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Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path Paperback – 1 Dec 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (1 Dec. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422132323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422132326
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A practical, authoritative framework for self development ... well written, and the practical exercises are relevant and well-described.
-- Organizations and People, August 2007

Most businesspeople get into an impasse at some stage in their career.
Here's a guide to the way out.
-- World Business, May 2007 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

A conversation with the author:

GETTING UNSTUCK emphasizes career and work crises but as you say in your
book - impasse does not differentiate between work and personal life. Does
your method help for situations other than the workplace?

The vision-building exercises I use in this book help individuals to move
closer to more meaningful work and a more meaningful life. The method is
relevant for anyone who has come to realize that something must change - in
a job description, in working habits, in a marriage, in a friendship, or in
an overly frenetic and frustrating way of living. The book is designed as
a journey; readers will move through a sequence of meditations, readings,
and exercises designed to take them through the full impasse cycle and into
a richer vision of work and life.

In GETTING UNSTUCK - you provide readers with what you call "Deep Dives."
Can you talk about these exercises?

My book is practical and meant to be used. Each chapter will lead the
reader in sequence through the six phase cycle of impasse and vision.
Throughout the book, there are highlighted self-assessment Deep Dive
exercises which allow readers to take the material they just read and focus
it immediately and specifically on their own life and situation. Two of
the most important exercises that I encourage readers to participate in are
the One Hundred Jobs exercise in Chapter 4 as it will provide an
experiential basis for many of the ideas discussed in later chapters, and
the Image Gathering exercise as it will add richness and texture to the One
Hundred Jobs exercise.

Is there a difference between impasse and depression?

Impasse often brings with it an intermittent heaviness of mood. During
times of impasse, it may seem that usually reliable resources for cheering
yourself up or thinking your way through problems are no longer effective.
You may feel that you are "not yourself" and that your familiar pleasures
and distractions no longer hold their appeal. You may loose sleep turning
over an important decision in your mind. In all of these ways, a career or
life impasse may mimic some of the symptoms of depression. But it is
important to realize that these symptoms, and the impasse experience, are
not, in themselves, evidence of clinical depression.

We can sum up the difference between these symptoms at impasse and during
an episode of depression in two words: duration and intensity. During
times of impasse, some symptoms may appear intermittently, but they are
rarely present all of the time for weeks on end. Their intensity is
typically much less than what individuals report during episodes of
depression. They may be painful but they do not shut down your ability to
move through your day and feel that you can meet the challenges in front of
you even if you feel "in the dark." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Geof Cox on 19 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Timothy Butler is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School. In this book he draws on his research and practice of career coaching to give a pathway for dealing with the impasse that we have all felt at some time in our career and life path - times when we have the feeling that we're stuck or paralysed and unable to move forward.

Butler points out that we will experience this psychological impasse many times in our life. We're convinced that something must change, whether in work or personal life, but often unable to move beyond it. But, of course, failure to "get unstuck" - using the title of the book - can put career and personal life at risk, as well as affecting the functioning of your team, family or organisation.

