Welcome to Opposite Week!

Welcome to Opposite Week!

Opposite Week SUMMARY: I decide that a week of testing my assumptions wouldn’t be such a bad idea! [colleen]:http://www.communicatrix.com/

I’ve been chatting with Colleen Wainwright over at [Communicatrix: A Virgo’s Guide to the Universe][colleen], and from amidst the conversation arose the idea of Opposite Week. It’s like Opposite Day, except it lasts a week and the idea is that it knocks you off your routine in a mindful way. I happen to believe that questioning the way one lives and works is pretty useful (helpful caveat: be careful about doing this at your workplace) and I’ve been feeling that I need to do this for some time.

To implement Opposite Week yourself, you need to run yourself through a mental checklist every time you become aware of the need to make a choice or find yourself in a familiar place. The checklist might look something like this:

  • Am I doing this because I’m comfortable doing it this way? Find an alternate way.
  • Am I choosing to not do something because I suspect it might suck, but lack direct experience of imagined suckage? Find out for real.
  • Am I holding back from saying/doing something because of what someone else might think? You have a built-in excuse now…proclaim that your friend Dave Seah has proclaimed the week of December 28, 2009 to be Opposite Week, and then go and do/say what was on your mind, and enjoy the toasty flames as you spiral headfirst into the ground. Or…maybe you soar into space on a tower of fire!

The point is that our choices tend to self-select our experiences and promote the status quo. It makes sense…if you like the way something is, you tend to repeat the choices that ensure that this pleasant state renews itself. If you don’t like something, you naturally tend to avoid the choices that lead to it. Sometimes, though, we rule out things that we think we might not like, or might be too much work. I think it’s a good idea to revisit the idea every once in a while that negative experiences shape us as well as the positive ones, and if we have a good attitude about it, we might learn something important about ourselves and what we’re doing. It would be stressful to do this every day for me–the idea of eating octopus or eating a clam, for example, is the sort of thing that takes me years to build up to–but once I tried it I found it wasn’t that bad. Wouldn’t do it again, but it was interesting.

To make it easier to keep track I’ve made a new printable form, based on the old Concrete Goals Tracker, called the OPPOSITE WEEK TRACKER. It’s with three levels of challenge, from the very simple to public action. Every time you do something that seems to fit one of the criteria on the Challenge List, fill in a bubble for the day of the week and make a note at the bottom as to what it was you did so you remember. By the end of the week, you’ll get a sense of how things went, and you’ll be able to establish a baseline of “new things” you do mindfully.

» Download Opposite Week Tracker (PDF, 104KB)

If you’d like to play along, download the form, print it out, and keep it by your side for the next week. Enjoy!


  1. Avrum Nadigel 13 years ago

    This is so, so good. Wouldn’t this make a great iPhone app? Hell, wouldn’t ALL of your stuff make great apps?

  2. Avrum Nadigel 13 years ago

    One more comment…

    All self-assessment/motivation ideas begin with an assumption that people are pretty good at self-governance. My experience would suggest otherwise – particularly for folks on the lower scales of emotional maturity/differentiation (for more on differentiation see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Bowen#Differentiation_of_Self

    Still, if the exercise promotes mindfulness, I’m all for it. I may even use this form with some of my clients.

  3. LXA 13 years ago

    Hello David!

    There are two problems with your site’s RSS feed. First, with Google Reader your post about Compact Calendar 2010 keeps appearing again and again everyday.

    The second problem is caused by Feedburner, but i don’t know if it is Google Reader specific. When I click the link to your post it opens something like this:
    And it caused “Invalid GET Data” error. The problem is with Feedburner that applies “?/utm_source=feedburner…” to url for statistics reasons.

    Both problems are a little annoying, I’ll be glad if you can fix them.

    Sorry my English and happy upcoming New Year! :)

  4. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Avrum: Thanks for the link to differentiation of self, that’s an interesting view. My armchair theory on self-assessment/motivation is that if you can get someone to start rolling, you might be able to kick-start some of that sense of confidence that can lead to self-governance…the “try it…you’ll like it” approach, I suppose.

    LXA: It took me a while to figure out that you must be using one of the special feeds, not the whole-site feed…is this the case? I fixed the problem in the main site feed some time ago, but apparently it is still in the subfeeds (productivity and design only feeds). I’ll apply the patch and see if it clears that up.

    As for the Compact Calendar post reappearing over and over again, I’m told that is a Google Reader “feature” that remarks a post if it changes. The Compact Calendar is constantly updated with new translations, which is why you’re seeing it pop up a lot.

  5. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Today’s Points:

    Drove around looking for a house with a lot of christmas tree lights, rumored to be in the Hudson area. +2 points!

    Bought a regular extension cord at home depot instead of buying a fancy travel version. +2 points!

    Saw a cute girl at the Home Depot checkout line, and instead of looking away I smiled and gave her the nod. +5 points, +10 points (not as bad as I thought)

    Talked to the roommate of a friend, +5 points.

    Looked at the form 4 times today, +1 +1 +1 +1

  6. Avrum Nadigel 13 years ago

    That’s awesome David. I enjoyed the update.

  7. Teresa 13 years ago

    Thanks, David. This is such an interesting concept! I’ll definitely try it one of these weeks, as soon as I scrounge up the courage to do it completely – and honestly. :-D It must be really disconcerting though, to go against your norm and take the opposite way. I agree though, that we’ll definitely find out more about ourselves when we take ourselves out of our element and gauge our reactions. This approach sounds like a fun way to start 2010 and lead us in creating our goals for this year.

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