The Modern Contrarian’s Guide to Change

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One of the founding principles of Body Moment, and one quality that all Wellness Rebels share, is that we are non-conformists. We’re not content with the standard answers that are given to us; we have a driving need to search out our own answers. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t receive some odd comments from time to time with the unconventional path that I follow in my wellness journey.

So it was with some excitement that I read a recent guest post by Jay Cross —  “The Psychology of Putting Effectiveness Before Ego“. Jay Cross is a proponent of forging your own educational path through life (à la the Do It Yourself Degree) and a champion of informal learning. Here’s an excerpt from that article:


Even when we’re sure we’re right, the moment of truth comes, and we fold—often because we fear criticism. Social psychology experiments have shown that we will change a test answer we know is correct…simply because the people sitting next to us changed their answers.

We are instinctively afraid of going against the grain…and the greater the stakes, the greater the fear.

That resonates deeply with me, for many reasons. It takes a great deal of courage for me to publish my ideas, especially when they are quite a bit different from the usual mass of ideas out there. This is especially true of the 5K in 8 Weeks plan that I published a while back. Most “couch-to-5K” programs out there focus a lot on the mechanics and the interval approach to running. However, I took a very different approach in my plan. I focused heavily on the self-awareness aspect of the plan; unless you know why you’re running — and more importantly, why you’re not running — you’ll see it as a chore; a task to cross off your list. I wanted people to embrace running as a passionate event; a chance to look deeply into your soul and figure out what’s stopping you from moving past those psychological limits that you’ve lived with all your life. Frankly, I could have substituted pretty much any activity for running — job hunting, lovemaking, or rock climbing — and the program would still have been much the same.

However, I’m not a fan of articles that talk loftily about problems without offering solutions. Jay Cross doesn’t disappoint; he provides a three-part framework to managing the criticism you’re likely to receive when you first start promoting a new idea that flies in the face of current wisdom and common sense.  He calls it “The Contrarian’s Cycle of Criticism, Acceptance, and Awe”. Basically, it forms a model to manage the response of critics and doubters to your ideas. In a nutshell, it looks like this:

1. Criticism: understand that you WILL be criticized for what you are doing; people have a heavy emotional investment in the status quo and will go to great lengths to defend it.

2. Acceptance: understand that people will eventually be forced to accept that you will still go ahead with your “crazy” plans in spite of their criticism. They may not like it, but they will accept it.

3. Awe: understand that once your project reaches maturity and you start seeing gains from your efforts, some, if not many, of those doubters will start to embrace your theories and concepts.

It sounds a little offensive, doesn’t it? “I’m right, and you’ll eventually see things my way.” But I can count many times in my life when people around me thought I was doing something nutty. And to be fair, when I didn’t truly believe in what I was doing, I eventually had to admit that they were right — I was doing something nutty which would never work. But those times when my conviction was strong, and I’d done the research to support my ideas — those were the times when I formed some powerful bonds with people when we collectively came to the conclusion that sometimes nutty works.

What sort of nutty ideas do you have, that you feel strongly about?

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