In the book Butler describes how to recognise this state of impasse, and then offers strategies for moving beyond it - by tapping into our interests and imagination, recognising patters and moving our insight into taking action in a new direction. Each chapter contains a number of practical exercises drawn from Butler's own coaching and workshop practice so that the reader can follow a self development process to deal with their own life situation. Career counsellors, coaches and consultants will also find the processes and activities very useful in their own practice of helping others to make decisions. In particular, Butler shares his 100 Jobs exercise which is key to identifying an understanding of work and life themes, and the tensions between them which often lead to our impasse.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover
often fall into psychological ruts that can lead to feelings of fatigue, worthlessness and even guilt. During such periods, falling asleep at night and getting out of bed in the morning both become difficult. Making decisions gets to be almost impossible. If this state persists intensely over a long period, clinicians call it depression. When these feelings are short-lived and intermittent, psychologist and career change expert Timothy Butler calls it an "impasse." Though uncomfortable, an impasse is good because it can act as a much-needed catalyst for a meaningful metamorphosis. Unfortunately, many people do not know how to get "unstuck" from an impasse. That is where Butler's savvy book comes into play. He provides insightful, hands-on advice telling people who feel stuck how to move along and make necessary, valuable changes. For his exercises to work, the reader must spend time on them and be open to letting them take effect. We applaud Butler's life change program and his intelligent psychological guide. Learn how to overthrow that impasse, and go forward new and fresh.
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By Book Addict on 13 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting title that explores a relatively novel approach to breaking through circular thinking, (the impasse). Easy to read, it nevertheless falls short in keeping your attention. This may be to do with the fact that 'intonation' in speech conveys quite a lot of message and this is lost when you read at a pace you think appropriate or, in a 'voice' you think matches the literary style. It was only in listening to Dr Butler's web guidance programmes that I understood where this guy was coming from voice-wise. You will need to be quite creative to gain much from this book as it merely hints at the processes involved. This is no surprise as creating personal change, (to change your thinking), is a fairly esoteric process not easily pinned down. The first 6 chapters are the ones to read, the remainder are merely filler and add nothing to the whole.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Mar. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well before finishing the conclusion of this book, I concluded that Timothy Butler is both a relentless empiricist (i.e. being keenly observant of human experience, especially his own) and a relentless pragmatist (i.e. leveraging this experience to apply lessons learned in terms of what works...and what doesn't). In the Introduction he focuses on the six phases "The Cycle of Impasse." I now quote from the text: the "arrival of the [given] crisis and impasse, its deepening and the attendant re-emergence of unresolved issues, the dropping of old assumptions and the opening up to new information, the shift to a new way of understanding our situation, the greater recognition of deep patterns of our personality, [and finally] the decision to take concrete action." Having carefully presented the "what," Butler then focuses on the "how" of "getting unstuck."

It is important to keep in mind that as Butler duly acknowledges, crises vary (sometimes significantly) in terms of their relative importance; also, impasses also vary in terms of their nature and extent; moreover, "getting unstuck" from one crisis does not mean that it will never recur; in addition, most people find themselves struggling to cope with more than one crisis at a time; finally, and obviously, its is highly advisable to prevent a crisis, if at all possible, and thus eliminate the need to get "unstuck" from one.

The subtitle suggests another interesting aspect of this book's appeal: "How Dead Ends Become New Paths." I am among those who believe that every problem and, especially, every failure offers an invaluable learning opportunity. Long ago, Jack Dempsey suggested that "champions get up when they can't.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 0 reviews
70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Probably best explored with guidance... 4 April 2007
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There comes a time (or many times, actually) in everyone's life when things appear to be at a dead end. You know you don't want to be where you're at, but you're in a quandary about how to move on. That's the subject of the book Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths by Timothy Butler. If you're willing to work his process and exercises, you may well find that "new path" to take you to the next level.

Contents:

Part 1 - Impasse: Facing Crisis; Feeling Stuck and Doubting Ourselves; Opening Up and Letting Go; Shifting to a New Understanding

Part 2 - Vision: Our Deepest Interests (The First Pattern in the Carpet); Learning to Let Our Passions Guide Us; Power, People, and Achievement (Three Interwoven Patterns); Mapping Our Insights (Patterns in the Sand)

Part 3 - Getting Unstuck: Moving from Impasse to Action; Living at the Border

Appendixes: Continuing the Journey (An Annotated Bibliography); A Note on Impasse and Depression; Scoring the One Hundred Jobs Exercise

Notes; Index; About the Author

Butler is a researcher and business psychologist who works with people who have hit a "dead end" in their life. Many of the stories in the book involve students who have gone to business school, have a number of options in front of them, but nothing seems quite right. His approach to getting unstuck is to allow the inner thoughts and passions to direct us towards what we probably already know the answer to be, but we just haven't tuned into it. Many of these exercises are covered in sidebar entries called "deep dives". These sidebars go into detail about how an exercise works and how to do it. For instance, "free attention" is the technique of allowing your focus to reside on a particular part of the body, letting the sensations and feelings wash over you without judgement. When your mind wanders, you've lost your free attention and need to refocus on the body part. This then shifts to focus on breathing, and the goal is to let emotions run their course and learn from them. Another technique is paying attention to images that form in your mind. These images can often be formed from deeper core feelings and emotions, and taking the time to reflect and analyze them can cast light on your situation and point to a new path. Probably one of the most in-depth exercises is the 100 Jobs list. You choose 12 jobs from a list of 100 that appeal to you on an emotional basis. Scoring the exercise involves categorizing the types of attributes that make up those jobs. By grouping and classifying the different underlying traits, you'll see trends such as leadership, persuasion, coaching, etc. These trends can then be used to examine your direction and make corrections...

