In case that sounds like I am advocating a Necronomicon that you get at Dymocks for $ 39.95, I must reassure you. The self help advocated is not to make the user worse, but better. Vice is to be abhorred and virtue upheld – if only on the point of a pike.
The self-help books that are commonly found in bookshops and libraries come in many forms – but they all have a common theme; the reader must absorb what they have to say and then practice it to become a better person. The betterment can be of many types – richer, calmer, wiser, thinner, happier, or more virtuous are some of the popular ones. Less common, but still useful are the books that will make you a better golfer, fisherman, skier, etc. There are even a few slim volumes that will make you a better stamp collector or photographer of fungi.
Still- they are all ex auctoritate sententia – you read and obey the authority of the author. They point and you follow.
I propose that the best self-help article or book is one that proceeds from the person themselves – they do the work and reap the benefit. Thus even if the reader desiring advancement can only write or say one thing to assist themselves, that one thing comes from a better source than any $ 39.95 paperback.
Of course you often can’t really say anything new to yourself – it has all been said before by someone else – but you can repeat it in your own voice, and that is frequently the only one you hear anyway. In this case you are doing nothing more than you might normally do – talking to yourself – but you can add something fresh; you can listen to yourself.
I’m trying it these next few months. First one I’m doing is Will Rogers’ line about never passing up a chance to shut up. The good effect of this might be negative, as I won’t know what trouble I’ve avoided if I’ve been successful…but maybe that’s the best form of self-help.