Reviewed by Clare Brook
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.
The proliferation of self-help books littering second hand bookstores is enough to induce cynicism about the whole genre. However, Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life by Kate James restores optimism. As advertised, this is a practical guide for those feeling wedged into the wrong life, or for those just wanting to discover a deeper level of personal understanding. Kate James has been providing career, leadership, and life coaching for the business community and general public since 2002. She has helped her clients to discover their authentic selves, personal strengths, and consequently, a fulfilling life.
Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life is organized via two sections; the first guides the reader to identify true desires, values, and strengths. The second section gives the reader methods to change non-useful modes of thinking. Kate has brought together a range of techniques from mindfulness, positive psychology, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and neuropsychology, all of which are referenced for further study in any particular area. Each chapter is headed by a quote from an eclectic selection of poets, philosophers and writers. Readers are expected to keep exercises and journal entries to be re-visited upon further readings.
In Part One, ‘Connect with your true self’, the main idea is to engage with an authentic-self lurking below dominating thoughts inherited from the prevailing culture, socio-economic class, and parental upbringing. There are case studies and exercises that will help reveal values, strengths, and patterns of thinking. Readers will come to understand how sub-personalities wield influence over their lives and how to disentangle from family values to discover their own vision for a meaningful life.
The exercises in this section are well designed, a successful outcome depends on the reader being willing to take time to thoroughly engage with the material. Repeating the exercises several times helps to gain further insights, so building a solid foundation for Part Two. Whereas some repetition appears in this section, it is not detrimental, the emphasis is necessary.
You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.
Part Two, ‘Change your Life’, guides the reader to overcome unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that inhibit finding a personal version of a fulfilling life. Readers are encouraged to practise self-compassion and mindfulness. Examples and, again, exercises support the teaching as readers learn how to cope with difficult thoughts and irrational beliefs, reframing the negative and boosting optimism. Overcoming imposter syndrome and self-sabotage, how to create possibility and mastering forgiveness are some of the most valuable lessons. Given that life can deliver some unexpected circumstances, the chapter ‘Build your resilience’ would benefit everyone. Kate provides teaching on building resilience through a variety of techniques. It is a most useful chapter.
Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life can be recommended as a well-researched guide for individual transformation.
By Kate James
Paperback $32.99; 288pp