Will the latest self-help book, new diet, or a few minutes of meditation really change your life?

How much can grit, motivation, and positive thinking actually matter when the world around you is starved of support and opportunity?

A billion-dollar self-improvement industry always puts responsibility for change on your shoulders. But this approach, which owes more to the myths of rugged individualism and victim-blaming politics than to credible scientific research, produces few real and lasting improvements to our health and happiness.

Finally, a book that explains why self-help mostly fails, and what really works.

Dr. Michael Ungar’s mind-bending new book, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and The True Path to Success (Sutherland House Book, May 30, 2019), reveals the emptiness of the self-improvement movement and offers instead a stunning new perspective on success and personal change. What we really need when things get tough and the odds are stacked against us, he writes, are strong support systems and an environment rich in opportunity. Using the science of resilience and real-life stories from across classes and cultures, he shows how nurturing spouses and families, supportive employers, and effective institutions are the real differences between success and failure in our lives. The good news is that it is easier to change your world than it is to change yourself.


  • Striving is over-rated: individual effort accounts for little of the variance between one person’s success and another’s failure
  • Mindfulness gurus: how they feed the cult of individualism and blame victims for failing to attain personal growth
  • Communities matter: why local services are more important than grit and motivation when a person is faced with adversity
  • Disaster Relief: why claims adjusters are more important to stricken communities than psychologists and grief counselors
  • How taking risks that would shock your neighbors makes you more resilient
  • Why you should forget romance and find someone who matters to you instead
  • Why it is more important to embrace stress rather than to evade stress (within limits)
  • Why the availability of treatment programs is rarely enough to help an addict recover
  • Why trying to fix ourselves with self-help books, diets, and motivational strategies doesn’t work for most people, and how our support systems and the environment around us will
  • Business leaders and managers: How being flexible about changing your work environment will improve productivity and employee satisfaction
  • Parents: Steps that will improve your child’s resilience and well-being


Dr. Michael Ungar is among the best-known writers and researchers on the topic of resilience in the world. His work has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between people and their families, schools, workplaces, and communities. As the holder of a National Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience and Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University, as well as a family therapist, he has helped to identify the most important factors that influence the resilience of children and adults during periods of transition and stress. He is the author of 16 books that have been translated into five languages, numerous manuals for parents, educators, and employers, as well as more than 200 scientific papers. Dr. Ungar’s immense influence comes from his ability to adapt ideas from his research and clinical practice into best-selling works like Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success, a book for adults experiencing stress at home and on the job, Too Safe For Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive, a book that challenges over-protective parenting, and I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from Their Parents, an inspiring story of families helping their kids thrive despite the odds. His blog Nurturing Resilience appears on Psychology Today’s website.”

Dr. Ungar is also the founder and Director of the Resilience Research Centre where he coordinates over ten million dollars in research in more than a dozen countries. Dr. Ungar regularly provides consultation and training to organizations like the World Bank, UNESCO, and the Red Cross. He is the former Chair of the Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, executive board member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and a family therapist who works with mental health services for individuals and families at risk. In 2012 Dr. Ungar was the recipient of the Canadian Association of Social Workers National Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contribution to clinical work with families and communities.


“What I love about this book is that Ungar rejects the idea that success is something that is completely within our control as individuals and highlights instead the importance of broader, more systemic factors: what’s happening in our families, our community, and our world. Improving our personal circumstances becomes less about changing ourselves and more about joining forces with other people to make things better for all of us” – Ann Douglas, Author, Happy Parents, Happy Kids

“Michael Ungar brings a savvy and sophisticated perspective to the critically important topic of resilience. His work stands as a corrective to the overblown notion that mindset, in and of itself, can serve as the be-all and end-all of what individuals and communities need to thrive. A well-written and engaging read.”
Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD
Author, I’m Not A Mind Reader (HCI, 2015)
Power of the Middle Ground (Prometheus, 2009)
Co-Director, FACTS (Family and Couples Treatment and Training Service) ,
A Division of the  Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy
Blogger, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-middle-ground

“Finally, a book explaining why fixing ourselves with self-help solutions may not be the only, or even the main ingredient, of the secret sauce of life success. Dr. Ungar’s real-life stories from his research on resilience, with examples from all across the globe, offer fresh new recipes—and provide a fun and compelling as well as educative read.” Susan Heitler, PhD, author of Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More