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Importance of perspective

06 November 2015

Sensible advice here, says Jenny Francis


Step Back: Finding the way forward
Norman Drummond
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50


MOST of us, at some time, have felt unable to face a forthcoming challenge, or felt unequal to running the race set before us. This slim, sensible, practical hardback provides the antidote to such feelings of inadequacy, and it has been a genuine pleasure to read.

Norman Drummond is a wise, thoughtful, and pioneering Church of Scotland minister, whose approach to coping with our hectic, stress-filled lives is to take time, regularly, to step back from all the hurly-burly and pressure to review things quietly. Whether we take a few minutes in the day, a longer period in the week, or even arrange a retreat, he commends the sense of renewal and refreshment which results. “Essentially, taking a little time to withdraw temporarily from the fray, either alone or with others, allows us all to reflect on where we are going, what we have learnt, and which is the right road ahead.”

Mr Drummond draws on his extensive experience as a head teacher, minister, and personal coach to show readers how valuable he, personally, has found this process. Without it, he says, he would never have managed the conflicting demands of his professional and private lives. He shares his proven method of regaining strength and insight to carry on purposefully and energetically, while avoiding the risk of burnout. Despite its simplicity, few actually do it, he writes, and many of us end up exhausted, unable to cope, and reluctant to face new challenges.

Attractively laid out, with wide-ranging, pithy quotations before every chapter, the book is also well structured. Part one focuses on how to do this stepping back: how to gain in self-knowledge and learn to push our personal boundaries. Part two shows how the process may begin, finding the necessary space and using it creatively. Occasional drawings and poetry illumine the clear text.

Two successful charitable projects are described at the very end, both built on Mr Drummond’s thesis, proof that using opportunities for reflection, taking stock, and moving on is a wise investment and definitely not time wasted. Here is a valuable method for overcoming the negative challenges that can cause our downfall, directing us instead towards balanced, paced, and positive lives. It is a valid alternative to mindfulness.


The Revd Jenny Francis is a retired psychotherapist and a priest in the diocese of Exeter.

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