Inversion is a way of thinking, in which you consider the opposite of what you want.
The Stoics, a group of philosophers who lived centuries ago, had a way of reimaging their lives through a principle called inversion. They considered the opposite. To apply the technique, Instead of focusing on only success and great outcomes you invert or turn over, weighing the opposite to determine where your pitfalls, missteps, and obstacles lie.
The philosophers believed that by imagining the worst case scenario ahead of time, they could overcome their fears of negative experiences and make plans to prevent them.
Most of the time when I think about my future, I think about a remarkable encounter where my present-self meets my future-self in all her glory. The daydream is always me on a couch discussing big ideas with Larry King or Oprah. It ends the same way, “You’ve written a brilliant book here that has the potential to shift minds.” I nod graciously, button my Hugo Boss custom blazer, jump in a black SUV to my next interview.
I never get around to reversing that picture. My mom raised my sisters and me on the idea, “as a man thinketh, than so he is,” so I saw no reason to imagine a counter to my well-planned out future.
But the Stoics may be onto to something. What do I think about when I think about failure? How do I react? How do I perceive failure? How do I prevent failure from happening by thinking of it ahead of time? Now, I’ve experienced my fair share of disappointment, jobs that did not work out as planned, relationships that went bad, and my first and even second book were not exactly New York Times bestsellers. If I had imagined each of this situations at the beginning with a possible adverse outcome, I could have rebounded faster or responded differently.
Today, when I imagine my goals, I consider all sides and remember just because I can perceive my demise it does not mean I have to let it scare me from proceeding forward anyway.