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Do the opposite . . . of what doesn't work!

Updated on November 28, 2013

The Costanza model


Psychiatrists spend countless hours delving into reasons why so many of us repeat the same mistakes over and over again. And you know, it must be excruciating for them to listen to patients run the same mental patterns without the self-awareness to stop and change tracks, and begin to head in a more positive direction. Researching the issue, I came across an interesting article on this subject here. In a nutshell, it concludes many of us don't listen to our spouses because of a phenomenon called "reactance", which is a person's tendency to resist threats to their autonomy. Any guy I know could have told you that!

But what made me really reflect on the subject was one of the most memorable Seinfeld episodes, where George Costanza, the eternal loser, decides his own judgment has gotten him nowhere in life, so Jerry suggests that if every instinct he has is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. So, seeing a beautiful blonde looking his way, he approaches her and says, "My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents." She smiles seductively and replies, "I'm Victoria. Hi!"

Honestly, how much time do we spend analyzing and reanalyzing our decisions? We live in a world with a whole host of unknowns. We take many steps out into the world, figuratively, with our eyes closed, our hands reaching out into the darkness in front of us, asking ourselves, "what's that I feel?"

The Perils of Bad Judgment

How good is our judgment, honestly? There are times when intuition is dead on. We meet a person and there's something about their manner that gives us the creeps, so we say no to the lunch date. Against our better judgment, we accept a job offer from a company that we weren't completely comfortable with, and less than two weeks into it, realize it's clearly the wrong fit.

But what happens when, over a period of time, you continue to make bad judgments? You analyze the market conditions, and even though housing has been on an upward trend for some time, it seems the perfect time to invest in a house. You talk with friends, consult with experts in the real estate business, and buy a great house - that then dives $100K in value over the next 12 months. You now have no discretionary money, have negative equity, and as soon as the Home Warranty expires, your appliances start to break down. How did this happen?

You go on several dates with a woman; you each profess your love for one another, and you begin spending every moment together. You spend money on gifts and trips with her, only to have her abruptly leave you for someone else. What cue did you miss?

We all know hindsight is 20/20; but looking back on those decisions you'd made, what if, upon reflection, you feel you really did approach each thoughtfully, consulted with the right people, and relied on your best instincts in taking the actions you took - and you still crashed and burned? Were you simply the victim of chance? Do some people not have a fully-developed sense of intuition to guide them?

Changing the Channel

Possibly. So, if you feel you have the George Costanza affliction of bad judgment, I've come up with five suggestions for helping you make good decisions in the future:

  1. Know thyself. If you know how you think, and are aware of your shortcomings in making decisions, do something to interrupt your usual process. If you feel pressured to make a decision that doesn't honestly have to be made until tomorrow, tell the person pressuring you that you want to sleep on it, and stay firm. It's amazing what even one night's perspective can do to improve decision-making.
  2. Do your homework. Too many people make hasty decisions without really thinking through the consequences of their actions. Talk with experts, even if you think you know all you need to know - what's the harm? If they confirm what you already think, your accuracy has just improved 1oo%. If 2 out of 3 disagree with you, seriously think before you decide.
  3. Look at your past patterns. Is there a theme with your decision-making? Are you too emotionally invested in one decision or the other? Is your ego dictating your actions? If so, consult with an expert or trusted friend first.
  4. Shore up your mojo. Repeated failures can have an effect on our actions, even subconsciously. We become what we think about, so make sure you are spending time working on your self-confidence. Invest in some motivational audio CDs. Work out at the gym. Listen to inspiring music and speakers. Get yourself in a position where you reach your peak decision-making prowess, and see if your perspective shifts.
  5. When all else fails, change the channel. If what you're doing is clearly not working, for God's sake, do something different! This may seem blatantly obvious, but one of the most repeated canons of Alcoholics Anonymous is that insanity is doing the same things again and again, but expecting different results. Do something radical. If right isn't working, go left. Do the opposite of what clearly doesn't work!

Bottom line, there is no magic pill for helping you to making wise choices. Positive outcomes come honestly, with thought and preparation. Believe in your ability to make wise choices, follow these five strategies, and you'll be in a vastly improved position to turn your luck around!


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    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 5 years ago from California

      Thanks Sarah. Hard to avoid making Seinfeld references - so many life lessons! I appreciate your support.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Very well written! I also love the mention in Seinfeld here, haha! Voted up and sharing :)

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 6 years ago from California

      Thanks LisaMarie...

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 6 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      up and awesome :)

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 7 years ago from California

      Thanks Dr. Ope...

    • Dr.Ope profile image

      Olive Ellis 7 years ago

      Love your article. Very interesting. Will be following you.

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 8 years ago from California

      Christine - well that's intriguing . . . "anti role models", I like that! I just don't see the point of continuing to do the same things over and over again and expecting different results. The George Costanza example was just classic. I'm going to check out the DaVinci reference - thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      christine j sojka 8 years ago

      i've finally found some one smart enough to say"if what you're doing isn't the opposite."i knew about this gem a long time ago.this approach definetly creates the opposite reaction in's from a great idea leonardo da vinci had centuries ago:learn to think in theoretical opposites.also have "anti role models."

    • profile image

      Alain Prieto 9 years ago

      Thanks a lot for reading, Gerg. I haven't visited since the day I wrote. I'am working these days to rid of my doubts but I'm very concious it can't be done over night. I must have in mind the balance you advice. I really appreciate your comments. Best. Alain.

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 9 years ago from California

      Alain - I hear you, and I could have written the same things you wrote from my own experiences. It's all about balance, and finding what works, what feels right, and what most closely aligns with our intentions. Congratulations on that awareness - thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      Alain Prieto 9 years ago

      Hi Gerg and readers. Thank you, it's been of great help to read this. I've tried for years to restrain myself of doing things impulsively, because I was hurt in the past for that kind of conduct. Unfortunately, this behaviour has given me more troubles because I often do not act as I should, letting things to happen. I think that's enough for an experiment. I know from some time I have to be more direct and ask for things to happen the way they should happen. In these years I've tried very hard to be in line with my feelings and thoughts. Each time I achieve this I can see I was right; each time I don't, I feel terrible. As time went by, I've become insecure in several areas. I'm 37, and I think at 17 I was better. So I have some good points gained, but this struggle with my way to respond to certain moments is causing me some damage that I'd like to go over. All I need is to find balance: To defend rightness while not thinking of me as an impulsive guy . To make myself clear, without the fear to be direct. I already trying to change, what else can I do? I'm writing from México. Greetings! Alain.

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 9 years ago from California

      Hi Chetan - don't hurt yourself! ;-) Seriously, good luck - I hope everything works out.

    • profile image

      Chetan 9 years ago

      this was very interesting to read. I've thought about trying to do the opposite of what i would normally do every since i saw that episode of seinfeld. but now i think im actually going to try it, starting tomorrow :-)

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 9 years ago from California

      Thanks redpony - I do think we feel as if everything's supposed to make perfect sense on some grand cosmic scale, but sometimes it just doesn't. I finally just concluded it's all about getting to where we want to go with as much of our sanity intact as possible!

    • redpony profile image

      redpony 9 years ago from PA

      That's deep... Your hub started me thinking. I have very good intuition, but sometimes things don't work anyway. Maybe I should try the opposite. I think I will. Thanks.

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 10 years ago from California

      Thank you - I'm just getting started, but given enough encouragement, I'll keep it up! ;-)

    • Rhym O'Reison profile image

      Rhym O'Reison 10 years ago from Crowley, Tx

      I really enjoyed this. I'll look for your other stuff.


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