Are you a self-help addict? Are you always on the lookout for the next best personal development book or self-improvement tutorial on YouTube? Then just like millions of others, you have been hooked by the self-help industry.

It’s not that you hate your life, it’s just that you feel certain things could be improved, and you’re looking to the modern day self-help gurus for the answers.

Self-help is everywhere. It’s on podcasts, social media, audio books and YouTube, as well as in magazines, motivational speeches, and on blogs. As long as people are constantly wanting to “fix” or “improve” their lives, the demand will always be there – and the industry will continue to thrive.

Why can’t I be happy?

How can I be a more positive person?

Why do my relationships always fail?

How can I start earning more money?

How can I improve my business?

These are just some of the many self-help queries we search for answers for. Our collective longing for easy solutions for personal development has created a powerful economic force. The self-help industry was worth $11 billion in 2018, and it is only continuing to grow.

Our collective demand for self-help has created a multi-billion dollar industry.

self-help industry value infographic

Every year, there are more and more ways to get your self-help fix. There’s always a new YouTube channel, a new blog or a new app dedicated to the self-help industry. You finish watching or listening to one, and you’re on to the next. And you’ll never run out – there’s an ever-expanding repertoire of choices for those of us looking for a way to “fix” ourselves.

Our collective longing to improve our lives has created the multi-billion dollar self-help industry. Click To Tweet

I’m going to shed some light on what we mean when we talk about the self-help industry, and what consumers this industry is targeting. And then we’ll get to the question we all want to know the answer to: Does self-help actually work? Or is it just glorified common sense?

What Exactly is “Self-Help”?

Self-help is a term used to describe any product or information packet that is designed to help the consumer meet certain goals for change on their own. This is in contrast to seeking help from others, in particular professionals.

For example, instead of hiring a therapist, you read a book by a renowned therapist and use that information to change your life.

Or, instead of hiring a nutritionist, you listen to a healthy eating podcast and teach yourself the ways to eat better and live longer.

self-help cooking

With advancing technology and social media, we are consuming more self-help than ever and in newer and different ways. You can still take the classic route of reading a book. But now you can also read a self-help blog, download an app, or take an online course.

You can watch a Ted Talk on YouTube while you make dinner, mixing a little self-help into your cooking routine.

You can also listen to a self-help podcast during your workout, and you can bet that the people who do this feel highly productive.

In other words, the self-help industry has spread into almost every nook-and-cranny of our lives. We are so used to it being all around us that we may no longer notice how ever-present it has become.

What kind of change is the self-help industry promising? Self-help products can be about business, leadership, spirituality, lifestyle, relationships, health, and many more topics.

Is there something you don’t like about yourself or wish could be better? There’s a self-help product for that.

Authors, speakers, coaches, social media influencers, and other types of creators have developed particular messages to reach almost every niche demographic or issue you could imagine.

No matter who you are or what your issue is, you will surely be able to find a self-help product that promises it can solve your specific problem. And as we live in a society with depression and anxiety on the rise, and more and more comparison via social media, you can bet a lot of us have (or think we have) problems we need help with. That’s why the self-help industry is projected to continue growing at a rate of 5.6% annually, up to $13 billion by 2022– and those figures are for the U.S. alone.

Popular Types of Self-Help

When did the self-help industry get started? While there are philosophies dating back hundreds or thousands of years on the general message of helping yourself, the self-help industry as we know it (for-profit) didn’t begin until more recently. Books were the first front to take off.

One of the earliest and most well known in the genre is Dale Carnegie’s infamous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written in 1936, this self-help book has gone on to sell over 15 million copies.

Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold over 25 million copies since it was published in 1989. As the world saw how successful this genre can be, the books have kept on surfacing. Self-help has extended into other topics from business to health to spirituality. Just look at Rhonday Byrne’s positivity book, The Secret, which has sold over 30 million copies since its 2006 release.

“But Dan, I don’t read these kinds of books, so I clearly can’t be into self-help, right?” Wrong. While the self-help industry started with books, it has transformed to adapt to new forms of modern media.

Do you listen to podcasts? Read blog articles? Follow YouTubers and vloggers and speakers who provide information on improving some aspect of your life? Have you watched a Ted Talk? Have you re-posted a social media influencer’s inspiring quote?

You’re probably consuming far more self-help then you realize.


