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9 Ways To Tell If You Are A Self-Help Junkie (And What To Do About It)

9 Ways To Tell If You Are A Self-Help Junkie (And What To Do About It)

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    A week ago, I received a message from a blog reader. He commented that my entries have been longer of late, and while he tried reading, he was lazy to continue on. He suggested I should create shorter versions of my articles for busy and lazy people like him.

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    For perspective, my guest posts on Lifehack are about 1-2k words long, while the ones at my blog are about 3k words on average. I don’t intentionally write long or short posts – I write what’s needed to convey the message. If I think putting in more details helps the reader, I’ll do so. My objective in every post is to deliver the maximum value to the reader.

    So when I first read the mail, the first thought that came to mind was this person seemed like a self-help junkie. A junkie is someone with a substance abuse problem. A self-help junkie refers to someone who indulges in self-help (for leisure) and doesn’t follow-up with action. Over the course of my personal development blogging and coaching journey, I’ve come across a good number of self-help junkies, such that I’m able to sieve out the tell-tale signs. Are you a self-help junkie? Here are 9 ways to tell if you are:

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    1. You read self-help without following up with action. You read self-help blogs, books, and even attend self-help seminars once in a while. You are largely familiar with the different authors and teachings in the industry. Yet, of all that you’ve read, you’ve done little to nothing to apply what you’ve read. Rather than just read all the time, it might be more useful to ask yourself why you’re reading and what you intend to do with the information you’re acquiring. As with any activity, it’s important to do it with purpose.
    2. You like to discuss about self-help but you don’t act on it. Besides reading about self-help, you talk about it too. You interact with the authors, asking for advice once in a while. At the self-help blogs you read, you make the occasional comment or two, sharing your thoughts and engaging with the community. You even talk about it with your friends sometimes. However, after getting the advice, you don’t do anything. It falls short of action. When do you intend to take action? Perhaps start with what you want and when you want to achieve them. Create your action plan then act on it.
    3. You read for the sake of reading. You make it a point to read each self-help book/blog/post you come across, even if it’s in a topic that has no relevance or significance in your life. Does it serve any purpose though? It might be more useful to be choiceful of what you read, and read only if it pertains to what you’re going through. More importantly, make it a point to follow-up what you read with action/application (see #1 and #2).
    4. You treat self-help as leisure. It’s ok to read self-help books/blogs in your leisure time. But you treat self-help as just a recreational filler activity, never quite intending to take any action after you read it. However, self-help is more than just a filler or enrichment. It’s an important tool to help us live it in the best manner possible. What do you see self-help as and what role do you intend for it to serve in your life? Your answer to that question determines the kind of results you will get out of it.
    5. Self-help is your avoidance outlet. As ironic as it may seem, some people read self-help as a way to avoid dealing with problems in their lives. They seek refuge in it. They think reading about self-help is taking action. Of course, that’s a flawed notion, and very much just a delusion. If there is something you’re avoiding, you can’t ignore it by indulging in self-help. You have to face it and deal with it eventually. Use self-help to equip you with the right information, then act on it afterward.
    6. You measure your achievement by how many articles/books you read a week. With every post/book that you finish, you move on to the next, feeling satisfied by the amount you are reading. But real results should be measured by what you create in your life, not how much you read. Reading is merely a preparation step. Even if you read 1000 self-help books, nothing’s going to change until you do something. To date I’ve read less than 20 self-help books my whole life. I only read if it’s needed (to get certain info/knowledge); else I don’t touch the books. Read only what’s needed to achieve your results. Focus on what you want to create instead.
    7. You read self-help to motivate yourself / get a certain high. Like real junkies, you get on an emotional high from reading. It slowly tapers off afterward though, so you keep reading more to fuel that feeling. While it’s inspiring to read about others’ success, it’s even more inspiring to achieve that success for yourself.
    8. You keep fiddling with life hacks rather than work on the bigger pieces of life. Some people get absorbed in life hacking because it’s easy and it makes them feel productive. For many, it’s to procrastinate working on the bigger areas of life. While there are merits behind life hacks (this site is called Life Hack after all), you can’t hack your way to your dream life. There are big decisions you need to make, and until you do you can’t start your real life.
    9. You bookmark and RT list posts like “10 ways to XX” and “101 ways to XX” without remembering/applying any single tip in the post. It’s great to bookmark these articles for future use and it’s even better to share them with your friends. I always appreciate it whenever readers share my posts with others. However, you don’t want to end up just bookmarking/collecting a ton of these articles without doing anything. 2 questions you should ask yourself after every post you read are: (1) “What have I learned from this article?” (2) “What can I apply to my life moving forward?” There is always something to learn from everything, even if you may think you know everything that was written. If you read 1 post every day and you learn / apply just 1 thing out of each post, imagine the huge change you’d see in your life after 30 days.

    How about you?

    Are you a self-help junkie? Does any of the 9 traits above apply to you?

    And true to what I wrote in #9, here are 2 questions I’m going to ask you: (1) What have you learned from this article? and (2) What can you apply to your life moving forward?

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    Feel free to share your comments with others. :)

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    More by this author

    Celestine Chua

    Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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