Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2006
Reviewed by Don Hills
“Ever felt stuck?” asks the publisher of this highly accessible book. “Here is an approach”, they claim, “..that helps us overcome obstacles, improve our relationships, supports our values, and moves us towards our goals.” For once, I’m pleased to say, the publisher’s blurb has not overstated its case.
Chris Johnstone is a highly-respected, medically-trained specialist in the psychology of change. He also works as an addictions specialist, and gives talks and workshops on finding your power. He is careful to point out in the Introduction that he is talking about personal power which he defines as ‘the ability to move in the direction you want to go’. It is nothing to do with gaining power over others.
I attended the launch of this book and was struck by Chris’ ability to convey concisely, enthusiastically and yet with charming modesty, his message about the real possibility of finding the courage and confidence to live our beliefs. The good news is that his tips are based on seventeen years of experience and detailed research into ‘what works’ with a variety of clients in both clinical and workshop settings.
The book is laid out in a very clear, logical and accessible fashion, with short, pithy sections leading to ‘power points’ – a concise summary of the main action points – at the end of each chapter. Lots of helpful diagrams, bullet points and practical suggestions, with a short but well-planned Notes (mostly references) on the contents at the end of the book. Normally I am a stickler for having an index, but I have to say that this book is so well constructed and easy to cross-reference, that it doesn’t need one. A good thing, because it hasn’t got one!
As to the content it looks, at first blush, like one of your run of the mill self-help books – three parts, each with a punchy title: the power to begin, the power to move through blocks, and the power to keep yourself going. As you start and then get into it, however, Chris’s guidance is anything but run of the mill. From the outset, he advises his readers to think carefully about the way they read the book. His three tips for reading it in a ‘powerful’ manner are – first, make use of the ‘try this’ boxes that accompany each chapter: second, use two ‘memory pegs’ after finishing each chapter (is there anything I can start using now? what bits do I still want to remember in six month’s time?): and third, have good reasons for wanting to read at a deeper level.
He’s quite happy for us to ‘dip and skim’ and only dive down when the text is hitting the heart strings of purpose and motivation. How do we find these? That’s what part one is all about! Part two is absolutely key to us lazy types who have clear goals but so often fall down after the first or second hurdle. But perhaps the third part will be of most interest to us GreenSpiriters. Its title – how to keep yourself going – is deceptively simple-sounding. Train hard? Get fit? Nose to the grind-stone? No, none of this. Chris launches into a wonderfully lucid account of the ‘keep-on-keeping-on’ kind of technique, so beloved of so many spiritual traditions. Yet nowhere does he use the word ‘spiritual’. Instead we get a chapter on ‘the connected vision’, and another on ‘believing mirrors’. He is leading his readers into some of the depths and breadth of very practical, walk-your-talk spirituality. We find out how important relationships and the bigger picture are in giving us the inner nourishment to help us find sufficient purpose and delight to keep us on the path. He is leading us to find the power and enjoyment of our Deeper Purpose – that mysterious, but very real entity which is different for every one of us. “When you act for something larger” he says, “it can act through you.”
As Chris took us through the background and birth of his book at the launch, he stopped here and there to enchant us with his playing of the hammered dulcimer. But, in the spirit of his seventeen-year journey in producing Find your Power, it felt like the dulcimer was playing its own tribute to the book. How appropriate then, that at the end of the meeting, Chris pushed the book away from himself and joined us in applauding it.