Walk into your local bookstore - if you can find one - or browse the lists at Amazon, Book Depository or Booktopia and you'll find hundreds if not thousands of "self help" books. And the vast majority give the same advice; identify your problem and follow a series of steps to overcome the challenge. Melbourne-based clinician, coach and mentor Philip Owens says that approach is flawed and it inspired him to write a different book - one that lets you decide on the journey by creating the space you need.
Unstuck (available online or through Amazon provides a more than 120 different exercises that you can dip in and out of to help you see what gets you stuck in the first place and create a strategic and planned approach to breaking free and getting on with life.
"I wrote this book because someone gave me a copy of their book," said Owens. "I was speaking at an international seminar. The guy comes rushing up to me, hands me a copy of the book and asks me to read it. So I read it and threw it across the room after two chapters. And put it in the recycling after another couple. If you read his book, and you were anyone like the clients I see in coaching or clinic, it would do you harm".
Owens has international experience in running large business wth billions of dollars. He has spent all of his work-life furthering his own skills and learning about how to help people and to work more effectively alongside them as well as becoming a Corporate Behaviourist and fifth Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He has learned his craft from teachers like Michael Yapko, Judith Bell and Gordon Young.
So, rather than following one model, Owens has taken his broad experience and education to create a different sort of resource. He describes it as both a guide book you can read from start to finish and as a reference you can refer back to it when you hit some roadblock or anticipate a new challenge.
His international experience has helped him to better understand the influence of culture in our ability to get unstuck. Having run a business unit that spanned everywhere from Russia to the horn of Africa, Owens learned a lot.
"Going into places like Iran, South Africa, Central Africa, Khazakstan, Russia - there are so many different ways in how people operate. One of the real learnings for me was that not everybody does it the same. When we're informed by our culture, we do things in a certain way," said Owens.
People have different skills, capabilities and constraints so you have to work out how you can inspire them to change he said. If you take a prescriptive approach, such as that taken by many self-help books, there can be significant resistance. The aim is find out where people are at and work with them in an uplifting way.
If that happens, you can drive change quickly. Through his clinical and coaching experience, Owens learned that you don't know what people bring until you explore those aspects first. Once you help people to understand those things, you help them to create a space they can change into.
Most of us have probably experienced the negative effects of change management. Your business announces some new initiative or cane in direction and a professional change manager is engaged and they bring a previously successful methodology. But is prescriptive and doesn't take into account culture or personal influences. The project gets rammed through, the consultants get paid and people are unhappy.
The same applies when a book or expert tells you what to do. And it's what compelled Owens to take a different approach.
"Resistance doesn't exist in the client," said Owens. "It exists in the practitioner".
Unstuck is accompanied by a free workbook that can be downloaded from the website so you can work through the exercises without marking up the book. And a new app, called Mindset Maestro will be coming soon as well.