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Why self-help books don’t always work

Long ago, I discovered self-help books that didn’t work. Self-development processes that didn’t stick. Self-improvement methods that didn’t bring about lasting improvements.
It’s not that these books, processes and methods were flawed. I’m sure they work for lots of people.

But they don’t go deep enough, not for everyone.

Imagine a totally flat surface: a big wooden table. Perfectly sanded and polished. Immaculately flat and smooth. A table used for rolling out delicate sheets of pastry, the kind of pastry with incredibly thin layers. Thin, crispy, delicious pastry.

Now put a tiny ball bearing on that table. Or a length of string. Or several lengths of string, criss-crossing over one another.

No matter how hard you try now, you won’t get flat pastry. However many times you roll it, flatten it, stretch it, smooth it. Whatever pastry-rolling techniques you can find, they won’t help. The pastry won’t lie flat.

So it is with so many self-help and self-development books out there. If your basic foundation has lumps, bumps, and grooves, the guidance and advice from people and books may not smooth you out on the surface.

You need to go deeper than that.

You need to lift up the layers, one by one or a few at a time, and go underneath. You need to see what’s down there, what’s underneath. You need to find what it is that’s disturbing you at the foundations.

You can watch for the patterns on the surface – how you behave, how you feel, how you think, how you move forward and how you’re blocked – to figure out that a) there might be something underneath it all and b) what that something might be. Like the ripples on a stream that indicate the presence of a boulder beneath the surface.

Then, you need to be brave. It takes courage to look underneath. Courage to be prepared to look, even if you don’t think you’ll like what you find there. Courage to be ready to go there.

You need courage to start the journey. Courage to follow it through, even if you don’t know where you’ll end up. You can’t predict the outcome. But you can trust: trust that it’ll be better than where you started, trust that you’ve got what it takes to get there, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Trust the process, and trust that you’ll get through.

Do you recognise this? Are you ready to life up the layers? What would help you feel ready to do that? What’s your next step?

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this webpage are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this webpage. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this webpage. Sue Mahony PhD disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this webpage.

Sue Mahony PhD is gifted, autistic, and ADHD. She provides 1:1 specialist support for brains similar to her own, giftedness group programmes, speaking and bespoke support for organisations, and a wealth of articles on this website.

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