Can self-help books really change your life?
Life & Style

Can self-help books really change your life?

WHEN I was 16 I read a self-help book that changed my teenage life. It was all about achieving your goals, setting targets and doing your homework.

At the time I wasn’t doing my homework so things weren’t going well. Not doing your homework is a stressful thing because you never go into school relaxed.

The book explained that that was a pattern for life that you don’t want to fall into. I hadn’t read another self-help book until Paul McKenna convinced me to this week.

The thing is it is hard not to buy a book entitled, I Can Change Your Life In Seven Days unless you are afraid of Paul McKenna. If, when you see his little roundy head you think, ‘he’s the world famous hypnotist who’s worth millions as a direct result of helping people to stop smoking, lose weight and realise their dreams’ then why wouldn’t you buy it?

But if you’re like me — and you’re slightly afraid of his rimless glasses, his hairline and little smile — then it’s a bit more of quandary. After all, anyone could write a book that claims to be able to change a person’s life in seven days.

Here’s a simple idea I have for a book that achieves massive change in the reader’s life over 24 hours without any hypnosis. All you have to do is follow my fool-proof steps and you’ll see dramatic changes in your life or your money back:

1. Quit your job

2. Tell your family you hate them

3. Donate all your money to charity

4. Set fire to all your belongings

5. Commit a public robbery

I bought the book because, on some level, I do trust Paul McKenna. I wasn’t afraid the book would ruin my life in seven days; it was the hypnosis element that scared me and Paul McKenna himself.

I’d been to see a hypnotist do a live entertainment show before they were outlawed in Ireland. It was as terrifying as it was hilarious. Making guys strip to their boxers and girls believe their parents were dead, it was such great fun! I spoke to the guy who stripped afterwards and he said he could not remember doing it and he didn’t know why he did it.

I didn’t know I wanted to change my life in seven days until I bought the book. I quite like my life. I felt weird about buying it, like he’d already got me under his spell. Walking around with it in your bag you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘When do I want to overhaul my life?’ It’s a bit like moving house.

You need to take some time off work if you’re going to do it correctly. You ask yourself, ‘Do I even want to move house?’ Then you think, ‘Other idiots move house/change their lives through Paul McKenna all the time. I’m not an idiot. Or maybe this is the inner monologue of an idiot.’ How does Paul McKenna know what changes I want to make in my life anyway?

I started to wonder how can he write one book about changing your life for the better and sell it to everyone in the world. Surely people are different. We all have our own vision of what success should look like for us. There are evil people in the world who want terrible things to happen. Do they read this book too?

Who does he think he is to tell me he knows what’s good for me? I’m not evil! This is a man who claims to have harnessed the power of the mind but can’t convince his hair to grow back?

Eventually I walked around with the book in my bag for a month, bad-mouthing McKenna before I found the courage to read it. Turns out Paul McKenna just wants you to believe in yourself a bit more, not focus on your bad experiences in life but remember the good ones and be a bit easier on yourself.

Once a day I lie down on my bed and listen to this Mind Programing recording for a half an hour and, if I’m honest, that does get a bit weird. I haven’t started stripping in public but I have been feeling better about myself.

It’s hard to know if I’m hypnotised, that said, I have just realised that I have written 750 words in praise of Paul McKenna for a national newspaper. I’ve also started doing my homework again.

Listen to Jarlath Regan’s podcast, An Irishman Abroad, free on iTunes