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Nathanael Garrett Novosel, August 5 2020

5 Reasons Self-Help Books May Not Work for You

After researching philosophy, psychology, behavioral economics, religion, and related fields for over 20 years, I began to notice patterns in the recommendations.  The universal concepts that determined meaning became The Meaning of Life: A guide to finding your life's purpose, but there were also common assumptions made that anyone delving into self-help books should know about before reading.

If you begin to look for a self-help book that will help you find greater purpose or meaning in life, be wary of the following common issues with them that will either cause them to not resonate with you or lead you astray from what you really want to do:

Avoid these five potential issues, and you'll find that you'll get more out of self-help books, religious texts, and philosophy books than you would otherwise.  Note that there are always good reasons for the above—leaders don't have time and want ideas to stick, they assume your goals are similar to theirs so they can give advice, or they think they know what's best for you so they recommend specific ethics.  But if their assumptions prove to be wrong or the omitted information would reduce the advice's applicability, you could be misled.  So always be careful and make sure you find the right advice for you before applying it.

Author's Note: While The Meaning of Life avoids these common issues, it faces the other side of the trade-offs mentioned above: it doesn't presume your goals, so it can't give you specific help against one specific area you want to improve like a self-help book on that topic could; it doesn't recommend ethics, and you might want some to follow; it explains everything without oversimplification, so it's 358 pages; and it's not as motivational with inspirational tales to get you to feel like you can take on the world.  But since every other book seems to fall into the above traps, I figured that at least one book should try it another way for those who want a book that wants an in-depth explanation and unbiased guidance vs. platitudes and worldview- or agenda-influenced ethical recommendations.

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Nathanael Garrett Novosel

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