TEAM BUILDING

The Counterintuitive Trick for Making Big Changes in Your Life

Can't seem to shift your life the way you'd hoped? Stop beating your head against the wall and try this instead.
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When it comes to changing our lives for the better, the problem most of us face isn't good intentions. Many, many folks know pretty much what they need to accomplish to improve themselves, be that changing their diet or exercise routine (or lack thereof), their employment situation or their time-wasting Facebook addiction. But there is often a chasm between wanting to make a change and actually executing on that intention.

Maybe I just need more willpower, you think.

Maybe I need a kickbutt coach or some sort of crazily effective system or tool.

But according to a great short blog post by author Gretchen Rubin, the answer may actually be simpler than that. Maybe you just need to flip your efforts on their head.

Turn it around.

What does that mean? The tip is the latest addition to Rubin's series of advice posts dubbed "Secrets of Adulthood." This most recent piece of advice she got froman engineer friend, who suggested:"If something doesn't work one way, turn it around."

A sort of stripped down version of the oft repeated old saw that "the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," Rubin's borrowed axiom reminds us that brute repetition usually isn't an effective way to change anything. If you're trying X to make a change and it's not working, for heaven's sake, stop doing X! Instead, how about trying its opposite?

So if your attempts to wake up earlier to be more productive are simply resulting in an over reliance on the snooze button and caffeine, why not trying putting in a couple of hours of work late at night after the kids have gone to bed?

If you've been unsuccessful in hectoring yourself to get to the gym, why not try bribing yourself instead?

Is starting small not getting you any closer to your big goals? Then how about starting big--make a huge splashy first step to get your motivation going.

There is no right way.

The point is, instead of simply wishing for an approach that is clearly not working to suddenly become effective, try approaching the problem from the opposite angle. If something isn't working for you, the problem probably isn't you or your lack of willpower; it's that your tactics aren't matching up with your preference, quirks, or lifestyle. Change you approach. There is no single right way.

"There's no magic formula--not for ourselves, and not for the people around us. We won't make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people's habits, even the habits of geniuses; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best. So if something doesn't work one way, turn it around," Rubin concludes with simple good sense.

Have you ever beaten your head against the wall trying to make the same change in the same way over and over again?

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jul 29, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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