I am usually leery of anyone who suggests that change is a matter of following some steps. Change is, of course, a process and so it does involve, in a manner of speaking, steps, but that language usually minimizes the complexity of making changes. On the other hand, some people speak of the complexity of change with such awareness that even their plans for change are complex. So, moving forward becomes complicated by the minutia. Some plans simply cannot be replicated because they are so “nuanced” and complex. Change must be simple without being simplistic, and that is a balance that Tim Lane has masterfully communicated in his book Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change that Lasts. This book serves as an accessible and yet comprehensive guide for personal change.
Tim Lane is a practicing counselor, formerly of CCEF, who has written some of the most significant books in Biblical counseling literature (How People Change, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands curriculum). Unstuck is his latest work and combines his knowledge of both the Scriptures and modern psychological research. The book is grounded in the gospel and focuses particularly on the doctrine of one’s union with Christ. It is from the basis of one’s relationship with God through Jesus that change is possible. The nine steps focus on a progression from self-evaluation, through theological belief, to altered practice. Instead of simply addressing issues, or offering practical tips to cope or self-improve, Lane focuses on self-awareness and proper thinking as the core issues that drive behavioral change.
Each chapter corresponds to one of the nine-steps. Each step is part of a progression and builds off of the preceding chapters. Readers will want to take the necessary time to work through each chapter in order, without skipping and skimming. The steps begin with a focus on our relationship to God. It is out of the grounding of our identity in Christ and the Spirit’s work in us that we can move forward, and so Lane spends two chapters highlighting these truths to prepare us for the necessarily challenging work of self-evaluation. Understanding ourselves moves us into the realm of personality and emotional analysis. Here Lane capitalizes on the insights of modern psychology, helping us to explore our distinct personalities and the ways that we can use these personalities for good or ill. He also invites readers to look distinctly at their circumstances (history, upbringing, current life-situation, etc.) and our reaction to those circumstances. Ultimately he brings us in chapter/step six to evaluate our responses to these circumstances and pressures. “Ask the ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions” (83). The steps conclude by an exploration of the value of community, and our role within it. If much of the book focuses on self, the book does not end with that focus. We must look beyond ourselves as we seek to grow and change. The final chapter gives readers a case study in which to see the nine-steps played out in a real situation. While Lane gives solid examples and illustrations throughout the book, this chapter gives a step-by-step examination of the process.
The book is an excellent guide to the basic process of change. It’s almost workbook like format serves to practically engage the reader in each step. I could wish it were an actual workbook, with more blank spaces for interaction and more guidance on some of the points, but that’s just a nitpick detail. The book is useful for both personal self-improvement and as a tool to be used in counseling. Unstuck is a great tool and while it avoids the simplistic it is entirely accessible to the average reader. I highly recommend this work. Like so many of Tim Lane’s books, Unstuck is a robust example of practical theology.