What I Learned from Reading A LOT of Personal Development Books

A couple years ago I decided that it was important to develop myself. It was more than just curiosity. It was necessity. I had went through a series of traumatic experiences which left me with the regret that I could have done better.

If only I had known…

So I began to read about personal development. I studied psychology, NLP, self-hypnosis, meditation…

I think that the vast majority of what happens to us is beyond our control. But we always get to choose how we react to what happens to us.

Which makes how we react a lot more important than what happens.

So, what did I learn from reading over a hundred such books in two years?

1. You are what you think.

It is almost impossible to find a self-help guru who’d disagree with this statement.

It all starts with thought. It is the building block of action, of emotion. It is the way that you think that determines the quality of your life.

2. Thought without action is useless.

I started with a piece of paper, a pen, and some fifty, sixty affirmations. Tried to write them in first person, second person… I even tried recording myself and obsessively listen to that recording.

Nothing changed.

My theory is that action is what truly reinforces beliefs and habits. You need to fake it until you make it, so to speak.

It is useless to read, over and over again, that you are outgoing if you do not go out into the world and try to be that.

3. Happiness is simple.

It is. Just a combination of getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising.

Being busy also helps.

The mind is this treacherous thing: it sabotages itself by thinking too much.

The more you think, the likely it is for you to think yourself out of being happy.

Happiness is not this check list of things that you need. It is not to be found in any place or situation or another person. Or any other number of people.

Happiness is a state of mind. And like all other states of mind, it comes and goes.

4. Surrender to the moment.

Ever tried to fight off certain cravings? Give up on certain bad habits? Quit smoking? Not think of someone?

And the more you tried to think of something else, the more difficult it became?

In fact, you are actually holding on to that thought by trying to escape it.

Let go. Surrender to whatever it is you are feeling. Observe what your mind and body are telling you.

Self-awareness is underrated. But it is extremely important. You need to accept the fact that you are how you are, and then understand why, and then you can change. There’s no other way.

5. There are no shortcuts.

Sorry, guys. No how-to guide can ever tell you how to live life, be happy, become successful, or earn a lot of money. You can read about other people’s struggles, what they did, how they did it, their principles and beliefs and thoughts patterns, but it might not apply to you.

You cannot replicate another’s life.

You can only arrive at the same conclusions, figure some things out, and that’s it.

6. Change doesn’t happen overnight.

It doesn’t take seven, or ten, or thirty days. It’s not as easy as listening to recordings and watching a bunch of seminars. It takes more time, more effort, and it’s an overall frustrating experience, even though these books would like to tell you otherwise.

In fact, it is only through a lot of effort that you can change certain habits and behaviors. It is a painful process. Your mind rebels against the new ideas. A paradigm shift is you vs. you in a very costly battle. You have to ditch harmful ideas, you have to accept reality as it’s being painted in front of your eyes by other people.

 That being said, I’d like to conclude that personal development is a fascinating topic. Bettering yourself is an ongoing process which stops only when you decide to. There’s always something new to learn, some different approach to certain issues, there’s always room for progress.


  1. Cristian, thank you for sharing what you have learned. This is exactly what I needed to push out of this rut, I find myself in. I felt stuck in my emotions and the circumstances that surround me but prospective changes everything. “IT ALL STARTS WITH A THOUGHT”! Thanks for the pep talk!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My wife suffers from Lupus. Has for years.

    She runs a couple of miles a day, gardens, keeps things running smoothly, looks after the grandchildren, and in general, just lives life.
    Her doctors say she doesn’t act like a Lupus patient. She says, “I have Lupus. It doesn’t have me.”
    I think that’s why she does so well. She just never surrendered to it, but instead grabbed Lupus by the throat and told it, not today.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Been in wordpress hiatus for quite sometime and this was my first read and I thank you for sharing. I was curious about the same things and read a lot of those kind of stuff too.

    Carry on!

    Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “In fact, it is only through a lot of effort that you can change certain habits and behaviors. It is a painful process.”
    This! Five years ago I quit smoking. I’d smoked for 15 years and tried and tried to quit more times than I can count. I realize now why I failed so much. I never accepted that changing a habit, especially such a deeply ingrained and addictive habit, was just going to be painful. If I’d stopped looking for ways to quit painlessly I would’ve have gotten much farther much sooner.
    Awesome post! Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Habitual thinking processes are difficult to recognize, let alone change. Also, I think that we lie to ourselves that we could change them any time we wanted.

      Take smoking for instance. Some smokers mistakenly believe they could quit if they wanted to. They just don’t want to. They could though. No big deal. That’s just not true. Depending on how addicted you are in the first place, it’s going to take a while.


  5. I agree with what you said about happiness! It is an emotion. Joy, on the other hand, is deeper, based upon having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not going away even when happiness fades to grey. Thank you for your post!


  6. Wow, completely agree that it’s a fascinating topic! You laid it out all very well too. I appreciate what you say in #4, you don’t hear that much anywhere. I also find that if I return to a book or other teaching several months after learning something from it, I will that realize even more of what is being taught there. Some teachings give so much information that I can’t process it all at once, even though I tend to think I do. Like you say, there’s always more to learn. Great Post!


  7. I wish I could finish self-development books that look interesting. I always get so bored because the explanations and examples are so long. Plus the happy happy vibes some of them throw off make my teeth hurt.


  8. So true about thoughts!

    Philippians 4:8-9

    8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    I try to run my thoughts through this verse to see what kind of thoughts I’m having.


  9. Lovely summary! If I may, I would like to share a learning that I put into action at a very dark time in my life. I wrote a new gratitude every day. It couldn’t be a repeat so it forced me to look for the little things every day that made me thankful. The act of scanning my day for positive moments helped me to learn to simply acknowledge and then to let go of any negative moments. The exercise also grounded me in the present and left little time for dwelling in the past or for worrying about the future. A really worthwhile exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like the part, “It is useless to read, over and over again, that you are outgoing if you do not go out into the world and try to be that.”. Very true, without action, they cannot be progress full stop

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I totally agree. If you write down a list of affirmations about yourself or goals that you want to achieve without actually doing something about it you will never change. “A goal without action is just a wish”. Thank you for this piece…it was insightful and very well written 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is literally me a year ago. I just gave up. I realized that I can never change consciously without changing myself subconsciously. You are definitely right about the first one, I am what I think I am. Great read! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Well said. We attract what we are. I think that’s what’s helped me the most. Every time that I come across something in my life that I don’t like i go and look in the mirror and find out when I created it. Great post! Much love

    Liked by 2 people

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