Self-improvement and self-help

I have long thought that the only personal program worth pursuing is figuring out who you are, and being the best version of that that you possibly can.  Figuring out who you are takes up the first part of your life, turning yourself into the best possible you takes up the rest, sometimes only after some bits and pieces of you have already started to come off.

That's self-improvement.

But you're not alone in this world, and you don't make sense without taking everyone else into account.  I, for example, have a wife and children. And our oldest is having serious problems in school, all self-inflicted. He doesn't have the slightest idea who he is yet, and desperately enraged at the necessity of finding out. So I spend a lot of time trying to understand, coach, and encourage, while not giving up on mutual understanding of my authority.

I sometimes feel like I have to defuse an unexploded munition daily. Every day the little numbers stop before they hit zero is a good day. Some weeks don't have that many good days.

Being who I am, I'm reading a lot of books. Some are good, many are indifferent or useless.  But the good ones speak with a real clarity. After all, we do have a lot of experience in dealing with adolescents. It would seem that there would be a lot of useful rules of thumb, and kind of flowchart reasoning: "when you do this, does A happen? Does B happen? The most effective approach differs between these two."

Many books are inspirational, intended to let you know you are not alone, that you are still a worthy human being, etc. Those don't do anything for me. I am looking for that distilled information on how to keep your child from failing Algebra, off drugs, and not screaming at his mother. And I'm finding it. That's self-help, and, at its best, it is an astonishingly useful genre. People know this stuff.

Most people who mock self-help books (myself among them) are smug in our assumption that we undertand ourselves and can figure out what to do if the situation is difficult. I can tell you here that I don't have the slightest idea of what to do, except continue to love, and am incredibly grateful that intelligent and dedicated people have chosen to pour their wisdom into text for me to benefit from.