Do The Opposite

Do The Opposite – Photo Seinfeld and George who suggests doing the opposite

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the power to break bad habits, transform your beliefs and change your life – simply by doing the opposite.

First a quick update:

“Relationships – Beware of emotional vampires”
Chances are you know someone who sucks the life right out of you. What can you do about these emotional vampires? Read my insights and quotes on MSN/

You can also read my detailed article with additional strategies about how to deal with emotional vampires.

Now, let’s talk about doing the opposite and how that can change your life.

In a famous episode of the NBC sitcom, Seinfeld, George (Jason Alexander) has just returned from the beach and enters Monks Café to share with Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) his epiphany.

George: It’s not working, Jerry. It’s just not working.
Jerry: What is it that isn’t working?
George: Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.
(A waitress comes up to George)

Waitress: Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee.
George: Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted. with a side of potato salad, and a cup of tea.
Elaine: Well, there’s no telling what can happen from this.
Jerry: You know chicken salad is not the opposite of tuna, salmon is the opposite of tuna, ‘cos salmon swim against the current, and the tuna swim with it.
George: Good for the tuna.
(A blonde woman looks at George)
Elaine: Ah, George, you know, that woman just looked at you.
George: So what? What am I supposed to do?
Elaine: Go talk to her.
George: Elaine, bald men, with no jobs, and no money, who live with their parents, don’t approach strange women.
Jerry: Well here’s your chance to try the opposite. Instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to them.
George: Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should.
Jerry: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
George: Yes. I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!
(George goes over to the woman)
George: Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice that you were looking in my direction.
Victoria: Oh, yes I was, you just ordered the same exact lunch as me.
(George takes a deep breath)

George: My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.
Victoria: I’m Victoria. Hi.

From here, George’s life completely changes for the better as he continues to do the opposite in every area of his life: He dates Victoria but he stops shaving, speaks up for himself & yells at noisy cinema patrons, refuses to come up to Victoria’s apartment; gets an interview at the New York Yankees where again he does the opposite of his instincts and he is openly honest to George Steinbrenner about his management practices; (the result is he gets the job of Assistant to the Traveling Secretary.) George also moves out of his parents’ house, and remembering to do the opposite, he also tells them how much he loves them.

Of course, what works in a sitcom does not always work in real life – but the principle that this episode teaches is quite simple and effective: when things are not going the way we want, when what we are doing is not working, sometimes the opposite is the solution.

Many of us easily get drawn into the quicksand of our comfort zone and the binding chains of our habits; we continue doing the same thing over and over again but remain frustrated about our lack of results.

If you keep doing what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten. To change your results, you must change your behavior. Also, we do not break bad habits, we replace them. Accordingly, when you want to end a habit, begin by replacing it with something new. And the best way to do that is to do the opposite. (Read my article “Breaking bad habits”).

Our comfort zone is formed by the repetitive behavior, on an almost daily or regular basis, until it becomes more than a habit – it becomes either an ingrained action or a subconscious program. Recall the daily repetition of tying your shoelaces as a child; it led to the learned behavior of tying shoe laces where you now tie them without conscious thought. With simple tasks, unconscious thoughts can be quite useful and helpful. But when we begin to do everything the same way, every day, we begin to become trapped.

This applies to our everyday life – we drive the same route, lie on the same side of the bed, eat the same food every day, and frequent the same favorite places, hang out with exactly the same friends at the same time and at the same place, doing the same things. These habits become our comfort zone and we easily turn down opportunities and invitations to try or engage in new things and activities. As a result, we often feel bored with life (our life), we feel old, listless, fatigued and conclude that life has lost its excitement for us. Worse, these repetitive behaviors prevent us from realizing our full potential, from growing and evolving and from fully enjoying all that life has to offer.

Recently, I began teaching classes for patients at Milestone’s Ranch Malibu Treatment Center. My classes aim to transform patient’s beliefs. Denise Klein (CEO of Milestones) and her staff teach and promote as a key principle “Contrary Action”: doing the opposite of what you would normally do – responding against what you might feel like in the moment, contrary to your ingrained habit; saying yes when you would normally say no.

Another way to view this principle is “act in spite of what you feel” or “stretch your comfort zone.”

My classes and programs are always highly interactive – even the training programs and workshops I present to companies are highly interactive and everyone gets involved. During one of the classes at Milestones, one of the participants was about to say ‘no’ to an interactive exercise and right at that moment, she stopped herself and said aloud, “contrary action’ and she proceeded to do the activity. Lo and behold, at the end of it, not only was she glad that she became involved but she said that she truly benefitted from an activity that previously she would have turned down.

You can also use this principle to change your consciousness and beliefs about yourself. For example, if you were raised with criticism, then it is easy and an almost subconscious reaction to criticize others. However, you can learn to accept praise and end criticism by doing the opposite of what you were taught and look to hand out sincere praise to others.

What can you change in your life by doing the opposite right now?

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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