The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

Reviewed by Clare Desira, speaker and coach

Sure, you set small goals every day: Drop off the dry cleaning, make a dentist appointment for the kids, bake biscuits for the office party. But you must also recognise the power of setting goals and taking deliberate steps toward the things you want most and the way you want to feel.

I taught goal setting workshops for years. Completing my coaching accreditation and reading Danielle’s LaPorte’s Desira Map book transformed the way I thought about goal setting. Run of the mill goal setting techniques like setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time goals are turned on their head and injected with a fresh perspective in this book.

The simple and practical process outlined in this book opened my eyes to a new way of living – putting the feeling first. For example, so instead of setting a goal to lose five kilograms you could set a goal to feel the most energised and healthiest you have felt in your skin (and losing some weight might be a side effect of this but the focus in on the end feeling not a number of the scales). Or instead of setting a goal to be more organised, a feeling based goal might be to feel tranquil and free in your environment (an action you might take is actually developing new organising habits, but you focus on the feeling). This book is a practical guide and comes with an audio as well.


Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Vision, Your Message by Tara Sophia Mohr

Reviewed by Felicity Watson, brand and communications coach

“Playing Big – Find Your Voice, Your Vision, Your Message ” by Tara Mohr is a brilliant book for women who are in fact playing small. Although you might not realise just how much you downplay or hide your own talents until you read this. Love a good a-ha moment? Me too. I experienced many whilst reading this. Glancing through the contents page I remember thinking each chapter looked so meaty and interesting. And they didn’t disappoint. The book touches on topics including “The inner critic“, “Unhooking from praise and criticism”, “Hiding” and “Communicating with power”. The book kicks off on the topic of self doubt because Mohr believes this is what stops most women from playing big.

All this wisdom is delivered through Mohr’s direct and highly readable style. The book is liberally peppered with lots of real life examples of how women doubt their own abilities, the habits that hold them back and how to overcome them. She also provides lots of journalling questions so you have some terrific tools to reflect and make changes in your own life.

This book is best suited to women wanting to make a bigger impact through their work but it would also benefit your personal life. In order for you to play big now (and not years later when you feel you are better qualified or have more experience) Mohr’s advice is to take a leap. So rather than getting stuck in a long term planning phase she encourages you to launch a bite sized project that relates to your work or passion and finesse and test your concept through action. I love this book, I know you will enjoy it too and more importantly learn how to play big in your own life.


The Reality Slap by Russ Harris

Reviewed by Dr Gerke Witt, clinical psychologist, Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology

The ‘Reality Slap’ by Russ Harris – a wonderful book about dealing with the discrepancy between the life we want and the life we have. It’s about those ‘reality slaps ‘and the consequent ‘reality gaps’ that come from painful experiences like the death of a loved-one, misfortune, loss, divorce, tragedy, trauma and illness. Those realities that life can throw our way unexpectedly, and can shake our very foundation.

Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy principles, Russ Harris invites us to reflect on how those painful experiences can help us clarify our values, and how to engage in life in meaningful and mindful ways, even when we feel overwhelmed or stuck. This book is easy to understand, highly practical, grounding and insightful. It encourages us to cultivate self-compassion and to deal with pain effectively and mindfully.

Each time I re-read this book (or any of Russ Harris’ books) I find something that resonates even stronger than before, as it is ever so relevant and applicable to most human experiences and challenges with life or ourselves.


Brain-Based Parenting: The Neuroscience of Caregiving for Health Attachment by Daniel Hughes and Jonathon Baylin

Reviewed by Julia Flaherty, client support, Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology

This book is an informative exploration of how our brain functionality informs the way we parent. Although not exactly a relaxing Sunday read, the information in this book was powerful and I hope that what I’ve learnt from it will stay with me over the long and hugely challenging journey of parenthood. According to the authors, “parenting is a brain thing” and they describe five “systems” of parenting; approach, parental reward, child-reading, meaning-making and parental executive system. They explore how “blocked care” can arise when parents suppress their potential to care for a child and offer their practical recipe for effective parenting; PACE — playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy.

