Finding Greater Joy In 2024 By Doing The Opposite

Personal growth and change can happen in all sorts of ways; and, while we usually think of doing more (e.g., exercise) or less (e.g., eating fewer calories or drinking less) as the most optimal ways to achieve our goals, perhaps simply shifting our mindset and doing things differently is a good approach to take for 2024.

In the 1990’s television sitcom, Seinfeld, the episode, “The Opposite,” did a fantastic job of capturing the value and importance of getting out of one’s way for meaningful change to occur.  In the episode, George Costanza, a main character in the show, declares to his friend, Jerry Seinfeld, that every decision he’s made in life has led to unsuccessful outcomes or unhappiness.  After listening to George Jerry asserts, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”  Up until this point in the series, George is unemployed, single, and lives at home with his parents with no real direction in life beyond hanging out.

George acknowledges Jerry’s point, and in turn, decides to experiment with doing the opposite of what he would normally do.  And as the episode unfolds, George experiences a series of wins with his new approach and philosophy – he orders the opposite of his normal lunch and asks a beautiful woman out who’s ordered the same meal and she accepts, he stops shaving, he yells and corrects loud people in a movie theater, he gets an interview with the New York Yankees through his new girlfriend and gets a job with the Yankees even after criticizing George Steinbrenner’s management style, and he finally moves out of his parents house.  By doing the opposite, George goes from being a dishonest, insecure, anxious and annoying character to being a direct, confident and happy winner.  In the end, he realizes that because of his character and choices, he caused of most of his problems and the bad things that happened to him.  He just needed to get out of his own way to do better.  The episode, in addition to being funny, is really a metaphor for change.

Psychologists have long studied the ways in which environment and choices can influence behavior and mood for humans, and recent research findings on experiential diversity – the concept that experiencing different and new places or doing things differently can improve mood and wellbeing – are intriguing and show promise.  For example, a recent study using geo-tracking found that participants who increased their exposure to a wider range of places and people experienced an increase in positive mood compared to participants who did not stretch themselves in this way.  Moreover, the participants who experienced an increased positive mood and grater wellbeing were also motivated to continue to seek out more activities and locations.  In other words, if you push yourself to get out of your old ways of doing things, you will feel better, which in turn will increase your desire to want to do more in life.

So, again, instead of focusing on doing more or less this year, and instead of setting hard and set goals, maybe channeling George Costanza is the way to go for personal growth and change in 2024.  I recommend writing out a list of the things that don’t work for you in your life or that cause you (or your loved ones) upset, and then think about what you could do instead.  Opening yourself up to taking a different way home from work (even if it takes longer), trying new foods, exposing yourself to different environments and people, changing up your exercise routine (e.g., if you always lift weights, try swimming more instead), drinking less alcohol and doing something else to ease stress and to feel good (e.g., going for a walk or taking up a hobby), are a few things to think about to get started.  Here’s to a great 2024!

“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself…”

 ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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Dos and Donts
Dos and Donts

Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. “Dr. Mike” is a clinical psychologist in private practice.
He can be reached at 703-723-2999, and is located at 44095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn