I've mentioned before that I got addicted to reading a lot of self-help books over the years. Part of that is because of the breezy way they're written. There's not a lot of difficult things between the covers. Many of them are pieced-together anecdotes and fit the narrative of the author. Yet I read through more than care to note, in part because I felt I would uncover some nugget of truth within their pages. Much like a crank researcher I scoured them in the hopes that they would help me uncover how to deal with whatever deficiency I might have in that moment.
I've gotten on a decluttering kick recently, in part because I've realized a lot of what we have here was the result of some misguided retail therapy. I've bought bunches of books in the hopes that they would somehow help me along the paths of programming or game design or what-not. I've bought bunches of games and game design books in the hopes they might help me uncover some secret that I might learn to help me become a better game designer. The problem with that is I have a collector mindset. I can't just get one book, I must get the whole series. I tend to be a completionist in that regard until I realize that it's either impossible or expensive to acquire each one. This is great for small things, but becomes untenable with games like "Munchkin" or Atari 2600 cartridges, or what-have-you. Part of the decluttering is looking carefully at the shelves of stuff that I have and seeing what story they tell about me. Some shelves ache under a bunch of role-playing games, some of which I lost interest in playing (GURPS in particular). Some were things that came highly recommended as excellence in design (Burning Wheel) but I didn't have the patience or the time to really dig into them.
And then there were the self-help books.
One of the things I've been working on is self-trust. I've recently realized that I've had a hard time with this. Part of it is bits of failure along the way, but part of it is feeling like I'm never doing the correct thing at the right time. Don't stand over there, stand over here. Pay attention! What are you doing daydreaming? I still feel this sometimes when I do or say something. I'll check to make sure that I haven't somehow made it worse. Over time this erodes one's ability to think they can do anything right. I've gotten much better about this, in part with keeping commitments to myself and others, but it's been rough at times. Rough enough that can sometimes be sanded over by reading through books about trusting your heart, your gut, or what-have-you can be comforting.
As I look at these bookshelves I read the story of the person that they reflect. The person reflected in my reading material isn't the person I want to be anymore. It's like keeping every single pair of crutches you get after breaking your leg. Eventually you have a collection of them, even if your leg is perfectly healthy.
So I went through and removed / deleted a bunch of them. I'd gotten the benefit from them so it's time to move on. Time to give myself the win and trust myself that I don't need these sorts of books to feel happy, content, or empowered in my life.
There's still a few on my shelves, but those are more about practical applications. My GTD books are reference for implementing the system. My Zen Habits books are for course-correction. Gone are the books about deep work and digital minimalism (I already incorporate some of that into my life and know how to dive deeper into this). Gone are the books about how to achieve any skill (continued and deliberate practice). No more marshmallow experiments for me, or reading about armchair analysis of clinical psychology.
What I want to see on those shelves are things that challenge my brain. History, mythology, computer programming, mathematics, art, literature, science fiction, comic books, role-playing games, and the like. I don't need the fast-food of self-help books clogging up those shelves.
Nobody ran a marathon by reading a book.