Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Inspired to Play "Opposite Day"

If you've ever been a kid, or been around one, you know they love to trip you up by playing "opposite day." It's really fun for about 30 seconds or so, but usually the kid wants to keep at it, until you are so confused as the game gets into the opposite of the opposite of the opposite.

You might have detected I'm not a natural fan ofplaying "opposite day." But some recent challenges that cropped up inspired me to play it with myself for a few days. For a few days I'm trying to go against my normal reaction to everything, and do just the opposite.


The answer is simple. Remember that definition of insanity being the result of acting the same way and doing the same thing day after day and expecting a different result? Well, you've heard that, and agreed with it, but did you really ever think how to break out of that, or any pattern of yours that you don't really see?


My coach tells about an episode of "Seinfeld" in which George Costanza, pretty much a loser character, decided to play opposite his normal behavior. The result is that Costanza gets an awesome job, a lovely lady friend, and all kinds of unusual respect. But then he gets uncomfortable with it and goes back to normality. And yes, I do realize we're talking about fictional television series. (You can watch the clip here.)

So, how do you play "opposite day" with yourself? The key word is play and keep it simple.

Here's how I played it last week at work. It was the week of informative speeches, typically super hectic because each student's speech needs to be recorded, timed, and evaluated. My normal approach is to keep everyone on a strict time schedule so we don't "waste" time. I'm usually rushed and stressed out.

Last week I decided to take a much more intentionally relaxed approach. It turned out to be useful on the first day in one classroom where the audio-visual equipment was not working properly and I had to call in outside help. We ended up starting the talks at least 20 minutes late. And you know what, the world didn't end. I bet you didn't even hear about it on the evening news. We didn't get through all the presentations I had scheduled for that week, but I figured out a way to make up for the lost time.

Just as your mind plays tricks on you, you can actually grow by playing tricks on yourself without the help of a psychotherapist. It's also a trick I use with coaching clients: they have to pretend to be relaxed about speaking in public. It works every time.