The Contrary Path

This practice comes from an essay Greene wrote on battling what he calls “the frozen idea” – the tendency to develop ideas that turn into opinions. These opinions often “freeze” into convictions, losing touch with reality, but still something we hold strongly onto.

“The Contrary Path” practice involves thinking and doing the opposite things that you normally think or do. The idea is to keep your mind fluid and able to consider different points of view.

The key to following the contrary path is to choose a set time (an hour, a day, a week, etc.) where you’ll practice the experiment. After you have done the practice, the idea is to reflect on your experience, writing down any new thoughts, perspectives, or ideas you may have encountered.

Some things you can choose to be contrary about:

  1. Political, religious, or philosophical views. If you are a staunch liberal, try visiting some conservative websites or read some conservative books for a day. If you’re a Christian, try reading up on Islam or Hinduism.
  2. Activities. If you tend to stay in and read a book in your spare time, try doing outdoor activities, or vice versa.
  3. Entertainment. If you tend to watch comedies, try watching a drama. If you tend to read fantasy fiction, try reading non-fiction books.
  4. People you spend time with. If you tend to hang out with a certain group of people, try making friends with someone who is not part of your group.

The idea here is not to change your values, tastes, or viewpoints, but to open your mind up to different possibilities of thinking.

Click here if you want a template for recording your insights with this practice.