When I came home from college after my freshman year, I announced to my mother that I’d decided to major in psychology. She was excited for me. She shared with me that she made an A in her college psychology course.
I said, “You must have really enjoyed it and studied a lot.” She said, “No, I just answered everything on the test opposite of what I thought was right.”
In honor of my mom, who believed everything was opposite, here are six strategies that go against conventional wisdom but that can help you in writing a new life or business story.
1. Burn Your Bridges
Make it impossible to go back to an old habit or way of being. If you decide to quit smoking, make it impossible in some way to restart. Create an uncomfortable scenario if you do return. Focus on the present without the bad habit. Reward yourself for not going back.
To change, you have to develop a life or business story that contains the storylines you want. To stop doing something is not complete change: a new story incorporates new behavior and beliefs. You have to create a new story to be in before you can give up an old story. But you can’t just remove all the old software—because it’s who you are. And much of it has worked—and works—very well.
You also can’t just suddenly start appending some success principles to an existing story and assume that there won’t be resistance—reversion to the familiar—and noise from the old story.
2. Do the Opposite of What’s Comfortable
If you’re uncomfortable with public speaking, avoidance will increase the fear, so do more of it. If you’re afraid to swim, jump in the water; you can’t learn to swim on paper.
You are always free to change your mind, always free to change your beliefs and core assumptions about who and what you are. Prediction and expectation based on the past create repetition, but focused on the present and future they create possibilities. A belief system constructs obstacles or opportunities. Since you can’t change the past, change your future.
3. Obstacles Reveal Desires
Show me an obstacle, and I’ll show you a desire. For example, show me clutter, and I’ll show you blocked energy that desires release. We always create the outside to match the inside.
An obstacle is the unconscious mnemonic of desire: it reminds you of what you want, but makes it safe to want if you’re afraid. When you find yourself focusing on an obstacle, for example, “I can’t find time to exercise,” reflect on the underlying desire. When you’re ready to consider that you create the obstacle, you’re also ready to consider the possibility of not creating it. Imagine what it would be like not to create your obstacles.
An obstacle conceals but simultaneously reveals the underlying desire. Proceed despite the obstacle. The more you run away from something, the more you engage it and the more apparent it becomes. And sometimes you can recognize something the first time only by denying it.
4. Discomfort Can Be a Sign of Progress
Moving beyond a comfort zone is necessary for progress. Comfortable is not where you begin, but a place you can arrive at. Moving from a comfort zone is necessary in order to proceed.
Change generates discomfort. At a physiological level, change produces pain. One reason has to do with how and where the brain processes new ideas. Routine activity without the introduction of anything new requires little attention or energy.
When something new confronts your habits, you feel discomfort and have to use more energy. It’s work to change. The natural inclination is to resist the stress of change, and to preserve the default habit.
5. Lean into the Unknown
If you think you’re too old to do something, you are right. Studies show that even highly accomplished people close themselves to novelty as they get older. The major factor is not their age, but how long they have been doing a particular activity, such as been in a particular business.
People who stay in one place and one position get most entrenched. Those who have changed positions or careers often adapt to change more readily. They reset their clocks. This means that the eminence and prestige of someone highly accomplished in one area tends to add to the resistance of change.
You can tiptoe through life very carefully and arrive safely at death. Put energy into what you want. Focus on wealth instead of debt; possibilities instead of problems; desires instead of obstacles.
When you focus on what you want, what you don’t want will fall away, like your lap when you get up to walk.
6. You Don’t Attract What You Want
Everyone wants more money, so wanting it is not the key to having it. Instead, you create what you focus on. Focusing on scarcity attracts scarcity; focusing on prosperity aligns your energy to pursue prosperity.
You keep coming back to what you run away from. You attract what you resist because you engage it with focused emotion. The challenge is to target the specific outcomes you want. Discover all the things that you focus on that you don’t want—make a list as you notice thinking about them. This list will cue your radar for early recognition. Then, each time you notice thinking about them, stop and think what you do want.
Be specific about what you do want—not just what you don’t want in disguise. If you focus on “I want to lose weight,” your focus is on overweight. Instead, focus on your desired weight.
Thinking this way doesn’t happen magically; it requires discipline. This is why most people don’t have spectacular results. Lasting results require mind and brain consistency for twenty-five to thirty days without reverting back to the old pattern.
DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is CEO of MentorPath,
an executive coaching practice serving coaches, entrepreneurs and
healing professionals. Dr. Krueger is author of 11 books on
success, money, work and self-development.