Photo credits: Nuamfolio / Shutterstock.com , Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com and Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

Television has become a powerful medium for the self-help industry. In her 25 years on the air, the Oprah show included a variety of experts and stories centering around personal development. One of her common experts even got his own spin-off show – the Dr. Phil show has been on the air for 17 years and just aired its 3000th episode. The public interest in self-help entertainment can also be seen in popular TV shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy where there is a message of personal change and advice in episodes, for how viewers can create similar change in their own life.

Social media is a more modern avenue on the scene of the self-help industry. More and more people are turning to Twitter or Instagram to find inspiration or advice. Personal development coaches and self-help gurus are capitalizing on social media to expand their networks and influence. It is easier than ever to search for a particular type of self-help topic and find a message that seems to be exactly what you are looking for.

What started as just books has become an incredibly lucrative industry with a wide range of products that can reach consumers of any age, lifestyle, occupation, or interests.

Why Do We Love Self-Help and Buy Into It So Often?

How did self-help become so popular? The massive scope of the self-help industry may be surprising to you. Why are so many people looking for and buying self-help products? There are two general answers: We are more in need of hope and help than we used to be, and we’ve lost touch with some of the ways we got support from others in the past.

What did people do before they could watch Dr. Phil or listen to a personal development podcast? In previous generations, people would turn to other sources for direction. When people needed advice or inspiration or tools, they’d rely on their families, villages, and communities. People sought out spiritual counsel, or consulted with their elders. How many of us still have access to these advisers now?

Is-The-Self-Help-Industry-Just-Glorified-Common-Sense-Graphic-03

Self-sufficiency has become a cultural norm. Our world has become less about community or collective support, with an increased emphasis on being able to solve your own problems and not rely on anyone else. The self-help industry becomes more popular as we become more self-sufficient and self-reliant.

As our society has become increasingly isolated and individualistic, we have turned inward. It often seems like everyone is on their phone instead of talking to each other. We may be afraid to reach out to others, or not feel like we have others to reach out to.

Our society has become increasingly self-sufficient, isolated, self-reliant and individualistic. It's no wonder why self-help is a booming industry. Click To Tweet

It can feel easier, or less embarrassing, to pick up a book than to call our parents or seek out help from the community. Some of us are ashamed that we need help, so to ‘save face’ we try to figure it out ourselves. We may also be avoiding the stigma that can follow seeing professionals. Using self-help makes us feel like we can do it on our own and on our own time. We can be self-reliant and independent.

Our society emphasizes that we should all be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Doing it “on our own” can be a badge of honor, a way to feel pride that we don’t need anybody else. We feel a sense of agency and empowerment.

In addition to feeling better about ourselves for taking this approach, we may also feel pleased with the perception of saving time and money. At first it may seem that self-help is cheaper than regular visits to a therapist, life coach or dietitian. This of course depends on just how many books you buy, and if any of them are really working. In addition to thinking we are saving money, there is also no denying the convenience of self-help. The self-help industry offers products in every format you can imagine. There is something accessible to everyone.

Buying into self-help is common because everyone wants to improve themselves, and successfully pull off a personal or professional transformation.

What Kind of People Buy Into the Self-Help Industry?

It goes without saying that you’re more likely to spend your money on self-help products if you are one of the millions of people suffering with life-altering mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Globally, more than 264 million people have depression, according to the World Health Organization.

And what about anxiety? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million American adults are affected by anxiety. That’s around 18% of the U.S. population.

For these people, simply the act of buying a self-help book feels good. Publishing statistics claim that 80% of self-help book customers are repeat buyers, which could indicate that people are not really reading the books, and just buying them because the act of doing so makes them feel better. These statistics also could indicate that the self-help books aren’t working.

But what these statistics really show us, is that it’s the same type of people who buy into the self-help industry. Generally, it’s either people who are depressed, or people who truly want to improve something about themselves.

It’s people who yearn for something greater, whether that’s for their business, or for their personal lives.

And often, it’s the people who need that push or that motivation that they believe they can’t find inwardly.

self-help podcasts being listened to
Who is Buying Into Personal Development The Most?

Who are the biggest consumers of self-help? Baby Boomers came of age at the time when the self-help industry started to really pick up. As such, they are still dominant consumers. But the latest wave of personal-development addicts are millennials. Millennials reported spending more than double the amount that Boomers spent on self-improvement, despite having half the amount of income.

Millennials clearly value self-help and are willing to put their limited funds toward it. The market is also shifting its focus to attract and retain millennial customers. Millennials are more likely to be using newer technology like podcasts and YouTube. They are more adept at figuring out webinars and self-help apps. They are also on social media and as such have access to an even wider range of self-help. While there may not be many authors their own age, there is certainly an abundance of YouTubers and social media influencers speaking to this demographic.

