Self help books don’t work

A lot of people are cynical about the power of self help books to change lives. I find the ‘self help books don’t work’ argument very difficult to accept.


making a life plan


Why don’t self help books work?


The same people who argue this would no doubt readily accept that a fiction book, play or film can change people’s thinking and thereby change their lives. Some of the cynics would also no doubt celebrate that because the change was triggered by ‘art’. Many artists set out to change peoples thinking via their medium. Why are self help writers seen as less noble? In one sense we are more honest. We are not making any attempt to disguise our underlying motives with a veneer of drama.


A much stronger argument against the ‘self help books don’t work’ lobby is that if that is the case, no books can work. And if that is so, we ought to let all the Universities in the world know that one of their key mediums for learning is no use. Learning from books is a key technique used in schools, colleges and universities the world over. We give people books to help them learn. So if you can learn useful things about cooking, history, sex and investment from books, why can’t you learn about personal problem solving from a book? Why can’t you learn how you can help yourself from a book?


Easy and instant solutions


A related argument is that self help books offer easy and instant solutions to difficult problems or at least create that impression. I make no such claims. My position is that more success only comes with effort. However, in my experience, the amount of effort needed to make big changes is probably far less than people think. What often prevents people from taking action is what they believe about a problem. They are regularly put off doing things (taking action, making the effort) by what they believe about the enormity of a problem. What they believe about the size of the problem may not be related in any way to the size of the problem.


Many people are not very clear about what they want and they are even less clear about why they want the things they vaguely want. This is where my self help book really works. Design for Life puts you on a journey which will help you achieve some clarity about what you want and why you want it. Your vague goals and poor current understanding of your own motivations will be replaced with clear objectives supported by genuine motivations. This can deliver you some real changes in your life.


That’s why I wrote Design for Life – to help people make the changes they want. In the end, whatever arguments people use to say that self help books do not work, although I will consider them, I will always dismiss them, because I know they work for me. And because I know they work for me, I know they can work for you.


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10 steps to help get your life plan started

Welcome to our new video series: 10 steps to help get your life plan started. We will be publishing one a week, will anyone complete all 10 steps? Each of the 10 steps is designed with a specific aim in mind. Every step has a suggested task to accompany it. These are things you can do that will help you on your life planning journey. 


Step 1 – Understanding what you love


In this video, we will help you to understand what you love by asking yourself a series of questions. You can then use these to make lists. This exercise will give you a clear picture of what you love in life. It helps you gain clarity on what really makes you happy. Maybe you should do more of it?



Step 2 – Understanding your motivations and values


Its time to become more sensitive to your motivations and values. Understanding why something floats your boat can significantly increase self awareness. It can help you understand why you do what you do.


Step 3 – Creating a vision of your future


In step 3 you will learn how to quickly shape a vision of what you want your future to look like. Being very clear about what you want will positively influence your choices, decisions, management of time and generate helpful energy, enthusiasm and new beliefs.



Step 4 – Understanding what is getting in the way


How clear is your idea of what is in the way? In this step you will learn a technique that you can use to understand what is getting in your way.


Look out for a new 10 Steps video very week. You can even subscribe to our YouTube Channel to get all of our videos when we upload them.


Ready to change your life with a LifeDesign™


If you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, why not download my our 33 page PDF ebook? It will work on all devices and contains tools and techniques to get you started on your  life planning journey. Click the button below to get it now!


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Know what you love and do it more often

I don’t believe there is a secret route to happiness, but I know doing what you love is beneficial and I believe in this advice which I offer to anyone who is interested. If you want to be happier – Just learn to know what you love and then find how to do more of it.




In my experience people are regularly less than clear about what makes them happy or what would make them happier. They may have some dreams, but they are usually quite vague. Broadly speaking people just don’t take time out to review where they are in life and where they want to go.


In my businesses we regularly invest time and effort in trying to define where we want to end up (Start where you want to end up). We then take a forensic look at where we currently are (our present position). Usually, if you have done those two pieces of thinking the next step is to identify what is getting in the way of where you want to be (resources, us, obstacles, history).