On the whole, the ideas are solid. I can see where working through the process could lead to dramatic changes that might not be explored by a more cursory examination of your life. But while the book is designed to be used on your own, I think it'd work best if you had someone skilled in these techniques working with you. It's hard to be objective about your own mind, and an external viewpoint would help keep things focused. I also think that the material would appeal most to business professionals who are at a career crisis. Most of the material is slanted towards job-related issues, and the stories are largely about college and grad school students. While anyone could use these ideas in various areas of their lives, I think the "average" person might find it all a bit daunting...
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Unstuck but not yet moving forward 1 Mar. 2008
By Dr. Cathy Goodwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Butler's book has one of the best cover images I've see i awhile. A fish leaps into the air, leaving behind other fish swimming peacefully in their glass bowl. At first he seems bent on self-destruction, till we realize another bowl is waiting to receive him. It's mostly hidden at the edge of the page and it's emptier.

The image is appropriate bcause Butler's book ultimately is about finding vision and image. He keeps referring to the Hundred Careers exercise: choose your top 12 from a list of 100. Then (and this is the important part) uncover common themes.

Usually I get nervous when career counselors urge clients to work with specific choices, because most people carry inaccurate stereotypes of careers with them. Accountants can be extraverted and sales people can be shy. But I sense that Butler works with each person's unique perceptions of the careers, although he doesn't say so directly.

Another reviewer suggests that a reader might need a guide to work through the process. I'm more concerned about translating insight into action. If you're an artist trapped in a banking career, how do you carry out the exploration you need? How do you find your new life? OK, a creative decides to become a freelance artist, but things get a little more complicated in real life. Every freelancer I know (including me) has to deal with creating systems to get the work done, marketing, staying motivated, and dealing with dumb things like more ink for the printer and why hasn't the bank transferred over your account forms.

Of course, vision can be compelling. A strong vision can motivate career changers to find solutions, sometimes almost effortlessly.

I can't help comparing this book to Herminia Ibarra's book, Working Identity, also published by Harvard Universiety Press. Ibarra emphasizes the zig zag pattern of actions most people take to find their next careers. Most people I know operate that way. They just take one step at a time till they realize that somehow they've landed where they're supposed to be.

Ibarra also targets midlife career changers -- people who have achieved some success and accomplishment. This book seems directed to younger people who have less at stake. For example, a 35-year-old woman who leaves a high-powered financial career to become a high school teacher, reducing her income from $106K to $34K. Some people make those kinds of moves and never look back. Others realize they miss the lifestyle of the larger salary. Still others get bogged down by conditions of working, like paperwork.

I can't help wondering how this woman will feel when she's in her fifties and sixties. And I hope she likes teaching, because it's going to be hard to make a shift back to the corporate world from just about anything else.

Definitely Getting Unstuck holds value for people at the early stages of their career searches. I would recommend it to anyone who's looking for a new way to think about career change. But I've seen people who need to get unstuck not just from their jobs but from their analysis. Exploring possibilities is fun. Translating them to realities - and living with the aftermath - gets a whole lot more complicated.
90 of 99 people found the following review helpful
How to avoid a dead end or to find a better path to follow 11 Mar. 2007
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Well before reading the final chapter of this book, I concluded that Timothy Butler is both a relentless empiricist (i.e. being keenly observant of human experience, especially his own) and a relentless pragmatist (i.e. leveraging this experience to apply lessons learned in terms of what works...and what doesn't). In the Introduction he focuses on the six phases of what he characterizes as "The Cycle of Impasse." They are (1) the arrival of the [given] crisis and impasse, (2) its deepening and the attendant re-emergence of unresolved issues, (3) the dropping of old assumptions and the opening up to new information, (4) the shift to a new way of understanding our situation, (5) the greater recognition of deep patterns of our personality, and eventuaolly (6) the decision to take concrete action." Once having carefully presented the "what," Butler then focuses almost all of his attention on the "how" of "getting unstuck."

It is important to keep in mind that as Butler duly acknowledges, crises vary (sometimes significantly) in terms of their relative importance; also, impasses also vary in terms of their nature and extent; moreover, "getting unstuck" from one crisis does not mean that it will never recur; in addition, most people find themselves struggling to cope with more than one crisis at a time; finally, and obviously, its is highly advisable to prevent a crisis, if at all possible, and thus eliminate the need to get "unstuck" from one.