While social media offers advice, it can also be the cause of some of the problems that drive us to need help in the first place. Comparing our lives to others on social media can lead to higher expectations of ourselves and a sense that we are never good enough. Which might lead us right back to social media to find the answers to “fix” our lives.

What makes us want this “help” in the first place? Mark Manson describes two general types of people who are drawn to self-help. One type are people who believe there is something fundamentally wrong with them and are desperate to find a way to change. He calls these the “Bad-to-OK” people. The other type are the “OK-to-Great” people, who feel generally pleased with themselves but have areas they would like to improve to become the best they can be.

Manson describes how for self-help to work you have to believe that you are a good person with the potential to be great, even if you have made mistakes or struggled in the past.

So to have success with self-help you need to believe that you have the power to make the change. No book or podcast can provide you with that. Once you have that faith in yourself, Manson describes the irony of such an epiphany. He says, “Once you do accept that you don’t need someone else’s help or advice to become a good person, it’s only then that their advice truly becomes useful to you.”

What do people think is so wrong with them? These customers might be individuals who are trapped in a cycle of self-destructive habits or relationships. They might keep making the same mistakes and not know how to change. Or they might feel stuck in their lives, that they aren’t growing or meeting their potential.

Repeat consumers of self-help are often individuals who are trapped in a toxic cycle of self-destructive habits. Click To Tweet

Some people live vicariously through success of the expert self-help provider, effectively avoiding their own feelings of worthlessness. However, these are typically the people who don’t want to change badly enough yet, to actually do anything.

They see the creators of self-help as being more attractive, successful, and having the life that they want. When you have a negative mindset and feel lost, it feels good to believe that if you just follow the steps laid out by a guru you admire, that you can be just like them.

You could be just like them. It sounds great, doesn’t it? You could save yourself so much time and money if you could just find the right author or guru, who helps you implement that ‘common sense’ into your daily life.

Is The Self-Help Industry Just Glorified Common Sense?

When you really think about it, the most popular self-help gurus are mostly giving you the exact same advice. They simply find new ways to word it, or unique ways to present it. At the end of the day, however, it’s typically the same advice – over and over again.

Most self-help gurus are repackaging common sense, and providing the exact same advice, most of which is common sense that we knew all along. Click To Tweet

Not only are most self-help gurus constantly giving you the same advice over and over, that advice is also common sense. Some people think the self-help industry is one giant cliché. Others think it’s all just glorified common sense.

Common sense is one’s awareness of the right answer or the right solution, simply based on practical judgment or life experience.

Common sense is the stuff we already know, deep down, that we ‘learned in kindergarten’ or learned from our parents or communities.

For example, it’s common sense that if you eat healthier and exercise, you’ll lose weight. Similarly, you know that if you commit to acquiring more advanced skills, you’ll achieve success faster. It’s also common sense that if you listen more and talk less, you’ll have better relationships with your business partner, your friends, and your romantic partner.

It’s also common sense to treat others how you want to be treated and trust your gut and live in the moment. Familiar clichés such as these will likely be your next self-help seminar’s central topic.

When you listen to a new self-help podcast, will there be a secret answer you haven’t yet discovered? Or, will that podcast host be repackaging the same common sense answers you already knew, deep down?

Why ‘Repackaged Common Sense’ Sells

We know why so many self-help gurus repackage common sense and familiar clichés. It’s content that is easy and fast to churn out. And people eat it up.

There are a plethora of cynics who claim the self-help industry is a scam, it’s manipulative, predatory, or it’s just basic common sense for the masses.

Does the fact that many self-help products are repackaged common sense make it a scam? Not if the way they re-told a common sense standpoint happened to be in a way that finally got through to you. (But we’ll talk more about that later.)

You’ll notice how similar the messages are (at their root) in all of these self-help books, podcasts, vlogs and blogs. Yet it still sells.

But why does it sell? Is it possible that we like repetitive messages? When we have heard it before, and we already know it deep down, we get that familiar aha! feeling and we love it.

Self-help gurus, bloggers, vloggers, podcasts hosts and authors know how to repackage common sense. They can focus on a certain demographic so that it sounds like niche advice. Or, they can tell a unique story that repackages common sense in an emotionally compelling way, because their story has a unique emotional hook.

Additionally, many self-help gurus are great at providing unique analogies that provide an answer to a common problem in a seemingly ‘unique’ way. At the end of the day, however, it’s mostly just common sense that you already knew, all along.

