I read over 200 self-improvement books to learn these 10 life lessons

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Walk into any bookstore or browse any online shop and you’re going to see hundreds of self-help books. 

Where do you start?

Fortunately, I’m going to do the heavy lifting for you.

I’m going to summarize everything I’ve learned from reading over 200 self-help books in the past few years. 

Here are the crucial lessons and insights I took away that you can apply to your life right now. 

1) Take responsibility for your life 

You are in charge of your own life

You have to take control of your destiny and shape your own future. 

No matter how much you’ve been victimized or hurt, your life won’t change until you stop waiting for somebody else to save you. 

Nobody else is going to do it for you and even the best advice and strongest support will never replace action. 

Don’t wait or rely on excuses. 

Take hold of the reins and go in the direction you want to go in your life. 

Far too many great and talented individuals have sunk into disappointment because they spent too long waiting for people and opportunities to come their way. 

You can’t afford to wait any longer. 

Take action and take charge. 

2) Master the paradox

There is a paradox at the heart of self-development: you’re never fully in control of your own life. 

You can’t be.

You can’t control the culture you grew up in or the society around you, or the expectations of your friends, family or partner. 

You can’t control the weather, or whether there will be a massive and unexpected market collapse a year after you start your new business. 

You can’t control if your partner will decide to cheat on you for reasons having nothing to do with you. 

This is the paradox at the heart of self-development and success. 

It’s a paradox you need to fully embrace. 

In other words, you can’t let what’s out of your control sap your will and your energy. 

You need to put your full effort into what you can control and try as much as possible not to focus or worry about what you can’t control. 

Those factors out of your control are things you need to think of and consider when taking action. 

But you should never fixate on them or let your energy and action be focused on avoiding or trying to change what’s out of your control. 

3) Think for yourself

This world is so full of different information and opinions. 

Politicians and propagandists want you to believe this side or that side, and every time you turn on the news the drama floods you. 

It’s crucial to think for yourself and engage in critical thinking. 

You need to make your own decisions based on what’s best for you, not in order to be popular or feel accepted. 

So many of the self-help books I read really emphasized how important it is to think critically and have your own worldview and priorities. 

If you let your dreams be defined by others, you’ll never truly succeed in anything. 

If you’re loved for somebody you’re not, you’ll never truly be loved. 

To truly improve yourself and your life, you need to be honest with yourself and you need to think for yourself. 

4) Cooperate and collaborate

Individualism is important and great things have been done by men and women who worked alone and didn’t fit into their society. 

But the importance of working together is also extremely key. 

Cooperation and collaboration not only give us valuable support networks and partners. 

They also lead to so much new discovery, innovation and breakthroughs. 

Many of the inventions and technologies that have changed our world emerged from long chains of group effort. 

Even if one famous historical individual got the credit, when you really look beneath the surface you’ll find a long line of others whose work and contributions played a crucial role. 

The importance of working with others is paramount to improving yourself and your life!

5) Be kind and build others up

Treating others with empathy and compassion is another of the key lessons I have picked up in reading this mountain of self-help books over the years. 

This is about far more than just being a decent person or having good “vibes.”

When you give others the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect and kindness, you leave room for growth, friendship, collaboration and partnership. 

When you notice only the flaws or are overly critical of others, you cut short many avenues of cooperation and learning. 

Building others up is a way of making the world a better place and of training your mind to notice the positive and focus on possibilities instead of just downsides. 

You’ll start noticing that as you give others more credit, you also give yourself more credit and believe more in yourself, too. 

6) Pursue personal growth

Time is precious, and it has huge potential. 

The self-improvement books I read gave me so many new insights and ideas about how to use my time. 

There are so many new skills, hobbies, talents and activities out there that you can learn in your spare time. 

There is so much that can be done in terms of personal growth, and the sky really is the limit. 

You can work on your diet, your mindset, your emotional intelligence and pursue new skills like languages or learning about philosophy.

You can improve your interpersonal skills or hold yourself accountable in your goals and plans. 

Personal growth is always worth it and ends up being a benefit to those around you as well! 

7) Embrace change

The only constant in life is change

When you turn change from a neutral or a negative into a positive, you experience a huge boost in your life. 

It’s about far more than just accepting change, it’s about embracing it. 

Almost every single self-help book I read emphasized the need to have a healthy relationship with change. 

Life will change, you will change, partners will change, business will change. 

Being not only ready, but excited about change puts you ahead of the curve in almost every way. 

Change is coming no matter what, but how you respond is up to you. 

8) Practice gratitude 

Appreciate the good things in your life, and cultivate a mindset of gratitude.

This can help you find joy and fulfillment in even the smallest moments.

Gratitude does not mean that you just say thanks for anything. 

There will be times of pain and frustration, times when you feel like everything is for nothing. 

But gratitude is about bringing your awareness into the present moment even if only for a moment and expressing appreciation. 

Isn’t that a lovely breeze right now?

Isn’t this magnolia flower heavenly?

Isn’t this lasagna incredibly delicious?

Appreciation and gratitude does us all a world of good! 

9) Be resilient

Life is full of ups and downs, but cultivating resilience can help you weather any storm.

Resilience isn’t just about being “strong” or “positive.”

Many people get tired of self-help books and self-improvement speakers because some of them seem to be delivering a judgmental, simplistic message. 

But the truth about resilience is that it’s about being versatile and realistic. 

We’re all going to have times in life when we’re sad or angry. 

We’re all going to have goals that don’t work out or relationships that become painful or end. 

But being resilient is about learning to rely on yourself and find a place of calm, quiet strength inside where you are able to accept the bad times and the good without ever fully investing your well-being in an external outcome. 

Sometimes resilience can just mean the strength to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other!

That’s definitely a start. 

And from there we come to one of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned from being so invested in the self-help community. 

The vital importance of having some kind of overarching purpose in your life. 

10) Live with purpose

Living with purpose is vital if you want to chart a meaningful course in life and be able to have resilience in the times of frustration, loneliness or confusion. 

Define what matters most to you, and focus on living a life that aligns with your values and goals.

Think about it:

If you climbed in a sailboat and just went wherever it went with the wind, you could end up going in a giant circle. 

You’d run out of supplies and likely perish out on the ocean. 

But if you climbed into that sailboat, studied a map and then oriented your sails to head in the direction of Spain, then you would eventually arrive in Spain! (Hopefully!)

That’s the same thing as having a purpose

No matter how hard you work and how kind and collaborative you are, it can be very hard to feel fulfilled in life if you don’t know what your purpose is or put effort towards finding your purpose.

Find out more

There you have it: what I’ve learned from my self-help obsession. 

These are the key lessons that I’ve found to make a huge difference in my own life. 

If you want to find out more you can also check out my free masterclass on a strange new way to find your purpose in life

I wish everyone the best of success out there: don’t forget to enjoy the journey and make the most of it. 

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Justin Brown

As co-founder of Ideapod, a digital publishing platform reaching millions, and creator of The Vessel, a new platform for self-knowledge, I bring a unique perspective to the world of culture, politics and psychology. With a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and M.A. (First Class Honours) from the Australian National University, I've dedicated my career to understanding and sharing new ideas and perspectives for a new generation.

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