It might seem odd that as a life coach and an author of the self-help book, "The Alchemy of Purpose" that I would write an article saying that self-help books and life coaches don't work, but allow me to explain...
According to the APA (American Psychological Association) almost every person suffers from (at the very least a mild case of) some kind of disorder. If you don't believe me, just look through their manual of disorders (the DSM-V) which is a book so thick you could use it as a booster seat for children in your car. I've studied it as part of my training while I got my degree. Licensed therapists use this manual as a guidebook to diagnose what's wrong with you. The problem with it lies in the fact that insurance companies require therapists to diagnose you with something in order to cover the expense of treating you, and they have to categorize your "problem" as something. This DSM-5 is the encyclopedia of all that is wrong with us.
Don't get me wrong, there are a great many people who do suffer from some pretty serious psychological disorders and need treatment. But most people do not suffer from a disorder. Most are just plain struggling in life, and look for some kind of help, but don't need a therapist. They may feel stuck in life, suffer from anxiety, worry, fear or just want to change their life and don't know where to begin. This is where a good life coach can help. But, like therapists, life coaches who do it for a living don't come cheap (at least good ones don't for the most part).
Most people have problems with their careers or jobs, their finances, health, relationships, etc. and really want to change and improve their life. There is no need for a licensed therapist for these people. They don't need prolonged therapy or drugs. They just need direction and guidance, support and encouragement. A good life coach is someone these people can turn to, but while they aren't cheap, because they aren't licensed therapists insurance typically doesn't cover the cost of hiring one. While hiring a life coach makes a tremendous difference in helping people change their life, not every coach is good at what they do, and many people are reluctant to pay for one regardless.
They can't see themselves paying someone any amount of money to help them become what they desire, mostly because they feel they can do it on their own. Many can if they have the drive and willpower, yet many (if not most) almost never do because no one is holding them accountable and/or they just don't want to put in the work. What they typically end up doing is remaining frustrated with some aspect of their life that they want to change yet still not knowing where to start. What often happens is either a friend recommends a book to them or they see a self-help book at the bookstore. While paying a life coach appears to be a lot of money for something they think they can do on their own, a self-help book sure seems like it's worth the $20 or whatever. So they buy the book and read it. Many are then inspired to change their life because books offer great ideas. But ideas are just thought, not action.
Don't get me wrong, self-help books offer great ideas, tips, or suggestions on where to start. They are a great resource from an inspirational or teaching standpoint. But this is why self-help books don't work. It's because YOU need to do the work. Therein lies the problem. Most start out reading a self-help book with the best of intentions. But typically they don't want to do the work the book suggests, and without a coach, they put it off, and the book sits and gathers dust, and their life remains the same as it was.
A great many people turn to self-help books and online resources, always looking for help. The help is out there. Unfortunately your life will never change unless YOU do the work yourself to change YOUR life. Hiring a life coach is a lot like buying a self-help book. A life coach isn't going to change your life either because any life coach worth the money for their service is going to hold YOU accountable and have the expectation that YOU are going to do the work required for YOU to change YOUR life.
Self-help books are great. Life coaches are great and are almost becoming a necessity in the modern world where many need someone to point them in the right direction and support, encourage and guide them through the process of working towards the goal of self-improvement. Many self-help books and life coaches offer quick fixes. Your life did not become what it is overnight, so what it might become will not change overnight either. There are no quick fixes and any coach or book saying there are quick fixes are the ones to avoid.
You'd pay to go back to school to change your career path. You'd pay a financial advisor to help you increase your wealth. You'll pay for a doctor to improve your health. You'll pay for a gym membership to get in shape. You'll pay to improve areas of your life, yet none of what you pay for will actually improve your life without YOU taking responsibility and then taking action to create the change you seek. Self-help books and life coaches only help if YOU are willing to do the work. Can you change and improve your life on your own? Most definitely! Will you? Most likely not. It's why we fall off our diet, quit going to the gym, fall back into bad habits, etc. leaving ourselves right where we started. If we make no investment into improving our own life we will most likely never improve.
Self-help books don't work and neither do life coaches. Because YOU must do the work. But if you really desire making lasting, effective changes to your life, I highly recommend reading as many self-help books as you can and hiring a life coach ASAP. Doing so will change your life dramatically, providing you are willing to do the work required. I know this because I've helped countless numbers of people work on themselves to make lasting change and improvement.