February 5, 2023

The last year for which I can find any concrete data. I don’t have a breakdown of revenues between products and actual books. But, when you realize that Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling self help book, ‘The Secret’, has taken in over a course in miracles bookmight begin to agree with my point of view. Remember, millions of people have paid good money to be told, in ‘The Secret’, that, if you want something out of life, just believe that you have it already. You don’t have to actually go and do anything about it!! The key point is that self improvement is huge business.

So what – if it’s helping people. But it’s not! The LSE places the United States – the ones spending all the money on self help – 46th in the world in terms of happiness, well behind countries like Ghana, Latvia, India and Croatia. According to US research by The Conference Board carried out in 2010, 55% of people are unhappy in their work – the figure is over 60% for those aged between 35 and 44 years. On top of that, a number of surveys in the UK and United States have confirmed that over 65% of people say that they are continually worried about not having enough money to make it comfortably through 2011. And I’d like to finish off our statistical magical misery tour in the UK where the Health Service Executive believes that nearly 10m working days were lost in 2009 – due to something that actually doesn’t exist except in the sufferer’s mind – stress! Oh and by the way, all these key indicators of dissatisfaction are increasing at an exponential research over the last two decades.

Now, here’s the key question. Now, if there are so many people spending so much money on self improvement books, why aren’t there millions of happy people around?

I can suggest a couple of answers. Firstly, I think that most people do actually read the book or books that they’ve bought – but then they don’t do anything in their daily lives to follow it up. One particular individual that springs to mind has been recommending self improvement books to me for fifteen years and, from where I’m sitting, little has changed in his life – by the way ‘from where I’m sitting’ means that he constantly telephones me about his problems, his useless thoughts, his money worries, his sleepless nights, etc., etc., etc.! It’s akin to picking up an armful of holiday brochures, getting all excited about the exotic locations that you want to go to and then not bothering to purchase a ticket!

And that’s a key problem with self improvement books. They’re feel good books but make no difference six weeks later. You might as well read a good novel, thriller, romance – delete as appropriate! – or, God help us, even a true crime book! Even worse, you feel good about how someone else has benefited from sticking a ‘Universal Bank’ cheque to themselves for a million dollars on their fridge and the million dollars was beamed down from the clear blue sky (I can’t resist having another pop at ‘The Secret’) and then you feel rotten that it hasn’t worked for you. In the end, you come to the conclusion that it’s all a load of rubbish – which, need I mention, ‘The Secret’ is. Sorry, I won’t mention it again!

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