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You probably don't know even one person who doesn't want or need to change something. Think of all the people who over-eat (50% of teens and adults are over-weight!), smoke, drink too much, procrastinate, feel anxious, depressed (10% of us have thought seriously of suicide), irritable, dependent, or need more education, interpersonal skills, problem-solving ability, better morals, more self-awareness or insight, better parenting skills, better marriages, etc., etc. Yet, do you see much changing going on? Probably not.
Take smoking for example: 26% of Americans smoke (it's 36% between 18 and 24), over a third of smokers right now very much want to quit, 67% believe a smoking-related disease will kill them if they don't stop smoking. About 77% of all smokers have hoped and tried to quit, often trying many times. 56% even promise they will quit "this year," but only 19% say they are ready to quit in the next 30 days. In fact, if their employer offered a free quit-smoking program on-the-job, only 3% to 5% would show up! We have a very hard time starting to change.
The purpose of Taking the Fear Out of Changing is to help you start changing yourself. This includes (1) removing negative emotions, especially fears that disrupt self-improvement, (2) understanding yourself and relationships so your self-esteem is high enough to encourage change, and (3) developing attitudes and specific skills that foster change.
Dr. O'Grady, a practicing psychologist, lists the common fears that prohibit change in general: fear of the unknown and of facing a new situation, fear of failure and of looking foolish, fear of commitment and of not wanting the changes you get, fear of disapproval and of criticism of what you become, and fear of success, increased responsibilities, and people thinking you are selfish or stuck-up.
Most chapters have self-quizzes. They assess your self-change strategies, self-criticism, ambition, resentment, feelings about changing, anger, self vs. others-pleasing, love, self-esteem, and other characteristics. After each personal quiz, the author suggests a variety of self-help methods for handling fears and improving in that particular area. The assumed advantages from changing are enumerated at length. The change methods and principles advocated by Dr. O'Grady consist mostly of cognitive processes, particularly the development of positive thinking (or avoiding pessimism and defeatism). His ways of engendering positive expectations are more motivational or inspirational, rather than explicitly described behavior change methods. In other words, he tries to change your thinking rather than your behavioral habits, your situation, your skills, or your unconscious barriers to success.
I'll give you a flavor of the book's contents. In discussing the reasons for resisting change, Dr. O'Grady mentions self-blaming and provides a self-criticism quiz followed by an interpretation of your score. Self-criticism, like "I will fail," he says, creates fears of changing and the "shoulds" of our thinking, like "I should be doing better," disrupts change. Then he discusses why we resist making good changes and using good ideas: to avoid feeling controlled, to prove you have a better idea, to avoid being dependent, etc. A little later while discussing the value of setting goals and making commitments, the reasons for avoiding setting goals are mentioned: disliking the social pressure, disliking the required hard work, feeling responsible for your own happiness, having to acknowledge your ability and strengths, etc.
The author himself recommends against reading the book cover to cover, stating that each section will stand by itself. I agree. I found that the recommended solutions were often repetitious. Also, unfortunately, many of the author's suggestions read more like directives, such as "assume you are capable of changing," "speak your mind," "don't let the fear of rejection run your life," "refuse to remain a victim," and so on. The reader will understand the stated desired outcome but often may wonder "how do I get there."
This book will not motivate everyone to make tough but needed changes, but I think it will appeal to many, especially those who are held back by self-doubts and a lack of motivation and hope. This is The Power of Positive Thinking for pessimistic self-change aspirants. It isn't a classic for the ages but given the dearth of material in this area of how-to-start-changing, it can be a useful text for a discouraged person with a run-down battery who needs a jump-start.