your progress. It will do wonders trust me.

Positive mindset 🌞

It sounds so simple and maybe stupid but in reality it is a though goal. There are so many things to be negative about. Just open any news paper page if you don’t believe me. Also avoid the temptation to be sarcastic.

Positivity has nothing to do with being naive. It is about acknowledging the bad but making the best out of it. Life is a game we loose in the end, what counts is what we make of this opportunity that we were offered. Being positive had such a big impact on my mental game and my surrounding.

Continuous learning 🧩

The 4th pillar is learning. And by learning I don’t mean to add another degree to your collection. By learning I mean dive into a topic of interest and actually learn something. Experiment, improve, teach others about it, write blog posts or keep a journal. Continuous learning has great health benefits as we discussed in a recent posting about Vera Birkenbihl.

The four learnings mentioned are very important to me and I was only able to learn this through self help books. Self help itself is a great concept. The problem is there are to many imposters recycling the same messages over and over. You will find plenty of books with titles “find happiness and become a millionaire in a month”. Youtube is full of similar advise. So be aware and don’t fall for it by consuming tons of content on how to become wealthy.

Advice is great but the most important part is action 🚴🏽‍♂️. The rest is just niche learning or the road to endless passive consumption if you seek advice on youtube.

Discovering self help freed me from all sorts of stigmas. It also lead at the same time to procrastination as you can see on the following graph:

So summarize: Self help books can provide you with tremendous value if used in moderation. Use the bullet points in this posting to your advantage. Think about how you can improve yourself and experiment. Adjust, keep learning and repeat this process. Avoid reading the same book by different authors. Less is often more and don’t feel that you are missing out, being here and working on it is more than most people will ever do. You can do it :).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *