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Design a Pattern-Breaking Path

Posted February 11, 2020 • Change,Conflict Mastery,Mindfulness • by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.


Before I dive into this week’s post, I have a few exciting announcements:

I am thrilled to let you know that Optimal Outcomes was recently selected as a Book of the Month by The Financial Times (the book will launch on Feb 25).

It was also featured as one of Success Magazine’s Six Books to Help You Live Your Best Life alongside the new book of one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Dave Hollis (husband of media guru Rachel Hollis).

If you’ll be in NYC on February 27th, join me at the Strand Bookstore at 7:30 pm where I’ll be introducing the Optimal Outcomes practices and celebrating the launch of the book. Grab your seat here.

Preorder the book before it launches on Feb 25 (from Amazon, the Strand, or any retailer, in any format, worldwide), and follow the instructions at to receive free gifts!

Now back to this week’s post!

All the practices in the Optimal Outcomes Method are interconnected. But creating a pattern-breaking path to free yourself from the conflict loop is central to the whole enterprise.

At the end of the day, the way to break free from a recurring conflict is simple: Do something surprisingly different than you’ve done before. It almost doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something constructive that breaks that pattern you’ve been stuck in.

To identify a conflict pattern, all you have to do is notice your conflict habit and one other person’s or group’s conflict habit; the interaction between the two habits forms a conflict pattern. (You can learn more about the four conflict habits and take a free quiz to find out your conflict habit here.)

Just thinking about how to break the conflict pattern opens up a whole host of new ways to deal with a situation beyond the rational ideas you’ve considered before. What can you do to break the pattern in whatever situation you find yourself in?

Here are four steps to help you design your own Pattern-Breaking Path:

Step 1: Start with yourself. So often when we’re stuck in conflict, we’re focused on the other people involved, what went wrong, and blaming or trying to change other people. But we have much more power when we begin by looking within ourselves instead. What practices can you use to ground yourself in tough moments? Can you take a pause and just breathe? How about taking a moment to notice your emotions, without needing to immediately change them or make them go away? Paradoxically, allowing ourselves to be with things as they are is the first step toward taking pattern-breaking action.

Step 2: Connect with one person. This does not necessarily need to be the main person you’ve been in conflict with. It might be someone with whom you already have a trusting relationship or someone you suspect could help break the conflict pattern. How might they be helpful in the situation? What is one small step you can take to reach out to them? Could you ask them out for coffee, or for a short phone call?

Step 3: Only then, involve a small group. In complex situations, we often instinctively want to move directly toward what we see as the source of the problem. Instead, I suggest starting inside yourself in Step 1, talking with one other person in Step 2, and then moving to include other people in Step 3. Also, be thoughtful about who to involve. The right people are not necessarily the ones who are at the center of the problem. If your situation has multiple people or groups involved, who can you imagine being the most helpful? What might you ask or tell them? How could they help?

Steps 4 and beyond: Eventually, you may need to bring together a larger group of people involved in the situation, including people who may not be seeing things eye to eye. You may want to ask someone to facilitate a series of conversations for you, so you can stay focused while getting help with the process.

Whether you use these steps, or you make up your own, the main point is to be thoughtful about the process you use to break free from a stuck pattern. And recognize that the process is full of paradoxes: Be patient, but start now. Keep your actions simple, and surprisingly different from what you’ve done before. When you take small steps in the right direction, the momentum builds on itself. Before you know it, you’ll be free.

To learn more:

  1. If you’ll be in the NYC area on February 27th, join us at the Strand Bookstore at 7:30 pm where I’ll be introducing these practices in celebration of the launch of the book, Optimal Outcomes. Tickets are available here.
  2. Preorder the book before it launches on Feb 25 (from Amazon, the Strand, or any retailer, in any format, worldwide), and follow the instructions at to receive free gifts!

In freedom,


Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D. is the Founder and CEO of Alignment Strategies Group, the New York-based consulting firm that counsels CEOs and executive teams on how to optimize organizational health and growth. Her book, Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life, will be published by HarperBusiness on February 25, 2020.

You can download the Introduction chapter of Optimal Outcomes and an overview of all 8 practices for free at 

View Jen’s recent TEDx Talk: Free Yourself When Conflict Resolution Fails.

Follow her on LinkedIn, on Twitter @JGoldmanWetzler, and on Facebook,  

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