We’ve all read a self-help book from time to time. They inspire us, they allow us to see things inside of ourselves we were previously unaware of, they offer us tools to become more productive, more successful, thinner, smarter, younger, even rich beyond our wildest dreams.

When we begin a new book we start off enthusiastic; confident that the author’s vast experience, bolstered by their own research, paraphrased scientific studies and illustrated success stories, will inform us in a way previously unknown to us.

We start confident that the new skills and insights will lead us to new heights – sure of the ways we will amaze our co-workers and bosses. We enthusiastically recommend the book to friends. Yet, things frequently don’t work out as we plan.

Either we find we are unable to take the initial steps – we procrastinate, or, find we soon lose that initial enthusiasm. Inertia takes over and the book finds its way back onto the pile. After some time, we begin searching for the next book sure to change our lives.

No place is this clearer than with the legion diet books – promoting the latest scientific discoveries – promising to help us more by making us less. Just mention that you’ve found a new diet book and anyone you come in contact with will ask the title. It seems everyone is always looking for a new diet book. (A search of Amazon returns over 101,000 results for diet book).

You start the book, like success books they all have a plan – eat paleo, cabbage, juice, or nothing at all. We buy into the ‘science’ proposed, the hyperbole presented and suffer through the recipes until the effort becomes too high and the results too small. We become worn down, our determination wilts and we return to our habits. Until we find the next diet book with a revolutionary program guaranteed to melt pounds off in no time. Just the same as the management books.

The 10 Ways To, The 5 Keys, 8 Secrets, all grab our attention but in the end let us down. Yet they keep coming at prodigious rates. Our hope remains eternal, even when our skepticism runs high because we all want an easy way to be better, to improve ourselves with just a few steps, achieve more in a short time. Even when we know the promise is unreasonable.

And I am not saying there is no value in a good management book, or even a diet book. Sometimes all we need is some helpful encouragement, a concrete plan or a new idea. But more often these books fail to help us change in any meaningful way and they fail for two very specific reasons.

The reasons are the nature of our habits and resistance to change. We will look in detail at these two success killers in the next installments.