Two years back, a friend recommended a book ‘Miracle Morning’, a popular productivity book that points to personal growth being tied to how you start your day. The writer, Hal Elrod, suggested that waking up each day with a drive, focus, and motivation was key to achieving your goals. His book encouraged practices like silence, affirmations, visualisation, exercise, reading, and scribing, especially practiced in the morning. As I began reading, I was sold. I was fired up to have my life change. I was inspired and actually made commitments and plans that turned my days into productive ones. This, however, didn’t go on for long. I managed to achieve some of my goals, but my inspiration was momentary. In most cases, self-help books assure readers a fast and total spin on their lives, if only they put into practise what they read. Their assuredness scores them praise from some, and reproach from others. Writer Otiti Jasmine notes that she finds it healing and inspiring to read at least part of one personal development book a day. Just a chapter or 20 pages in the morning can make all the difference in how you see yourself and the world around you. She believes that when you read an inspiring book every day, you flood your brain with positive words and uplifting concepts. Making the time for this raises your vibration and keeps you in optimal conditions more often than not. “Reading an inspiring book a day isn’t to improve your life, it’s to enhance your life. The whole point of personal development is to expand more of what you’ve got, not improve what you think is lacking. When you approach each book as a treasure map to discover hidden knowledge, you adopt a playful, curious attitude that lets you explore each book from a grounded, expansive place,” Jasmine writes. Julius Mutabazi, an avid reader, roots for self-help books urging that they are more effective with equipping people with life skills such as boldness, planning and even organisation. “As a reader you understand your limitations and become equipped on how you can crash them. The skills that come with these books are what help us to navigate our lives.” Stella Kabatesi, a student and aspiring writer is for, and partly against the entire notion of self-help books and what they have to offer. These books should be taken as any other book, she says, adding that people should not go for them thinking that they now have a sure-fire formula for success. “Some people read self-help books hoping for overnight success. This is what upsets them when they don’t get what they hoped for. They expect too much and end up getting disappointed.” Placebo effect An article on ‘Why self-help books don’t work (and how to nevertheless benefit from them),’ shows that self-help books give wrong and sometimes harmful advice, they give false hope, they make uncertain people just feel worse about themselves, or they make people refrain from seeking professional support. If they already work, it is not because of the advice given in the self-help books, but because of the fact that people pay attention to something that they didn’t pay attention to before, the placebo effect. The article goes on to indicate that there is how you should read texts in order to really learn something from them, by applying the technique called ‘lectio divina.’ The core idea of lectio divina is that you read a text very slowly and let sentences sink in one by one. You start reading slowly until there is a paragraph or sentence that appeals to you. Then you stop and read that paragraph or sentence again. While doing so, your mind starts working and connecting the thing you read to the things that you already know. By reading in this way, you allow yourself to internalise the text that you read and this significantly increases the chance that you will change your behaviour—and thus, that you actually benefit from the text that you read. The efficiency of self-help books remains contentious. And while there is a lot of criticism around them, their popularity remains.