Contrary Action

View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

Almost twenty-five years ago, while sitting in an Alanon meeting in Southern California, I remember hearing a speaker talk about taking contrary action. The specifics of the story are long gone to me now but this person talked about needing to radically shift things up by doing a behavior that was contrary to what he typically would do. Contrary action… taking action from an opposite perspective or taking opposite action from your current perspective. I’m not talking about doing the opposite simply for the sake of being contrary; rather, consider taking an action that might be contrary to your current state of being.

I am sure taking contrary action is not as easy as it may seem, but it certainly sounds easy.

A common theme I hear from coaching clients is being stuck or disempowered to act or immobilized in some feeling that inhibits action. And I wonder, what might be possible to decide to take an opposite, or contrary approach, to what you currently feel or believe? I wonder… if you feel too shy to raise funds for your organization, act outgoing and go raise funds for your organization. If you cannot bear the idea of terminating an unproductive volunteer for fear of hurting their feelings, kindly (and unapologetically) ask them to leave and trust your skills to soothe hurt feelings. If you regularly attend board meetings that bore and frustrate you then dare to attend and make them productive and useful.

There sure is something powerful, almost seductive or familiar, about staying in the stuck place. We know it well and when we make choice or take action from this place there is no possibility of change. Forget about contrary action. We choose to stay in inaction.

Think about it: If you want something you don’t have, you may have to do something you haven’t done or you may have to be something you haven’t been before. It may be an act of contrary action to take contrary action.

Now go try it!


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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