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Thread: Reading "self-help/motivational" books

  1. #21
    4x9 Array cascadeco's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
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    Yeah... I'm inclined to be disinclined to trend this by temperament.

    I think it's more of an individual thing, and every type could be compelled to go for these books and find value in them.

    And, of course, part of that is due to my own little bubble of perception/anecdotes - I have an NFJ friend who eats these books up and reads them a lot; contrast that with me, I haven't read any of it and prefer to sit in my apartment and muse through all of it on my own (maybe it's the masochist / 'I will figure this out on my own' thing ). It's arguable which would yield better results; I'm perfectly fine with how I've gone through life minus the books, but I'd need to send a clone back in time to go about life reading all of the books, and see whether that clone or me as I am now is in a better position. I wouldn't be surprised if we'd be in the same position (I think there would be a tradeoff..things gained via either mode) - I think the books could conceivably misdirect just as often as they assist. Suffice it to say... it's individual.
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  2. #22
    pathwise dependent Array FDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    Self-help books are just how-to books for your finances, psyche, or relationships. Those are some of the most important factors in one's quality of life. Writing off a whole segment of potentially useful information because some sources are crackpots is illogical.
    It's just that oftentimes, what they try to "teach" you is common sense with a little bit of motivational kool-aid.

    Personally, I like studying and researching, but I'd rather devoted my time to something more groundbreaking, or at the very least...not so obvious.
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  3. #23
    Senior Member Array cafe's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    It's just that oftentimes, what they try to "teach" you is common sense with a little bit of motivational kool-aid.

    Personally, I like studying and researching, but I'd rather devoted my time to something more groundbreaking, or at the very least...not so obvious.
    Well, that's all well and good for people that have common sense. I'm notoriously lacking in that department. As a matter of fact, if it ever looks like I have common sense, I generally read it in a book or screwed it up enough times to finally figure it out.

    Not saying I go out and buy books all the time and then do whatever they say, but I pick up helpful tidbits here and there when I come across them or look for help when I've got something that needs troubleshooting.

    Honestly, I really hate to see where my marriage would be right now if I hadn't read Mars and Venus. I got, like, one or two useful things from the whole book, but what I got helped a lot. It wasn't even rocket science, but I was honestly stumped. Every bit of self-help bologna I've read before or since was worth it for that one little bit of information: You have to tell men what you want because they aren't just going to figure it out from observation or hints. I was raised by women and had no idea. Stupid looking back on it, but there you go. We don't all have common sense.
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  4. #24
    i love Array skylights's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by Venom View Post
    Im not going to let this go :P ... Think about those self help books though where it's the psychologist/sociologist who track "happy people".. The happy people almost always are the type of people who DONT ever even think "am I happy?". The researchers are probably no more happy than they were before they started their "quest" for happiness, and that's because happiness is probably a state of being rather than a place to arrive to. Merely asking yourself is probably enough to push you farther from it.
    Sure, and I've read self-help books that say that very thing - that happy people don't really obsess about their happiness - they do whatever makes them happy. But what if the researchers are happiest researching? They've effectively made themselves happy by studying happiness. Writing makes me happy, and sometimes I write about happiness, which still makes me happy. That doesn't contradict itself. And some people are happy reading self-help books about happiness...

    Secondly, not enough books tell the truth about giving up. The easiest way to overcome being a lone wolf with no friends? To get past not having a cool enough house? Give up and stop caring.
    True, but if you have found the key to selectively not caring, you should probably publish and/or patent it as quickly as possible, because you are set to make billions with your new cure for addiction and childhood wounds.

    My general theory on self-help books is that the people who read them probably read quite a few of them - it's more of a genre than a resource section. It's like people who like reading about cars, or fishing, or cooking. Some people like reading about self improvement. It's a hobby. That's why I relate it to NF, perhaps. Emotionally attuned people who like theory for the sake of theory would naturally seem to gravitate towards that kind of thing. It may be that NFPs are more drawn to them because we seek external information / Ne.

