I've been strangely into self-help books for the past years. I don't know if it's my Methodist upbringing (a need for personal holiness and improvement, "going on to perfection" as John Wesley phrased it) or aging, but I've been oddly interested in the self-improvement field with its promises of better health and better living.

So I've read about better productivity with David Allen's Getting Things Done, and finding peace by discarding many possessions in Marie Kondo's Tidying Up. I read the health warnings of processed foods, carbs, and sugars, in David Ludwig's Always Hungry. I read about financial security (and how a house is not an asset) in Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and better patterns of work in Cal Newport's Deep Work. This pondering about habits and assumptions has been oddly fun. I haven't fully adopted any of their suggestions, but I have changed many of my patterns. For those interested in efficiency, as Wesley was, it's a rewarding process.

There are odd dangers in self-improvement books, such as when we become oddly obsessed with a certain methodology, as when people become unhealthily focused on health, or so miserly towards greater wealth that they can't enjoy what they have. There are terrible fads here, and I can name all the concerns that have shaped our culture: vitamin D, BPA, and diaper genies come to mind.

One would think that aging would move us towards greater wisdom. As we see that things come and go – the fads that dominate everything from health to academics, and the history that repeats itself – it makes sense that we would grow in maturity as we face stress, eating, money, and so on. But the opposite is true. Aging leads to greater clinging, as we amass boxes of photographs, memories, body weight, and habits. It's with age that reading and considering our personal patterns becomes even more important.

AuthorKevin Taylor