In terms of developing a really rich picture of where I want to be in life I have found that putting some effort into deeply understanding what I love and why I love it, has been very beneficial. It forces you to ask the obvious follow-on questions. OK, if I love that so much or if I want that so much – what is currently getting in the way, what is preventing me from doing it or making it happen?


In my experience lots of people are locked into lives which they find unsatisfactory for all sorts of reasons. Lots of people dream about being something different or doing something different because they are locked into lives they find unsatisfactory. Many believe their dreams are beyond them (unless they get lucky or win the lottery).


Understanding what makes you happy is a great place to start in finding ways to achieve more happiness. The first step is to just keep asking yourself:


  • What do I actually like doing?
  • What gets you in the zone, in the flow?
  • What is your bliss? How might you be able to find it?
  • If there were no obstacles in my way what would I do with my life?


We used to ask: “What puts her in her element”? or (a long time ago) “What puts him in his Oil Tot” (There’s a story about that phrase but we don’t have time here).


Do you see that all these questions are just expressing the same aspiration in different ways?


Tim Ferris – the multi-millionaire who wrote the 4 Hour Work Week book came to the same conclusion. In the book he asks some very similar and very questions:


  • What would you do if you couldn’t fail?
  • What would you do every day if you had £100,000 in the bank?
  • What would make you the most excited to wake up to?


Knowing what you love is a first step on what I hope will become your life planning journey. It’s not the only step, but it is an important one.


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Do I need a life coach?

Using a life coach can be extremely valuable and life changing – but coaching is not for everyone. The idea of sharing your deepest thoughts and aspirations with someone you hardly know can be intimidating to some people. Life coaching can be expensive and out of reach for some people.


Female Life Coach


You may not have the time to give to a coaching relationship or you may have obligations which prevent you from working with a coach. It may take some time to get your thoughts and actions together – involving many coaching sessions. Not everyone is in a position to engage a coach and not everyone wants to.


Design for Life Lite is a great way to avoid the expense of a life coach. It will help you learn how to become your own life coach.


Coaching vs LifeDesign™



  • Can be expensive
  • Depends on your willingness to be open with someone independent
  • Regular sessions are a commitment
  • Success depends to some extent on personal chemistry

Design for life™

  • Low cost
  • Helps those who are reluctant to share or want privacy
  • Highly flexible and at your own pace
  • Success depends on your own efforts

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The answer to all your problems could be in the fridge

In this blog we are going to look at a great way to explore any of your problems, a way of seeing them from a new perspective and maybe helping you find some potential solutions. I call it the Fridge (I’ll explain later). There are three parts to this method; writing it down, leaving it alone and then reviewing it. It seems deceptively simple, but each part of the process is important. Try it with a current problem you are facing.


Pausing for thought


Stage 1: Write it down


Find a piece of paper and write down everything you think is involved in the problem. I mean everything. If you need something to help get you focussed ask, ‘Who? How? Why? When? Where? What?’ This will stimulate your thinking. Otherwise, just scribble the most detailed description you can generate. Don’t worry about the grammar, the spelling, whether you are writing proper sentences or even whether you have got exactly the right words – just write it all down in as many words as it takes. Let it flow. If you can’t think of the right word, write the wrong one. The only rule is that you will need to be able to read what you have written when you come back to it.


Stage 2: Leave it alone


Leave it. Put it somewhere safe – the fridge is not a bad place at all (there’s a clue in the title!). The longer you leave it the better. If you can leave your first problem for a few days, that would be great. As you practice you will find you can leave a problem for just a few minutes and return to it with a fresh eye but, until then, the longer you leave it the better. If you only have a short time just leave it and do something completely different – make tea or coffee, clean the sink or go shopping (unless your problem is too much shopping!). It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are not giving any further thought to the problem you want to tackle. Obviously, the longer you leave it, the greater the distance between your initial thoughts and your current thoughts. Distance helps give you more objectivity.


Stage 3: Review


Go back to your scribbles and review them. Don’t just read what problems you have written down, consider them and interact with them by asking questions, ‘Why do I think that? Is that really true? What is another way of looking at it?’ Use different colour pens to write your comments and criticisms on the same sheet of paper. Yes, it is okay to criticise yourself. You do get things wrong sometimes!