The subtitle suggests another interesting aspect of this book's appeal: "How Dead Ends Become New Paths." I am among those who believe that every problem and, especially, every failure offers an invaluable learning opportunity. Long ago, Jack Dempsey suggested that "champions get up when they can't." More recently Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas, in Geeks and Geezers and then in Leading for a Lifetime, assert that most (if not all) great leaders - at one time - experienced a "crucible" which forged qualities of character they would not otherwise develop. In Authentic Leadership and then in True North, Bill George makes essentially the same point. With all due respect to Yogi Berra (reputed to have suggested that "When you get to a fork in the road, take it"), what seem to be "dead ends" can become "new paths" if - huge if -- we can summon the courage and sustain the determination to take "concrete action."

To this last point, Butler insists - and I agree - that "our lives do not change without action. The impasse crisis has its resolution in a decision to make specific choices that change our day-to-day reality...Know what the action needs to be, and actually performing it, is what seals the cycle of learning and change and allows us to move forward."

I commend Butler for providing three valuable appendices: "Continuing the Journey" (an annotated bibliography), "A Note on Impasse and Depression" (differences between symptoms of clinical depression and symptoms at impasse), and "Scoring the One Hundred Jobs Exercise" (a self-diagnostic to accompany an exercise in Chapter 4). All of those who read this book find themselves "stuck" from time to time. On occasion, the "impasse" is minor and only temporary (e.g. missing several days at work because of having the flu). On other occasions, the situation is much more serious and seems hopeless, or at least daunting (e.g. an extended period of unemployment as bills pile up). Butler seems genuinely determined to help his readers cope effectively with all manner of crises, especially those which may seem hopeless. Obviously, it remains for each reader to determine the value of this book to her or his own circumstances.

When thinking about the many benefits that Butler's book offers, I am reminded of a prayer generally thought to have been composed by Reinhold Niebuhr: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I was rooting for it to be better 4 May 2009
By Michael Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book more and I was with it for a while. I assumed the Harvard name would give it more authority. However, as I got more into the book I realized it was from a perspective of Jungian analysis. It is more of a psychoanalysis approach to career advice. I've read some stuff based on Jung and like some of the abstract ideas from it. However, I tend to view it more as a nice theory but kind of academic and not entirely relevant to how we understand the mind. Maybe I'm too analytical.

I tried his 100 jobs exercise which was somewhat useful but thought it was too tilted towards business school graduates. One of the focuses seemed to be to determine if you were more of a leader or individual performer. I thought his list was too narrow and didn't consider a wider breadth of possible talents. Most of his stories based on experience also are drawn from business school students.

I was most disappointed with his images exercise. I just completed after spending 30 minutes in a quiet room. The images I generated after following his directions had nothing to do with my career or work life or any possible one that I could determine. Apparently I was not doing it right? I can't force a subconscious to come up with the relevant images. After that he proceeded to ask a series of questions which could not be answered based on the images I generated. It was a bit of a waste.

I'm currently debating whether to finish the last half of the book. I was hoping there might be a little more science behind the exercises. I like the idea of using psychology in career advice and enjoyed novel approaches. However, all this did was confirm one or two rather abstract findings from other books and surveys. Maybe there's a treasure in the subconscious that I wasn't able to mine. I wasn't able to get at it with this book very much.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Nudges You To Take Action 1 Dec. 2007
By Anil Aggarwal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The book's title drew me like a magnet. It was so precise. And I said, "yes, I am stuck and need help in getting unstuck". After starting and succeeding, or not so, at many ventures in life, I have lately been feeling stuck.

Don't want to do the same things again that I have been doing for over thirty years. Is it mid-life crisis? I don't know. What else can I do? I can only do what I know... But is it relevant anymore? Have I become a has been? Self doubt, self pity, and helplessness have begun to creep in.

This book has been very helpful. It provides a systematic approach to analyzing the problem and an opportunity to get to know yourself. Some answers may be disturbing. You may find out that what you have been doing all your life so far is perhaps not what you ever wanted to do. You may not even have begun to do what you really wanted to do in life, are good at, and have a passion for. Perhaps, it is not the end of the road, but just the beginning.

I wish that I had read this book 10 or may be 20 years ago. That would have changed my life. I still have to find courage and discipline to change. But this book certainly provides the nudge that I have needed.

Author does have a tendency of self accolades in places, which really are not needed, as the work speaks for itself. But, nonetheless, the book is a great and very helpful work.

Anil Aggarwal
anil@datagenius.com
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