The Gist: Self-Help Books are Never Out of Style!

By Olivia Schmid | | Opinions Editor

The Gist is back, and it feels so good!! It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a self-help book, so I’m thrilled to get us back up and running.  Of course, I couldn’t disappear for too long, because, put simply, self-help books never go out of style. Their advice and stories remain timeless and valuable for people of all ages and lived experiences, and it’s important to talk about personal development and bring it all to the surface.

I spent my summer at the beach, then in San Francisco, and worked at Starbucks, … and yes, I read.  A lot.  Reading over the summer is super nice because it’s out of the academic year, so I can spend time reading and absorbing as much as I want, about whatever I want — after all, summer is all about leisure and what makes you happy.

So what did I read… funny you ask, because you guessed it: personal development books! And if you think that they’re all about the same thing (“Be happy!” “Smile!” “Be grateful!” “Life is great!”), well. You’re right. After reading them literally all summer long, I’ve found some common themes worth mentioning before we dive into my new all-time favorite self-help book next week (spoiler: it’s gooood and I swear I’ll ruin the surprise at some point in this article, but it’s fine).

GRATITUDE

Gratitude: According to Google, it is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.  Hands down, without a doubt, the #1 tip slash ritual slash word of wisdom slash humble advice… Be grateful and express it.  I kid you not, every book this summer, from pessimistic Mark Manson’s Everything is Fucked (yes, that is the title) to optimistic Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Stop Apologizing, everyone is preaching about the power of thinking about all the reasons why this life is so damn good.

Furthermore, I’d say 88% of the books I read went as far as to advise readers to WRITE down the reasons you’re thankful, not simply think and acknowledge that they are there.  It’s the act of taking the time out of your day to intentionally reflect on the things in life that make you glad to be here that makes life even that much better.  Tara Schuster, the author of Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies (my new favorite book that I insist on being buried with), swears by this ritual, claiming that adding this staple to her daily routine is what saved her.

CURATE GOOD HABITS

Another piece of advice that I heard more times than perhaps necessary for a college student trying to enjoy her summer was the need for good habits. Although it’s admittedly one of the most boring books I’ve ever read, James Clear’s Atomic Habits lays the plan out for you to kick the bad habits that make you always seem to get to bed so late, that you snooze your alarm seven times before almost mind the stress on “almost” — showing up late to your 8AM somehow with a cup of cold Blue Line peppermint tea in hand (too specific??).  Clear explains that you can’t simply wake up one day and decide to no longer go to bed at 2AM; instead, you have to replace it with a good and much more favorable habit.  Make it so good, that it makes you begin to question why the bad habit was even that attractive to you in the first place.

The same author mentions how our habits are more elastic when we are younger, and that the older we get, the harder our habits are to change. So like. Now’s the time, basically (which is terrifying, by the way). As college students, habits are integral to how we live out each day, week, month and year.  How we behave right now, along with the habits we carry both consciously and subconsciously, dictate our college years, whether we like it or not.  The whole shindig is a little scary to think about, but it’s necessary and once good habits are formed, it’s only up from here!

IF IT’S NOT A HELL YES, IT’S A HELL NO!

An important one for college students (and well, everyone I guess).

At this age, we are so gullible and vulnerable to peer pressure.  We want to fit in. We want to get involved.  We want to get out there. Let Florence Given, the author of Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, and a plethora of other authors remind you that: if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.  That goes for anything, anyone, and any occasion at all.  How many times do you hear yourself saying, “I don’t really want to go out tonight” or “I don’t really want to go on a date with him”?  And how often do you find yourself doing the exact things that you don’t really want to do?

If you don’t find yourself looking forward to it, don’t waste your energy!

If the idea of seeing him dressed nice across from you at a fancy dinner makes you gag, decline the date!

If you don’t want to get drunk tonight, don’t do it!

This is your life, my friends. For the third time, if it’s not a hell yes. It’s a hell no. 

I feel like I hit the jackpot with personal development books this summer and I can’t wait to share it with you all. More book recommendations and advice from middle-aged “we have it sorta kinda not really worked out” folks coming soon! In the meantime, pull up a seat, get out your journal, and start setting that 8AM alarm.  It’s go time, baby!

Sophomore Olivia Schmid is the Opinions Editor.  Her email is oschmid@fandm.edu.

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