If Everybody Already Knows What To Do, Why Aren’t They Doing It?

I can’t discuss the fact that self-help is largely common sense, without answering this question: If everybody already knows what to do, why aren’t they doing it? If it all really is just common sense, why aren’t we doing what we know we should be doing to improve our lives?

I have always been a firm believe that most people know what it takes to succeed, but they still need help succeeding. I believe that success doesn’t come to the most intelligent or the most talented. Success is achieved by those who are the most hungry for it.

What do I mean by this? Well, the thing is, sure you can know what to do to succeed. But you aren’t going to actually stand up and do it unless you want to succeed badly enough to sacrifice your comfortable routine. It’s possible you want success, but not badly enough to do what needs to be done. You’re not going to do what you know you should do, unless you’re hungry for success.

Success is achieved by those who are the most hungry for it. If a self-help guru awakens that hunger within you, then self-help can work for you. Click To Tweet

Sometimes, the right self-help guru will say something that awakens that hunger within you.

Motivated entrepreneur watching self-help videos

Self-Help May Not Always Teach You Something New, But it Does Renew Your Self-Motivation

The self-help industry might be known for giving you answers you already knew all along, but sometimes buying a self-help product renews your motivation.

Sometimes, consuming self-help pumps you up. It gets you amped up and ready to get started. It gives you a boost of excitement,inspiration and motivation. Many people report feeling energized and highly motivated after watching or reading self-help.

Some people feel an energized 'high' of renewed self-motivation after consuming self-help, but not everyone knows how to harness that renewed self-motivation and take appropriate action. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, for some people, that ‘high’ they get after a self-help guru pumps them up, doesn’t last very long. Not everyone knows how to harness that renewed self-motivation and take action right now. Some people let themselves lose momentum, and they don’t change.

What Should You Do if You’ve Wasted Money On Self-Help Products, But You Haven’t Changed?

If you think self-help products get you nowhere, you’re not alone. Michael Ungar, a family therapist, professor and author, said that the self-help industry isn’t producing better people like it should be. “If self-help actually worked then we should be seeing a decrease in mental and physical health problems. You would think the cumulative impact of everyone buying yoga mats and endless you-can-do-it TED talks would be to generate a healthier population. Why then are the statistics going in the opposite direction? We’re getting more obese, more depressed, seeing more heart disease and more sedentary lifestyles.”

Have you spent a lot of money on self-help already? Don’t waste any more time or money on the same cycle of self-help addiction if it hasn’t been working.

You can’t get back the time and money you’ve spent on failed self-help ventures. So, let’s figure out what kind of self-help could actually work for you, and what to steer clear from.

When Can Self-Help Actually Work?

For most people, the biggest problem is not that they don’t know what to do to achieve success or change their lives for the better. No. Most people’s biggest struggle is a lack of self-motivation.

Now, we’ve already discussed how self-help products often renew our self-motivation. However, we’ve also discussed how this energized, motivated feeling doesn’t seem to last.

So what can you do about that? The thing is, you can’t just read a self-help book, or watch a Ted Talk, and leave it at that. For example, let’s say you watch a very motivating public speech by an elite business coach. Watching that speech on its own probably won’t spur real change. However, if you hire the coach who gave that motivating speech, and commit to ongoing training from this self-help guru who seems to have gotten through to you, then you could actually witness your life transform for the better.

Similarly, if you listen to a motivating podcast about how learning a new skill can lead to wealth and prosperity, you don’t just leave it at that. You must research which skills can lead to six-figure incomes once harnessed, and take the necessary steps to learn one of those skills, whether you take an online course or you get a mentor to teach it to you.

It's not the consumption of self-help that will change your life, but rather the commitment to it. Click To Tweet

You see, it’s not the consumption of self-help that works. It’s the commitment and the urgency to act now that works when it comes to achieving a transformation. The right self-help guru might be able to convince you to act now, and if they can do that, then that’s true self-help.

Discover The High-Income Skill That Could Change Your Life

If you want a better life, first you need to learn better skills. People who transform their lives and self-improve are the people who took the necessary steps towards change, such as learning a high-income skill. The first step, however, is not to learn a high-income skill, but rather to figure out which high-income skill you should learn. In other words, you need to figure out which money-making skill you’re best suited for, so that you set yourself up for success upon learning it. To do this, take my free High-Income Skills Quiz to discover which high-income skill you were born to do. Change starts here.