Since reading this book, I’ve found little nuggets of the authors’ wisdom pervade my parenting. For example the other day when I was exhausted, my fifteen-month-old daughter threw her dinner all over the floor in defiance. Instead of matching her tantrum with my own, with a bit of effort I was able to draw on learnings from the book about how to override my defensiveness and regulate my emotions. By slowing things down for myself I was able to try to appreciate things from my daughter’s perspective and then come to a more constructive, meaningful stance about the whole incident. I guess in a sense, the book has helped me be the parent in the room.


Hold Me Tight- Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr Sue Johnson

Reviewed by Diane Geytenbeek, psychologist at Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology

Dr Johnson developed Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, after working with numerous couples and identifying significant limitations in the styles of therapy available. Since that time, a plethora of research has identified that couples-based EFT has a 75% success rate, in comparison to other forms of therapy which have only approximately a 35% success rate.

Dr Johnson describes the three key features of a lasting relationship as being open, attuned, and responsive. She explores what love is, how we develop healthy or unhealthy attachments during our early years, how we develop strong romantic bonds, and how we lose connection and fall out of love. She talks about three specific “demon dialogues” that cause difficulties, distress, and dissatisfaction in relationships. She walks the reader through tried and tested strategies for navigating these dialogues as a couple and using these conversations to strengthen your bond with your partner. Finally, she presents seven conversations that capture the defining moments in a romantic relationship, guiding readers to create a secure and lasting bond. This book is a suitable for all couples: young, old, married, engaged, living together or separately, happy, distressed, gay, straight; in short, all partners looking for a lifetime of love.

Dr Johnson discusses historical and current psychological research related to couples in a reader friendly way, using case examples to clearly illustrate the different dialogues that get couples into trouble. At the end of each chapter she provides plenty of opportunities for the reader to apply and practice the various techniques. I have found that the information has given me greater insight into some common difficulties that clients face in relationships, as well as some simple ways to enhance my own relationship.


When Neitzche Wept by Dr Irvin Yalom

Reviewed by Nazli Kayhan, clinical psychologist, Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology

This is an engaging read exploring the psyche of two brilliant yet psychologically pained men. Yalom combines philosophy, existentialism and psychology through the fictional story of friendship, life and love.

This is my favorite book! I found it thought provoking and emotionally challenging as it made me question my accountability over parts of my life that on the surface may appear outside of my control.


When Everything Falls Apart by Pema Chodron

Reviewed by Elle Steele, speaker and coach

Well, the title says it all really. I read this book 12 months ago on a trip to Malaysia. The plan for the trip was to lie by the pool and rejuvenate after a really hard year of work and healing!

Pema’s tone is so loving. You feel as if she is wrapping her arms around as you read the book. With each chapter I read I’ve breathed a sigh of relief. Pema talks about the need to show yourself compassion in the way you show other people compassion. You are just like them. Human and therefore imperfect. We only get into troubles when we believe things should be a certain way and we get attached to the outcome of them. We cause ourselves pain when we get caught up in feelings of “not being enough”. I opened this book to a page, trusting the universe to give me what I needed in that moment.

“When you wake in the morning and out of nowhere comes the heartache of alienation and loneliness, could you use that as a golden opportunity? Rather than prosecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart? The next time you get the chance, experiment with this”.


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Reviewed by Richard Stratton, general psychologist, Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology

This short book is a reflection on psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s experience as an inmate at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Frankl suggests that each of us is able to tolerate unimaginable suffering if we still have a purpose we can feel good about in our lives, “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’”. A powerfully honest and personal story, he shares how he found purpose in imagining being able to reunite with his wife again, after the war.

This book deeply moved me. Frankl’s beautiful description of his love for his wife contrasted with the grotesque death and filth he was living amongst, and left me sobbing all over the pages. This book leaves you noticing and appreciating the small things in every moment.


This beautiful images is by Aaron Burden.