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The George Costanza Lifehack for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

The George Costanza Lifehack for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

George Costanza

    Despite what you may think, there are lifehacks to be learned from the television show Seinfeld. Take for example the episode “The Opposite”- George Costanza decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George decides to do the opposite of everything he has done before, and great things begin to happen to him:

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    What George inadvertently discovers is Victor Frankl’s lifehack for overcoming fear and anxiety, called paradoxical intention.

    How to use Paradoxical Intention

    If you want to overcome fear and anxiety (including obsessive-compulsiveness and phobias), do the opposite of what you ordinarily do- deliberately wish for that which you fear, in order to remove it. According to patient statistics, paradoxical intention is successful in 80-90% of cases.

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    As fitting with a Seinfeld episode, humor is the key to using paradoxical intention. “The neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the way to self-management, perhaps to cure”, says Godon W. Allport in his book The Individual and His Religion. Unable to maintain your diet due to fear of food binging? Eat as much as you can next week. Unable to fall asleep due to fear of sleeplessness? Try to stay awake as long as possible. The pure absurdity and humor of such suggestions are what allows one to put himself at a distance from his own fear and anxiety.

    How Paradoxical Intention Works

    Frankl says, “as soon as the patient stops fighting his obsessions and instead tries to ridicule them by dealing with them in an ironic way- by applying paradoxical intention- the vicious circle is cut, the symptom diminishes and finally atrophies.” Paradoxical intention seems to reverse the patient’s attitude, taking the wind out of the sails of anxiety.

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    Sweating Out Your Fears

    An example was given in Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. A young physician who had a fear of perspiring. His anticipatory anxiety of perspiration actually caused him to excessively sweat around certain individuals. Frankl advised the patient to use paradoxical intention, by deliberately showing people how much he could sweat. When the patient tried this, he was able to permanently free himself of a 4-year-old phobia, within one week.

    Paradoxical Intention is Not a Panacea

    If you are fighting anticipatory anxiety, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, or phobias, my suggestion is to give paradoxical intention a try. But if you are having suicidal thoughts, or have a mental disorder such as schizophrenia, paradoxical intention is not a good solution. I’m not an expert on paradoxical intention, and I don’t want to mislead anyone with this post- please do your own research, and talk to a medical professional if your condition is serious.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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