Go on, you can do it. Pretend the original work was produced by the idiots you work, play or live with. Cross out words (but don’t obliterate them), underline things that strike you as important, join words up with lines where ideas are linked, circle the interesting bits and write your critical teacher comments in the margins. Whatever the problem/issue, you will see it much more clearly. Your new found objectivity may even provide you with some potential solutions.


You can try this approach with anything that has been (or is) vexing you.


LifeDesign for Beginners is packed full of tools like this: simple, tried and tested techniques. You really should think about ordering a copy. It could change your life.


Make changes with a LifeDesign™



If you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, why not download my free 33 page PDF ebook? It will work on all devices and contains tools and techniques to get you started on your  life planning journey. Click the button below to get it now!


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Be careful of what you believe

I believe that what you believe is a large determinant of what you achieve. The amount that you can help yourself or improve yourself or succeed is directly related to your beliefs about what is or is not possible.


What you believe


What you believe is a result of what you believe/have learned from a complex mix of parents, friends, teachers, relatives, heroes, religions, TV, books, films and experience. But what you believe is much more often determined by all the things in that list except experience. We believe what we are told about what is possible or not possible. “Life isn’t like that”.


We can’t test everything for ourselves, so we do have to take some of this on board in order to function. I’m told that Ecstasy is dangerous. I don’t know if it is or not. I hear that smoking can damage your health. I’m not sure if that is true or not. But on the basis that I am not interested in either experience, this information is of only marginal value to me. On the other hand I am interested in a belief like “You can’t change the way a Government thinks” because, if that is true, one of my businesses can’t work!


Belief self awareness


I am advocating a brand new idea – belief self awareness. Know what you think you know. Understand what you think you understand. In my experience many of our beliefs are built on very flimsy foundations. It’s just that we have lived with them for so long that we have forgotten what is holding them up. It is most likely they are what is holding you up!


Never say never!


Clearly there are real physical and other constraints in every situation. Whatever your aspirations you always have to start where you are. If you want to be athletic and muscular, but you are a couch potato and over 50 then you may never win an Olympic Gold Medal. But never say never.


There will be things that you cannot change, the well known Serenity Prayer advises “Grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. The nub here is the wisdom to know the difference. Recognising what can and cannot be done – deciding what is possible or not is the key decision that determines any level of achievement or success. Columbus decided that the earth was not flat and, as a result, he discovered a new world. Most people believed his ship would fall off the end of a flat earth. This belief must have made them very reluctant to get on Columbus’s boat.


In my view, what you believe determines absolutely what is in your world, it defines what is possible or not. So be aware of your beliefs – the small ones and the big ones. Think about your big beliefs and think about your small beliefs. Do you believe the lawn should be cut once a week? Why? Do you believe people should get married? Why? Do you believe that bacon and ice cream don’t go together? Do you think you are too old, don’t have enough time, don’t have the right people, don’t know the right people? Why?


Start with what you believe. You don’t believe me? That’s probably one of your problems.


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Making it a habit

If you have read my previous blogs, you will know by now that I encourage you to Dream BIG and Think BIG. But it’s important to understand that quick dramatic changes in a life are pretty rare. It’s great to shoot for the moon, but you might want to learn some rocket science before departure.



“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”



Forging new habits is not light work


When it comes to adopting new habits don’t expect a miracle or instant dramatic changes. Accept that whatever you are aiming for will have to be achieved in small stages. Decide on what daily contributions you can make to that BIG picture goal of yours.


“A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step”

Lao Tzu


One way to make progress is to add a new part to the “chain” of your existing behaviour. Example – Say to yourself “Instead of doing X, whenever I do Y, I will also do Z!”


  1. Try to cut down the number of decisions that you need to make. Make fewer decisions. Relentless decision-making is tiring.
  2. Try to make the boring bits in your life a matter of routine and thereby take the effort out of them.
  3. Learn to visualise / fantasise about doing the work – not the result. Fall in love with the work and the results will come.


