18 Caveats on How NOT to Change

What to Do to Stay Where You Don’t Want to Be

by David Krueger, MD

Change is not simple. Why do we repeat behavior that doesn’t work? Especially those actions that lead to stifling debt, disappointing careers, or stuck relationships. Then do it harder, yet expect a different result? Why is it not obvious that trying to exit an old story by simply writing a “better ending” only recreates the same story, and ensures that we remain in it? That a thousand better endings to an old story don’t create a new story? That the past cannot be changed and is a settled matter? That too often, we see ourselves as the victims of the stories that we author and the feelings we create?

18 Caveats on Avoiding Change:

  1. Focus on the system. Devote special attention to the things that seem frustrating, out of your control, and impossible to address: politics, corporations, and economics. Systems must remain in focus as broad categories in order to feel distanced and disaffected.
  2. Maintain a focus on theory. Avoid detail, singular aspects, and application. Remain theoretical about how to transform various systems, about what needs to be done, maintaining the frustration of what seems to continue out of your control.
  3. Believe that the answer will appear when you step out of the box, or when you simply oppose the system.
  4. Keep the point of reference external; keep believing that the antithesis of conformity is opposition; know that one or the other of these external points of reference of conformity or opposition holds the real truth.
  5. Do not decide. Allow the urgency of a situation to decide for you. The gravity of a last-minute emergency forces action and avoids planning. Waiting for the deadline excuses responsibility for thoroughness and excellence.
  6. Believe that the answer is more rules and further structure.
  7. Debate the obvious, and give energy to the controversial.
  8. Believe in experts unequivocally, and that expertise is authoritative. Dismiss any notion that expertise is perceived, processed, and filtered through assumptions, belief systems, and prejudices of experts.
  9. Do not seek your own information or develop your own solutions when you have experts to listen to. Rather, find someone to provide a map for you and avoid anyone who wants to help you develop your own guidance system to navigate.
  10. Always find some cause and effect relationship to explain things otherwise not understandable. Maintain a consistent external focus to blame someone, or find some tangible explanation that offers a specific, concrete focus on what is wrong. Warning: much work is required to maintain this caveat, as you must be certain that the obstacle can never be totally removed, or its causal effect would have to be confronted as inaccurate. The perceived cause must always be just beyond reach and remedy in order to remain as blame, and to maintain its obstacle role.
  11. Keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. If the outcome doesn’t change for the better, do the same thing harder.
  12. Be suspicious of new ideas.
  13. New ideas, being perturbators of the existing system, must be curbed if not silenced.
  14. Meticulously guard against mistakes; the best way to be sure to avoid mistakes is to keep doing the same thing again and again with perfection as the goal.
  15. Maintain a focus on failure, giving it the proper respect of fear so that it remains ever in focus with its guiding principle of avoidance.
  16. Be extremely wary of new strategies and solutions, and invest instead in enforcement of the existing approach.
  17. When you make mistakes, focus on the mistakes and attempt to get them right.
  18. Continue to hold prejudices because they are markers of emotional landmines.


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Author Geneen Roth lost everything to Bernie Madoff. Read her comments about The Secret Language of Money.