Many of us want to improve our lives. That’s a good thing. Whether you want to change your body, your career, your financial situation or your love life, recover from a setback, divorce or illness, there’s a book or coach who can help you. Do you need to build customers, boost your social media following, hone your marketing skills, negotiate contracts? There’s a book or coach who can help you.

Many people, including myself, have improved their lives thanks to books, free webinars, conferences, coaching, workshops, videos, podcasts and more. Some wonder if all the hype over self-help benefits the person selling his or her expertise more than the customer. The self help industry is a $10 billion business in the USA.

As I embarked on my own self-help journey, I read many books, signed up for numerous free webinars and enrolled in courses to boost my knowledge, skills and credentials. All good. But you can overdo it and find yourself in self-help Hell. I did.

There is a tipping point, and I hit it.  I had signed up for so many special offers to help me (e.g., webinars, e-classes, newsletters) that I lost my focus and felt stifled by the “noise” in my inbox.  I over indulged and served myself too many helpings at the self-help banquet.  It was too much!

I decided to go on a self-help diet. I dialed back, streamlined and refocused on what I really wanted to do, why it mattered to me or to anyone else, who I really wanted to help (other than myself), and how I want to go about it. I stopped signing up for every free offer to join a webinar, as enticing as many sounded (most come with a sale pitch at some point). I de-tangled myself from the webinar web and took back my time.

Self-help has its place and space in your life if you want and need it. There are many terrific qualified experts who can teach and guide you. But listen to your inner voice. It’s the best advice you’ll ever need or take. If it feels right, it just might be; if it doesn’t, let it go. If you feel you are losing control of your time or it’s not helping, stop and reset your intentions.

Here are my tips to getting the most out of self-help, whether it’s books, coaching or webinars:

  1. Focus on one thing you want to change or improve in your life. Not several at one time.
  2. Decide what format you prefer to work in: books, coaching, webinars, e-classes, courses and commit to one or two things.
  3. If it’s coaching, make sure find the right kind a coach based on his/her training, skills and offerings.  Many coaches will offer a free initial meeting to discuss and assess your needs and goals, albeit with the intention of selling you their program.
  4. There are many self-help books. Find a publisher, book series or writer/speaker you enjoy and trust and stick with it. Just because the book receives a lot of publicity does not mean it is the best book for you (kind of like a diet).
  5. Join one online community with like minded people willing to share and provide constructive input and support. Avoid communities where participants are either venting or self-promoting.
  6. Reading about other peoples’ self-help successes may inspire you. But just remember, your story is the one you shape and own, so focus on it first and foremost. Their story is not yours.

Finally, there are no guarantees. There is no quick fix. Books can teach you, but you have to take responsibilities for your actions. Coaches can guide you but you need to follow through and do the work. Permanent change does not happen in 21 or 30 days. It is a long-term commitment.