The Opposite Game

I like to be a doer, not a complainer. If there’s something I’m dissatisfied with, I do my best to work towards change or, if change is impossible, to reach satisfaction internally instead.

But getting to that point took a lot of work, and sometimes complaints just spill out. The start of all major change is current discomfort, and often we express that discomfort via complaints, venting before we work up the steam to change.

With a good process those complaints can become actionable direction!

This is a process I use with clients that do a lot of complaining but not a lot of moving, and don’t seem to know what they want to be moving towards. Moving away from pain is okay, but moving towards happiness is better – even if it’s harder.

I call this process “The Opposite Game.” It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Step One: Accept all of your complaints, at least initially, as valid. Write them down in a bulleted list. “My boss always yells at me and treats me like garbage.” “I’m totally overloaded at work.” Et cetera.

Step Two: On the other side of the page, write down the exact opposite statement. “My boss always compliments me and treats me with respect.” “I have a stress-free workload at my job.” And so on.

Now, look at the other column. If your life looked like that, would you feel more satisfaction? Happiness? Great! That’s our road map. Some of those things may require change. Some of them may require you to find something new – for instance, you might not be able to make your boss act differently, but now you know what to look for in a new boss.

When we’re deep in the fog of frustration it can be difficult to even envision a happier life. Nearly impossible to itemize it into things to pursue. But you can get a great starting point just by taking the opposite of your complaints. From there, you may revise your goals over time – maybe what you really need is not to have a boss at all, for instance. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and this is a really great process for turning your complaints into helpful advice for yourself.

It also does one extra thing that’s valuable: it reminds you that there is a better world. That your complaints aren’t permanent. That there exists a version of you that doesn’t have those complaints, and that version is within your capacity to become.

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