Self-Help – Does it Work?

by | May 22, 2022

There is nothing better than listening to a great speaker, with great words of wisdom about how we can ‘be better’, how we can ‘thrive & prosper’ and how we can become ‘financially free’. The words all make sense, in fact, it is almost like you already knew the wisdom they had to offer, but somehow hearing it from another, spoken with so much passion, made the path to success seem clearer.

And then, it comes to an end, and your day continues, in the same way it always does, you do those same nasty habits you always do and you make excuses for why ‘it can wait until tomorrow’.

The truth is, we already know how to help ourselves and become better people. We know how to begin the road to prosperity, but most of us fail to act. We prefer to keep listening to the advice and the obvious wisdom from successful people who have already made it. We form heroes in our minds, people to aspire too, and yet, never quite making the necessary changes required to begin the long and treacherous path to success and well-being.

The self-help industry is a thriving one. Motivational speakers now dominate much of the Social Networks and media streaming platforms. Their books fill the pages of Amazon and their subscription services and other products, and services are selling like hot cakes.

According to Market Research, the self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016 and is estimated to grow to $13.2 billion by 2022 with 5.6% average yearly gains.

  • Self-help audiobooks – $769 million (5.6% growth YoY);
  • Self-improvement books – $800 million (6% growth YoY);
  • Self-improvement apps – $27 million;
  • Personal coaching services – $1 billion in the US (source);
  • Motivational speakers – $1 billion per year combined.

In a recent survey, 94% of millennial’s said they would be willing to spend $300 a month on self-help products and services.

Now there are a couple questions which few fail to ask:

  1. Why are so many people looking to others for answers on how to become something better than they are?
  2. Does self-help content, products and service actually work?

In answer to the first question, I think the answer is relatively simple. Over the past few decades, it has become ever harder to keep up with the ever-growing expectations of modern living. In the 80s and into the 90s western civilisation reached its peak of prosperity. A working-class family could work their 9 to 5 job, the mother could stay at home with the children and there would be enough money coming in to live in a sizable house and garden in a relatively pleasant neighbourhood. There were no mobile networks, satellite television, Netflix and sports premium subscriptions to tempt you. Fuel was cheap and household services like Gas, Electric & Water were peanuts (, well, kind of). It was a time of relative bliss; indeed, it had its moments, and undoubtedly there were struggles for many – but the formula was simple, and it worked. Leave school, get a job, work 9 to 5 and you WILL be able to provide for your family.

But these times have long since ended. The formula has changed, and the results are less predictable than they once were. Add to this the ever-increasing temptations delivered directly into your smartphone 24/7 and the constant reminder of those who are doing far better than you. The housing market as outpaced the average wage packet by almost double:

The average house in March 2021 cost more than 65 times the average UK home in January 1970, but average weekly wages were only 35.8 times higher, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. – Source

The following chart puts this massive disconnect between house prices and wages into perspective:

So, with just the separation between average house prices to wages already millennial’s are already having to put aside twice the amount of their income compared to young adults and families from several decades ago.

Interestingly, if we look at the difference between wages and household energy costs, people were on average spending more on energy back in the 70’s, right through to the mid 80’s then they are now. I would argue that much of this is not so much that energy itself was relatively more expensive than compared to wages than it is now, but more that people began to become more aware of their own energy usage and began to use less.

But, looking forward even this is about to change. It is expected that energy prices here in the UK where I am, will outpace wage increases by 1400%.

Energy bills are set to rise at least 14 times faster than wages this year, according to new TUC analysis published today (Saturday). 

The analysis shows that while gas and electricity bills are set to increase by 54 per cent when the price cap set by Ofgem is increased in April, by contrast average weekly wages are set to rise by just 3.75 per cent per cent in 2022. – Source

Then there is all the other junk that has been normalized in everyday life. Satellite subscriptions, high-speed internet, streaming services, amazon prime, mobile phones and their contracts and everything in-between. Agreed, it is one’s choice to have these things. We do not need them to survive, they are not necessities. However, when the rest of the world around you appears to have it all, most find themselves following suite.

But this need for self-improvement isn’t just about rising living costs, it is also about expectation and desire. Prior to the internet, the World was a much larger place, people were mostly disconnected from the rest of the World. Those who they aspire to were far more likely to be their father, or uncle, or maybe an inspirational teacher they had at school. But now we have YouTube, now we have Instagram, now we have every angle of our vision filled with people we don’t know, from places we don’t know who appear to be living the dream!

When you are consistently seeing young 20-year-old lads living in a mansion, pull pranks on each other for a living and making millions on YouTube, it is only natural for other 20-year-olds on the other side of the World, working a dead-end job packing in a meat factory to desire what they have. Motivational speakers and self-help guides turn this desire into a possibility. It raises the expectations of people with lower living standards – which is great, they should strive for more and believe that they can do better. Unfortunately, it does take more than listening and watching the success of others, which brings me on to the next question.

Does Self-help content actually help the self?

The answer to this is not quite as simple as yes, or no. We are all different people, from different environments, who have each lived through a different set of experiences. What works for one does not necessarily work for another.

But the most important part of the equation, which the majority fail to understand, even though most prominent speakers will tell you this over and over again, you must be willing to put the work in, change your habits, ditch the Kardashians. All the self-help content in the World isn’t going to make the blind bit of difference if you don’t fulfil your part of the bargain. The easy bit is knowing what you need to do, the hard part is actually doing it.

I can tell you about how success is easy, how you just need to ‘clean your room’, begin changing your habits, set your goals and success will follow. I can tell you that all it requires is persistence and determination and you will agree, you will feel a sense of empowerment, your mind will know, if for just a brief moment everything that needs to be done to better your circumstances. Then, as time has a habit of doing, time will roll on, your everyday chores and habits will fall back into place and nothing will change. You must be committed to making a change, immediately and consistently. This is the hardest part, after all, everything else is obvious, you already know that in order to do better, you must try harder, work longer – and, you also know that in order to work harder and work longer you must free up time, which means ditching unnecessary things you once did and sleeping less.

So the answer is, yes, self-help content does help, it will help considerably, but not on its own. You also need to be ready for it.

Napoleon Hill talks about this a lot in his infamous book ‘Think & Grow Rich’. In this book Hill tells of the 14 principles of success in the form of a “Philosophy of Achievement”. The book was inspired by the life and success of Andrew Carnegie and promises to show readers the big ‘secret’ to Carnegie’s success and fortunes. Hill never quite explains specifically this secret in the book. The reader will apparently know the secret when he or she is ready to know it. So, what was the secret?

Well, people have different ideas to exactly what the secret is, but to me it’s obvious. In fact, the books title is the big giveaway, ‘Think & Grow Rich’. The secret is within you. It is about forming a strong, moral, and open state of mind, knowing what you want, growing your desire and determination for what you want and doing what needs to be done to achieve the goals necessary to make your desires a reality. It begins in the mind; you must think rich to grow rich. Now exactly what rich is depends on the individual, for some this maybe an abundance of wealth, for others it maybe a small holding in the country with a loving family, for others it maybe both or something else entirely.

It’s no exaggeration to say the mind is more powerful than you could possibly know, it can determine your health, your wealth, your future and by far the most important, your happiness. If you haven’t yet read Napoleon Hill ‘Think & Grow Rich’ you really should, published in 1937 during the great depression it is still today a very worthy read. But, again, alone it will not drag you out of your poverty, it will not deliver pots of gold and a beautiful wife/husband and children to your doorstep. What it will do, is to help those who already know they will be successful, navigate their path, reinforce their determination and, be a reminder of what needs to be done.

Final Thoughts & a Little Self-Help Advice

The exponential growth in the self-help industry reflects on two things, one good, one bad. It is a reflection on the growing discontentment of society. It is a sure signal that something isn’t quite right with our society and people are becoming less content and desire more than they have.

But on the flip side it isn’t all bad. It is also an indicator that people are willing to try and do something about it; they want to better themselves; they want a solution to drag themselves out of depression, poverty, and the current circumstances they find themselves in and reach out for a better life.

My advice is this, we should all be striving to better ourselves. If we leave one passing day behind having learnt nothing more of value than the day before, we are doing ourselves a massive injustice. We live but once, or at least this life but once, why would one not be putting there all in to making it the very best experience it could possibly be, after all, what is there to lose?

The greatest loss in any life is in those last few moments holding regret in your heart, looking back on all things you never did, all things you gave up on because it got too hard, or never even tried at all because of a fear of failing. In that final hour, do you want to be wondering what could have been?

Look at your life, yourself, your habits. Are you content with all that you see?

If you are not, begin now to change that. Only you can change it, no one else can, they can give you great advice, they can show you how to be successful, but unless you are ready for change, unless you are ready for hard work and stepping outside of your comfort zone nothing will change. This is without exception.

I’m going to leave you with a list of books I believe will truly help those who are ready for change. Each carries its own message and each will, or at least should leave you a little wiser, and a little more determined:


  1. Napeleon Hill – ‘Think & Grow Rich’
  2. Robert T. Kiyosaki – ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’
  3. Ori Brafman – ‘The Starfish & the Spider
  4. Tim Ferriss – ‘The Four Hour Work Week’
  5. Peter Thiel – ‘Zero to One’
  6. George S Clason – ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’
  7. Stephen King – ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’
  8. Bruce Lipton – ‘Biology of Belief’
  9. Jordan B. Peterson – ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’
  10. Joe Dispenza – ‘Meditations for Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself’
  11. Malcolm Gladwell – ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’
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