Commit to doing what you need to do for 30 days. It may be that the 21-day rule is a myth (people say you can form a lifelong new habit if you can keep it up for 21 days) but if you are aiming to add something to the way you do things (create a new habit) then 3 to 4 weeks or 1 month is a great time period for an attempt to make a habit stick. Find out how the LifeDesign™ Method can help you make changes in 30 days here.


Whatever small steps you decide on, do it/them daily. If you do something less than daily, it will be much more difficult to make it a habit.


Start modestly – avoid attempting to do too much – half an hour a day is much easier to find and deliver than two hours a day. Set up a way of reminding yourself of what you intended to do – you need a “burr in the saddle” to keep you on track. Find a friend who is prepared to make your life a misery if you don’t do what you promised.


Be consistent – Do that small thing each day at the same time, perhaps in the same place, in the same environment. If you do something every evening when you come home after work that will link homecoming to the new habit. Remember to replace lost needs if the new habit means you are giving something up – replace it with a different kind of reward – one that does you no damage!


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Always reward your important milestones


Be ready to fail – prepare yourself for at least four attempts to get going. Start using the word “But” to good effect. Start inserting it into sentences as a bridge towards something positive. Example, follow “I’m no good at this” with “I’m no good at this, but! I’m going to get better”


Treat your new habit as an experiment. Don’t judge progress until after a month. Make arrangements to assess progress after a month.


  • Start small
  • Learn to manage negative thoughts
  • Find ways to enjoy the new habit
  • Plan for failure (it’s inevitable)


New, emerging habits are fragile. When things go wrong analyse where, why, how, when things started to break down…. Start again. Don’t forget to visit our shop to have a look at all the great LifeDesign™ products we have on offer.


Don’t just plan you life.. Design it, with LifeDesign™


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Change your life with a LifeDesign™

Welcome to the world of  LifeDesign™, where life planning is made simple. We are going to show you that anyone can do it and you can do it too. With a a bit of effort, you will start building your very own LifeDesign™ and the solid foundations you need to make changes in your life. Find out how you can get started toady with our FREE eBook; LifeDesign™ for Beginners.


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What is LifeDesign?


The LifeDesign™ Method helps you plan your life like a project.  It is a low cost, totally flexible and completely private approach to help you make better decisions and choices. You will explore your beliefs, goals and ambitions and monitor your progress throughout your life planning journey. Failing to plan means planning to fail. Find out more here.


I’m not sure life planning is for me!


You are not alone! If you are new to life planning or not sure if it’s for you, the best way to get started is by downloading our FREE eBook; LifeDesign™ for Beginners. It is 100% risk free as it will cost you nothing and if you are willing to put in some effort, you will have the ability to set goals, achieve your dreams and live the life that you desire. Click here to find out more.


The FREE life planning tool


life design for beginners thumbnailLifeDesign™ for Beginners is a simple,  jargon free and easy to use 33 page eBook. You will be making big changes and seeing the benefits before you know it. Most importantly, you can create your LifeDesign™ at your own pace. This eBook will help you explore who you are and what you want from life. It contains tools and tips that you can use immediately to start making your lifeDesign™ and the changes you want. LifeDesign™ for Beginners includes:


  • An introduction to life planning
  • Why you should plan your life
  • Common unhelpful beliefs debunked
  • The simple LifeDesign™ 6 Step Process


And all this is just the start, there’s so much more we have crammed into 33 pages. It’s full of valuable content, tips and advice to get you started. LifeDesign™ for Beginners works on any device so what are you waiting for? Download your copy NOW or find out more here.



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Don’t just plan your life… Design it


Download the eBook now to find out how you can benefit from your very own LifeDesign™ and take the first steps on your life planning journey. Want to know more? Find out more about how LifeDesign™ for Beginners works here.


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Time to get started!

Time is what you make not what you have got. “I haven’t got time” becomes “I’m not making the time” becomes “I am going to make the time”. If you are in full employment you will almost certainly have been subjected to a Time Management course at some point. I have attended a few throughout my career.


time is precious



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Those courses made virtually no difference in my life. So here I am sharing what experience has taught me; create a daily “to-do” list (a new one every day). This can help you achieve the goals you set.


A daily to do list


Forget all that urgent and important stuff. If it is on the list it needs to be done. First thing every morning I make a list of what I would like to achieve during the day.


