In Part 1 of our series on inversion thinking, we learned how positive thinking alone isn’t suffiecient for us to meet the many challenges we may face in life.
Here in Part 2 of our series, I would like to share a couple great examples of how inversion thinking has/can be applied to help solve complex problems. In this post, I will also share how I’ve used inversion thinking in my personal life.
Example 1: Charlie Munger’s How Not To Live A Miserable Life
Charlie Munger, when he would teach people on how to be wealthy, rather than title his presentation something like, “The 5 Disciplines of a Wealthy Person” he titled his talk, “5 Garauntees To Live A Miserable Life.”
He inverted the positive characteristics or disciplines a person needed to exhibit to be successful with the negative behaviors that needed to be avoided.
Why is this important?
Think about it… it’s possible for us to start modeling the right behaviors that will allow us to acheive what we want to without ever considering the things that we need to avoid in order to produce the outcome we want to.
It’s easy to make mistakes when you don’t know they’re mistakes. Imagine how much pain could have been avoided if we knew what we know now 10 years ago. Most of the pain we’ve experienced could be avoided because we would’ve been able to supplement the knowledge of what we needed to do with knowledge about what we needed to avoid too.
Example 2: James Clears Driving Our Brain In Reverse
As James Clear points out in his article on the subject, the ancient stoic philosophers practiced inversion thinking by imagining everything that could go wrong and by doing so, expose themselves to the fears and pitfalls associated with accomplishing a certain task.
They called this inversion process, premeditatio malorum; which, when translated means, “premeditation of evils.”
“Great thinkers, icons, and innovators think forward and backward. They consider the opposite side of things. Occasionally, they drive their brain in reverse. This way of thinking can reveal compelling opportunities for innovation.”-James Clear
Inversion thinking is a powerful technique, because it is more in line with the way most of our brains function. Our brains are designed to find problems. Generating solutions, in many ways, is an afterthought. So, inversion thinking is a great way to utilize our brains innate proclivity to find problems and reverse engineer solutions.
For example, instead of thinking of all the ways you can be successful, focus on all the ways that you can fail. By focusing on the things that you fear can happen, and don’t want to happen, you are practicing a form of exposure therapy that exposes you to those scenarios in a healthy/controlled environment. It’s counter-intuitive, but this technique helps you smooth the rough edges of all the fears that would normally derail you.
By premediating the “evils” we would like to avoid, not only do we diminish fears sting, but we also aren’t caught off gaurd if we ever have to face them.
Personal Application: PTSD & Bipolar Disorder
In attempting to cope with PTSD, I used to walk on egg shells – being careful to avoid any and every thing that may be a trigger for me. By doing that, my quality of life continued to get worse. I slowly isolated myself more and more until there were very few places I could go and enjoy.
When I learned to apply inversion thinking, instead of practicing blind avoidance, I began premeditating all the things that could trigger me. In doing so, it helped expose me to the things I might face and envision ways that I might mitigate those potential risks.
The exercise alone, helped soften the blow of triggers when I did face them. To the point that I was no longer surprised by them and, with time and gradual exposure, was able to tolerate what used to cripple me.
Likewise, when I applied inversion thinking/exposure therapy to the mood swings I experience being bipolar, rather than be surprised or devastated by a season of mania or depression, I was prepared for it, because I had rehearsed ahead of time.
Subscribe and stay tuned for Part 3. In the meantime, let us know in the comments below how you’ve used inversion thinking personally, or creative ways that you plan on using it.
I look forward to hearing from you! If you have any questions or would like to make content recommendations, or offer some constructive criticism, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Little Bit About Me…
Hi, my name is Daniel Fortune. I’m a husband to 1, dad to 5, U.S. Army combat veteran, mental health advocate, writer, and public speaker currently residing in the central valley of the sunny state of California. I started the Minding My Own Madness Blog as with a vision to become one of the best personal development and mental health resource blogs. As someone who has battled with combat related PTSD and Bipolar 1 Disorder for 2 decades now, I intimately know the unique struggles people living with a mental illness face. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you find yourself in crisis or would just like to say hi. I’m always just a message away.
“You can’t fail if you refuse to quit. Keep fighting the good fight and NEVER lose hope. You’re not alone. There are other people feeling the same way you feel right now. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom.”
I had the honor of serving with Fortune overseas. He is a solid guy and our relationship has lasted long after us both leaving the Army. He has helped me get out of dark places multiple times. I’m extremely grateful for his friendship and ability to sense when others are in need. Read his content, ask him questions, and journey well!
— Eric (Friend/Army veteran)
So glad I found this blog! It helped me find the mental health resources I needed and get out of a rough patch. Doesn’t hurt to shoot Daniel a message. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to respond to me. You won’t regret it. He’s a really cool, down to earth, and knowledgable guy who knows what it’s like to struggle. So grateful for this blog!
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