10 Ways To More Effectively Harness The Inspiring Energy Of Your Favorite Self-Help Books

Photo: getty
The 10 Best Tips For Achieving Your Personal Growth Goals When Reading Self-Help Books

You’re psyched. You scoured the latest self-help books and found the perfect one for you, one with a title along the lines of Six Simple Steps to Your Perfect Body, complete with a companion diary outlining each of the six steps.

Or perhaps the title is more like Change Your Attitude, Change Your Relationships, partnered with an accompanying workbook.

Or perhaps your passion this week led you to a book like The Idiot's Guide to Finding the Perfect Job, with a pocket manual for creating a career that will bring you joy.

You’re like the 78% of people between the ages of 18-70 who "say they want to change a fundamental aspect of themselves", and so you're reading a chapter a day in your eagerness to progress toward your goals for personal growth.

The books are right there on your bedside table so you won't forget to visit them daily.

And yet, you’re not losing weight, your attitude hasn't changed, and you still have no idea how to find your dream job.

RELATED: 7 Uncomfortable Signs You're Growing As A Person

What’s the holdup?

There are many factors that contribute to successfully changing your habits ... which is the subject of numerous other self-help books you noticed and could be reading right now.

"Ugh," you say to yourself. "Another book to read?"

No worries!

Here are 10 ways to make better use of the self-help books you already own so you can fully harness their inspiring energy and achieve your goals for personal growth.

1. Read during the day

If you’re like most busy people, you read after you’ve spent a day working and taking care of everything else in life that needs to be done. You’ve relegated self-help reading to bedtime.

Bedtime reading exists, by definition, to send us off to peaceful slumber. Waiting until you’re ready to nod off is not the way to make important life changes.

Find a time when you’re still wide awake and ready to process the material. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, since reading is just the first step to change. Even fifteen minutes to read during your day is probably manageable.

2. Read slowly and carefully

Scanning the table of contents, speed-reading a chapter or two and then diving into your favorite mystery will not cut it.

Or if you're listening to an audio book while you’re in the car fighting traffic or struggling to keep the dog in tow during a walk, you’re probably not present enough to benefit from the advice.

You don’t want to read quickly and just get the gist. Instead, read carefully in order to really grasp the deeper meanings of what you're reading. Then, take the time to apply what you read to your life. It’s better to read five pages and spend a few minutes to really get it than to read 10 pages that you walk away from with nothing.

Often, self-help writers will throw out questions. Don’t gloss over them. Think about them: Why has it been hard for you to stick to a healthy diet? How would you feel if you were in better shape? How would people relate to you differently? Would you be burdened by having to keep it up?

3. Take notes

If you were studying for an exam, you might take notes, use sticky notes, or use some other process to learn and remember the material. Like preparing for an exam, you must actively engage with the material.

Whether it’s paper and pencil or your tablet or phone, find a way to keep track of useful ideas. Note things you want to think about more or that deserve further study. Write down inspiring tidbits.

It’s like reading Biology. If you don’t have notes on the reading that you can refer to when studying for the exam, you’re toast. There’s no exam but engaging means you will plan more, prepare for setbacks and potential roadblocks, and you’ll have it all in your notes.

If you’re an audio book reader, you’ll want to take a few extra minutes for notes to self.

4. Routinely look over your notes

There’s no point in having notes if you don’t study them. If you found an idea useful, consider how you might implement it. If you jotted down a question, spend some time working it out by re-reading the book or trying to find the answer online.

What did you decide to do at that party when you see someone who looks interesting? What’s your plan?

It’s helpful to revisit inspirational tidbits because, well, they’ll inspire you to keep going. "Fake it 'til you make it" gets many people through a rough patch on the road to change.

5. Try things out

It’s not enough to read about something, tell yourself you get it and then keep doing things the same way. Start small. Decide on a baby step you think you can take and give it a shot.

Plan how and when you’ll make the change. If it seems sustainable, make it part of your routine and repeat, repeat, repeat. Then, build on that baby step with a bigger step. No one starts their marathon training with a 20-mile run.

RELATED: The 3 Biggest Things That Hold People Back From Actually Growing

6. Be patient, persistent, and persevere

Change requires time. One study conducted by researchers from University College London found that while it takes most people an average of 66 days to form a new habit, it can take up to 254 days for others.

Anyone who has ever changed anything in their life, and that’s everyone, knows it doesn’t happen in a week or two or even four. Honor persistence, patience, and perseverance.

Your self-help book will probably tell you how long to persist for the change to take hold or yield results. Take those predictions seriously. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

7. Use your village

Don’t just tell your bestie you bought and started reading a self-help book so you can fix “X.” Tell her you’re working on “X” and ask her to check in with you on your progress next week.

Give your boyfriend permission to ask you how you’re doing with your new plan.

Tell your sister you need help persevering.

Rely on the people you trust to encourage you when you’re feeling hopeless because it’s going to happen. Listen to them when they tell you they believe in you. But don’t do it for them, you have to do this for yourself. They’re your cheerleaders while you’re the quarterback.

8. Keep track of your progress

Many self-help books will tell you to track things in charts, journals, and the like. Do it. If the book does not specifically recommend this step, do it anyway.

Find a comfortable way to note progress. It’s rewarding to see your gains and it helps you continue the new behaviors. On the flip side, seeing that you are not moving in the desired direction can encourage you to tweak your program.

9. Quiet your inner critic

If you’ve tried to change something many times, or you’re in a new situation requiring change and it seems impossible, your inner critic will keep telling you your efforts will not pay off.

Your inner critic fears change. It worries about how people will relate to you if you’re too busy to have lunch and, instead, head to the gym. It worries you’ll say "yes" instead of going to the gym. It worries about how you’ll feel if you meet someone perfect, but he doesn't feel the same.

These are not good reasons to give up. But it’s helpful to anticipate fears and know what you’ll tell yourself in response. The motto, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained", comes in handy.

10. Reward your effort

When you do what you say you’re going to do, regardless of the outcome, you deserve a reward. When you make a healthy choice, exercise, send out a resume, or get out and meet people, you’ve earned a reward.

It doesn't have to be big, but it must be something. It could be a gold star in your progress chart or a dollar in a jar to be spent later. It could be taking a moment to savor your good behavior or posting accomplishments on social media.

Two hundred fifty-four days is a long haul. You want to lighten that load by basking in the positive energy generated by small wins.

There is no single solution for losing weight, changing your attitude, or obtaining the perfect job.

Reading a book can give you great ideas, but ideas alone do not make difficult changes occur.

Change is an active process. You can’t call it in. You’ve got to create the plan that will work for you. It’s going to take a lot of effort and grit, along with trial and error.

Who was it that said that nothing worth having is achieved with great effort? Right. No one.

RELATED: 10 Self-Help Books About Love That Are Totally Worth The Read

Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. For more, visit her website where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.