Many people are pursuing the attainment of happiness through reading books, listening to audios, and attending seminars. The newest content on the scene might be jazzed up by charismatic people like Tony Robbins, but the information is age-old.
The self-help and happiness market exploded in the 1980s with the popularization of classic books like As a Man Thinketh (James Allen), How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay), and The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale). Although the resurgence of self-help books made self-help seem like a new idea, many of the books that resurfaced in the 1980s were originally published in the early 1900s.
Why write about happiness?
Everyone wants to be happy. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the driving force behind most decisions. People have desires because they think getting those desires will make them happy. So, they pursue careers, hobbies, and relationships they feel will bring them happiness.
Although most people achieve many of their goals, there’s always something that seems just out of reach, and reading self-help books makes those goals seem more attainable. The best self-help books offer more than philosophy, and outline practical strategies and tips anyone can use.
Who started the self-help craze?
Some attribute the rise of the self-help market to Earl Nightingale, who, in 1957, recorded a track titled The Strangest Secret on a record for his employees to use to shift their mindset toward success. Other well-known pioneers in the self-help industry around that time were Neville Goddard and Napoleon Hill. Perhaps more than any other authors, their work has inspired millions of people around the world.
Have the original self-help authors vanished?
Books published in the early 1900s are still relevant today, but many people prefer contemporary authors because they’re more relatable. The situations and experiences described by contemporary authors are easier to relate to than, say, an author who discusses having formal dinners in a palace with servants and maids.
Until their books get been reprinted, many classic authors disappear from the self-help world. People do judge a book by its cover. If older books haven’t been reprinted with glossy, full-color covers and perfect binding, they’re likely to be skipped over. The saddle stitch and spiral wire binding of the past can’t produce a clean-looking book with a perfectly printed spine. Older books that haven’t been reprinted often have dark green or brown covers with scratched off titles on the spine and cover, making it impossible to know what the book is without opening it up.
However, some die-hard self-help fans regularly scour used bookstores for original copies of classics like Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill) and Psycho-Cybernetics (Maxwell Maltz).
Self-help is a booming market with plenty of new authors
Today, we’re seeing even more best-selling authors emerge in the self-help scene like Gretchen Rubin, a #1 New York Times best-selling author who recently published Outer Order, Inner Calm. According to Rubin, there are two keys to living a happier life. The first is relationships. The second is self-knowledge. Relationships are a given that almost every self-help author discusses, but self-knowledge isn’t discussed very often. About self-knowledge, Rubin says, “we can build a healthy life only on the foundation of what’s true about ourselves. There’s no magic “one fits all solution.” Part of it is looking in the mirror and thinking what’s actually true for me, not what I assume is true for everybody or what other people expect from me or the way I wish I were.”
Authentic sharing drives today’s market
A major difference in today’s self-help market is the amount of people sharing their stories and wisdom who have had unique journeys that brought them to the same place of contentment and connection with life. More people are embarking on the journey of self-transformation, experiencing it uniquely, and reporting back on what they’ve discovered.
Perhaps there is truth to the statement that we’re all on the same journey, just taking different roads to get there. In the self-help industry, there’s a book – and a teacher – for everyone.