I rarely achieve everything on the list. I have learned its unrealistic to expect to do that. However, knowing what needs to be done helps me feel more in control and less likely to be overwhelmed. If it doesn’t get done today it goes on the list for tomorrow. I use two steps in the production of my list which might help you.


Step 1: Write everything that needs to be done without giving any consideration to its importance, urgency or the effort which might be involved in tackling it.


Step 2: I review the list and highlight the issues which really need to get done and I just start working them. Putting a line through them when they are completed is very satisfying. Seeing six or seven crossed off verges on fun!


I do what needs to be done – which means I don’t just do the easy stuff because I know that my natural inclination is to avoid the difficult stuff. If you are avoiding it, it is probably important!


time to do it watch


Give yourself a Break


I read somewhere that people who are happy with their use of time are more likely to be people who take time out for themselves. I do. What time do you make for yourself?


A few years ago I met a guy who had a fantastic business idea. There was no doubt in my mind that this guy had a winning idea. If he could get it off the ground, he would be very wealthy. His problem was he was in full-time employment and he told me “I just don’t have time to make this happen”. At that point I knew he would never succeed.


time to do it clock


There is no easy way in business. You need to make sacrifices to make it work. That means late nights, early mornings, weekends.


In my own business, I worked 70 hours a week for the first few years. I often joked that I was working 399 days a year. Yes, I know, there are only 365 days in a year – but every day is 24 hours and if you work for a client for 7½ hours and then work for someone else for another four you will have worked almost a day and a half in the day.


Work it out, If you are prepared to work a six-day week and 11 hours a day, and take no holidays (52 weeks) you have 457.6 working days available. And even if you work a 40 hour week you would have 201.6 days available to build your business. Simples.


Time is not what you’ve got – it’s what you make


You will find time if you have the motivation. If you’re not finding time, then it’s because you don’t have the motivation. So examine your motivations.


Need help managing your time?


life design for beginners thumbnailA LifeDesign™ could help!  Get started by downloading our FREE eBook; LifeDesign™ for Beginners. It will help you as you take your first steps on your life planning journey. You can find out more about LifeDesign™ here.


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all our downloads are in PDF format and will work on any device


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Change your life with LifeDesign™

It’s perfectly possible to make changes in your life by altering the way you think, finding new knowledge and developing new skills. The LifeDesignMethod will help you think things through and introduce you to tools and techniques which you can use to make things happen and change your life for the better.


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Design for Life Lite – make BIG changes in just 30 days


design for life lite thumbnailDesign for Life Lite is a 60 page diary/journal PDF printable version of Design for Life packed full with 11 life changing tools and ideas to further develop your LifeDesign™. This product is intended to be used over a 30 day period and includes 21 ‘daily pages’ to maintain focus on your objectives,  goals and monitor your progress. Design for Life Lite is only £9.99, half the price of the A4 hardback book. This product can be used in its electronic form but WILL need to be printed to get the most out of it. Find out more.


Buy now for £9.99


Design for Life – A4 hardback book


Design for Life is a beautiful A4 Hardback monochrome workbook that provides comprehensive life changing support with 19 tools, inspirational quotes, creative spaces and over 80 daily diary/journal pages for progress monitoring. This is the ultimate life planning tool and essential for anyone who wants to turn their life around. You can get yours today in our shop for just £19.95 including P&P to any UK address.


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Start your LifeDesign™ TODAY for FREE!


life design for beginners thumbnailLifeDesign™ for Beginners will help you get your very own life plan started and more importantly, it’s absolutely free. This 33-page eBook can be used on any device, so you can plan your life at home, on the train or even on the beach! Find out what life planning is and why its important to plan if you really want to change you life. It is easy to follow so you can dive straight into our 6 step process. Find our more.


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The LifeDesign™ 6 step process:


  1. Understanding what you love
  2. Exploring why it makes you happy
  3. Help to set specific objectives
  4. Help setting big (and small) life goals
  5. Deciding what actions to take
  6. Monitoring your progress


Change your life on any device!

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All our downloads come in a PDF format and can be used on any device! Design for Life Lite requires printing


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