    So essentially you have two groups of people who read self-help books - those who read them mostly because they enjoy them (and enjoy self-improvement in general) and those who read them pursuing a solution to one specific thing. If a book offers one concrete solution, and that person applies it and it's successful, then the book is not pointless. Whether or not that has ever happened, I am not sure, but I would be willing to bet money on it. Nor are the books pointless to the people who enjoy pursuing self improvement as a general hobby.

    I suppose what I'm saying is they're as useful as you make them. If you don't like them, who cares? Don't read them.

  5. #25


    Self Help books are useful when they serve as reminders of common sense concepts, when they organize common sense in an understandable and meaningful way, when they at least corroborate good concepts, and when they deliver their messages in a way that moves you to live by them and that absolutely compels you to keep them in the back of your mind and to draw upon and apply them when the time is right.

    Many are bunk;some are not. They're typically written around some dude's collected wisdom, with parts that are either bullshit or simply not applicable.

  6. #26
    Junior Member Array NathanZ's Avatar
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    Nov 2012


    My general rule with self help stuff is to ask: 'Is this teaching something actionable? Are there exercises that may improve my current thinking / behaviour?'

    If yes, then I may give it a look. If no, then I don't bother unless it's by someone I've already read before.

  7. #27
    ⒺⓉⒷ Array Eric B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Typoz View Post
    Personally... I would never even consider reading a self-help/motivational books. Unless of course I'd have a hidden agenda, but that is very unlikely.

    I consistently noticed S types liking them... A lot. "Books about life" is what they call them. N types, however, don't seem to like them much, in my surroundings (online and offline) at least.

    SJs or SPs, they like them. STs or SFs, they like them. Why? Is this "phenomena" widespread, or is it just my surroundings?

    Would/have you read such a book? Why?
    It seemed to me too that self-help was more an S thing. Especially ISTJ.

    S's focus on concrete reality such as day to day living and getting through life, and less on meanings of things. Hence, they would always be saying "that's life", when I'm digging for meanings. So the books help provide them a framework of concrete reality, so they can adapt better, and that to me was always trite and fatalistic ("this is just the way life is, so you just have to adapt and roll with the punches"; at least how it came off to me).
    Some sort of conceptual philosophy underlies most self-help, but this is already pre-packaged up for them, wrapped up in the concrete observations and experiences they are aware of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Il Morto Che Parla View Post
    Really MBTI itself is a self-help why would someone here dismiss the whole genre but accept MBTI? Seems...ironic.
    If you're talking about here, then perhaps because the MBTI draws more N's, because it is more conceptual or abstract than mainstream psychology and self-help. So for me, for instance, it will provide the underlying meanings I've always looked for, rather than just saying "that's just the way people are, just because; now just adapt and deal with it". Understanding stuff like temperament and functions, it then became palatable enough where I could finally say "OK, this is why they do what they do, and this is why I react to it the way I do, etc.
    When I try to discuss this stuff with S's, it's largely irrelevant, and more of a distraction with no ready answer. Even my wife, citing mainstream psychology critics, says Jung offers no practical, clinical-style solutions, or something like that. Well, of course it does, but you have to understand the deep concepts.
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  8. #28
    Senior Member Array the state i am in's Avatar
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    for people whose work is themselves.

    there's also a kind of art to it. and the delicious narcissism of wanting to be fucking perfect.

    my favorites are the wisdom of insecurity by alan watts and the five things you must accept by david richo. an entp 7w6 friend prefers control theory by glasser and an enfp 7w6 friend prefers 7 habits. i'm trying to work on these last two right now, along with the mindful way through depression by kabat-zinn/others. collectively they've been among the most helpful resources i've discovered so far. they also provide a touchstone to converse about yourself and dialogue with others to learn from each other in a more grounded way.

  9. #29


    I am not a big fan of personal self-help books. I would rather research multiple sources/get input from others, analyze it and tailor the best option to my own specific needs. I like to figure out solutions on my own and am resistant to "self-help" books that pertain to the personal.

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