Plot or Premise
Kottler reflects on the literature and personal experiences as a psychologist about the elements that lead people to not only make changes in their life but also sustain those changes over the long-term.
What I Liked
I had the pleasure of hearing Kottler speak as an honoured guest at my wife’s university graduation ceremony, and he intrigued me enough on the subject of “change” — what we know and what we don’t know — that I bought his book. It was the perfect book for me at this point in my life, as I’ve been wanting to make a significant change that has been holding me back for at least 30 years. I’m great at the day to day goal-setting stuff, but I needed to understand large scale change on a deeper level, and this book was ideal for that education.
At the beginning, I was struck by a central question — when does an alteration in attitudes, beliefs, behaviour, thinking, or feeling “count” as change, and how long does it have to last in order to qualify? In shorter terms, when does a temporary change become permanent and sustainable? Chapter 2 was an eye-opener — hidden benefits from my current approach that resist change. Not the obvious ones but more internal ones that might even seem like positive traits in someone (being strong, standing up for oneself disguising some issues with temper, for instance). And some baby step coping techniques. Chapter 3 dealt more with the conditions that allow you to transition from temporary to permanent change, almost pre-conditions in some cases.
Other chapters were relatively straight-forward: the power of story-telling (chapter 4); hitting bottom in various forms (chapter 5); how you react to trauma and whether it can be a positive catalyst (chapter 6); the limits to psychotherapy (chapter 7); change through physical travel or spiritual journeys (chapter 8); moments of clarity (chapter 9); and resolving conflicts in relationships (chapter 13). The last chapter — Why Changes Don’t Often Last (Chapter 14) — was one that I was most looking forward in the book, and while he goes into various spins and examples, most of it seems to come down to varying forms of fear. It certainly did for me, and I find the chapter fantastic for presenting it quite concisely. In the end, the price of the book is worth it just to get the 7 pages at the end, if you have time for nothing else (308-315).
I managed to use it create a six-part “to do” list / game plan for the change that I’ve been wanting to make, and for the first time in my life, I’m doing it. I’m six months in and it seems to be holding. It’ll take another 18 months to “finish”, but the book helped me get there. Onward to the journey!
What I Didn’t Like
Several chapters didn’t really sing as well as the rest. Being happy (chapter 11) and transformation while helping others (12) were relatively bland, and a chapter on the importance of social capital (chapter 10) seemed almost like an afterthought.