A 2-Step Process to Get The Most Out of Reading Self-Help Books

The practical guide to save you from the trap of *reading more* to become more productive

A 2-Step Process to Get The Most Out of Reading Self-Help Books
Anangsha Alammyan on Instagram

The practical guide to save you from the trap of *reading more* to become more productive

If you believe in self-improvement and constant learning, you must have read a ton of self-help books. But how much of it do you actually practice?

Have you applied the top three lessons from the last book you read?

Most of us consume self-help content to satisfy our desire to get better every day. We read book after book, brag our reading count on social media, and obsess about maintaining our image as a bookworm.

But what use is the facade if we don’t apply what we learned?

The main issue is that we tend to postpone the implementation, not realizing we keep forgetting what we read. This so-called “forgetting curve” is steepest during the first twenty-four hours after you read something. Exactly how much you forget varies, but unless you review the material, much of it will be forgotten after the first day, with more to follow in the days after, leaving you with a fraction of what you took in.

So how would one get the most out of reading self-help books? This article discusses exactly a two-step process to help you with that.

(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through them, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

1. Let Go of Things That Don’t Matter

When authors write self-help books, they pen down all their learnings and experiences to help you in one particular aspect of life. But as they cater to a huge audience, everything in the book might not be relevant to you.

What others find useful might not be helpful to you depending on how your life currently looks like. That’s why it’s best to re-read a book you particularly liked at a later point. This will give you a different perspective and you might be able to relate more to the chapters you’d previously overlooked.

For now, don’t obsess over remembering all things or beat yourself up for forgetting parts. Just pick out the important bits that hit you the most. Figure out why you liked them and how you can apply them in your current situation to make things easier for you.

2. Make the Key Lessons A Part Of Your Life

You don’t have to read every self-help book cover-to-cover. You don’t even have to worry about finishing them in one sitting.

Keeping that in mind, the mantra we are applying here is:

  1. Only read till you get the top three important things which you can immediately apply.
  2. Prioritize all the three, and apply just one of them for two weeks.
  3. Apply the second lesson, and then the third.
  4. Repeat the above process until the book becomes a part of your life.

Ingrain this process into your routine, and you’ll soon begin to see major improvements.

You might not be able to complete many books this way, but that’s obviously not our goal. We read books to satisfy our quest for wisdom, not for increasing our book count.

“I would rather read the best 100 books over and over again until I absorb them rather than read all the books.” ~ Naval Ravikant

Bonus: 10 Important Things I Learned from 10 Recent Books

Here are my top ten learnings from the last ten self-help books I read. If you ask me what the rest of the book was about, I probably won’t be able to tell you. But I remember one key lesson, and that’s enough for me.

  1. The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. Because if you win in the argument, you will lose the other person and they won’t like you anymore. ~ How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
  2. Sometimes to enjoy the bigger fun, you need to let minor bad things happen as they can be repaired later. It’s okay to chuck work for some time to enjoy your long vacation. ~ The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.
  3. When you improve by 1% every day, you become better by 37% at the end of the year. But if you degrade by 1% every day, you become 0.03% of your total ability by the year ends. Never underestimate the power of consistent practice. ~ Atomic Habits by James Clear.
  4. You can become antifragile when you learn to turn a catastrophe into an opportunity for personal growth. ~ Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  5. We keep reminding ourselves of every time we fucked up and punish ourselves by feeling sad. In a way, our society is based on punishments. Humans are the only animals that suffer from the same mistake more than once. ~ The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
  6. Life is not a straight line where we are trying to achieve one goal (and call ourselves “failures” if we cannot achieve that goal). Life is a series of interconnected dots — moments that make up the present. If we make the most of each moment given to us, we can have a happy and stress-free life. ~ The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga.
  7. Work on yourself and your skills. Make yourself so awesome that even the most successful people can’t help but notice you. But before you do that, you have to believe that you are worth it. Let go of the self-doubt and stop worrying about things that aren’t in your control. Even if you get rejected, analyze what didn’t work in your favor and focus on how you can make sure such a thing never repeats again. ~ Choose Yourself by James Altucher.
  8. When someone expects something of you, it says nothing about you and everything about them. You don’t owe them anything just because they have some expectations. ~ What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard Feynman.
  9. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
  10. Your success is not dependant on other people’s failures. There is enough room at the top for as many people who work hard to reach there. Just because someone made it before you does not mean you are destined to fail. ~ You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero.

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