Everyone is looking for the key to success, that one thing that will make life easier, better, and more fulfilling.

That’s why the self-help industry has boomed, not only in recent years, but honestly, for all of human history.

But all those books can basically be boiled down to a few timeless, solid pieces of advice.

Self-help books are published by the fistful, with a new one really seeming to take off every decade.

There was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People of the 1980s to Who Moved My Cheese? in the late 90s, and on to the woo-woo mysticism of The Secret in 2006, and don’t forget Girl, Wash Your Face from just a few years ago.

To save you the time of reading widely, here are 11 important lessons from the self-help canon.

1. Do unto others…

Seems like obvious advice, but honestly, it’s true.

No one wants to work with a jerk.

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2. Don’t rush to judgment

Like your mom always told you: Don’t judge the book by it’s cover and all the other sayings you can think of about behaving with a level head–especially where other people are concerned.

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3. Embrace adversity

During one workplace motivational event we were told, “Embrace the suck,” and this philosophy is pretty solid.

Disappointment, challenge, and hardship will happen.
Prepare for them, expect them, and then–overcome them.

Instead of pretending everything is fine, admit that it’s not, and move on.

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4. Perfect isn’t possible

Perfectionists are constantly disappointed.

Or worse: They hold themselves back because they’re too afraid to try.

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5. Think positive

If you can dream it, you can do it.
If you can conceive, you can achieve it.
If you can see it, you can be it.

There is something to be said for these axioms. To find success, you need to focus on the desired result, and work backwards, and sometimes: rewire your brain to cut out negativity and just believe.

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6. One small step for man…

Many self-help books are about the power of forming healthy habits, because baby steps can add up to big things.

And repetition is the key.
(Maybe that’s why there are so many books on the subject.)

They say it takes something like 3 weeks to form a habit, and 3 months to turn a habit into a lifestyle.

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7. Play can be powerful

Whether it’s recharging because we’re all burned out by working from home, or simply to spark creativity, the experts say that play can be a really important tool for becoming your best self.

Me, I’m rediscovering Lego.

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8. Take care of your body, take care of your soul

You can’t be your best self or do your best work, unless your most basic needs are met.

Humans require food, water, sleep, exercise, companionship, and security before they can devote much energy to self-actualization.

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9. Live like you’re going to die

It’s pretty simple. We have a limited number of days. Don’t squander them.

Remembering that your time is finite can give you an incredible sense of purpose.

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10. Make a list–check it twice

We have too much going on in the world to keep it all in our heads. So get organized.

Make a plan, write it down, and then remember the 3 D’s: Do it, Defer it (schedule it!), or Delegate it.

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11. Most importantly: Do the things

You can make all the plans you want, but at the end of the day, you have to do the hard work.

There are no shortcuts.

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Many of these ideas weren’t new to me, but it’s always nice to have a refresher.

Personally, I’ve been trying to let go of perfection and embrace play. Which rules could you focus on?

Let us know in the comments.