Dr. Henry Cloud on Why You Need to Wake Up and 'Repent' of These 10 Patterns Causing You Pain and Holding You Back

If people are going to succeed, they've really got to open up to what I call open-system change, instead of closed system, where they open themselves up to energy sources from the outside — support and (guidance) and strength and spiritual growth and all of that, as well as new information from the outside. If you do that, then you can be helped. But to think that you're gonna come up with all of that yourself is very grandiose and very, very wrong.

CP: Among the "eight readily available ingredients for change" that you list in Never Go Back, which one or two would you say are supremely essential?

Cloud: One of the things that we tend to do is we will tend to do things in the way we've always done it. I always say to people, "You know what, we don't need new ways to fail. The old ones are working just fine." What we've got to do is, we've got to get above those patterns and begin to do it in a new way. The section of the book that you're talking about is, first of all having a wake-up call that I don't have problems. What I have is, I have patterns that cause problems. If I can see that and I can identify the pattern, and that's what the book is about. There are about 10 of these patterns that end up causing most of our problems. If I can see that and I can observe them, then I can do things like strive for progress and not perfection. Everything we know about growth, for example, is that growth is incremental and it's directional. It isn't all or nothing. So the first mindset that someone's got to get in is that I'm gonna be in a process of change, not of instant change, and that I've gotta keep getting better, a little bit further each and every day and stop thinking in an all-or-nothing way.

I think that that is one of the most important ones after the one I said earlier, that we've got to really, really make sure we're opening ourselves up to two things: a new source of energy, support from God and other people; and we've gotta learn new ways, we've gotta learn new principles, we gotta have new knowledge and new skills. That's the way you see people change.

CP: People often say, when things do not turn out as they had expected, "I wish I had known…" In your book, you use the phrase "play the movie." How can hypothetical thinking actually help people anticipate long-term results of their actions?

(Listen to Cloud's response in the audio player)

Nicola Menzie
Dr. Henry Cloud comments on material related to his 2014 book, "Never Go Back."

CP: You mention as much in Never Go Back, but many of the principles you point out are common sense, yet human beings have a tendency I suppose to keep making bad choices. Why do you think that is? Why is it so hard for some us to face the music so to speak?

Cloud: It's kind of the human condition, right. It's interesting, I don't know who it was, but someone said, "The problem with common sense is it's not too common." What's more common is that we don't do common sense. What basically happens if you look at it from — I'm a psychologist so I study brains. If you look at it from a neuroscience perspective, what we know is that our behavior patterns basically are hardwired. We have neurological wiring, just like a computer is wired to do certain things to certain outcomes. We have patterns, and that's the wiring we have. So if we are wired, like I was talking about my daughter, if I had allowed her to do that and this pattern in her gets created that every time I got a conflict I'm gonna avoid it and go the other way, then the reason she'll repeat that is the same reason is when you have a computer and you double-click on an icon, a certain program comes up. Until you load another program.

So what we know about the brain is, is it's sorta like the old spiritual advice. What the Bible tell us is, there's two sides to getting better. We've gotta put off the old, but we have to put on the new. There's no such thing, really as stopping doing something without replacing it with a different direction and a different way of behaving. So I can't say to somebody just, "Don't eat this. We gotta go do these other things instead and go do these other things as well." It starts with the wake-up call of figuring out, "Wow, I continue to do the same thing expecting different results." Once you wake up to that, then you have to ask what is this pattern that I have to avoid? What am I gonna replace it with? In the book, what I did was I just gathered 10 of these patterns that I see high-performance people stop doing. You don't find successful people doing these things, and they begin to behave differently.

CP: Is there any other point you want to make about the book?

Cloud: I think what's really cool about just this whole area is that it's something that we can identify with in all areas of life, whether it's relationships or performance, that the difference in successful people, oftentimes in unsuccessful people, is that successful people go through these wake-up calls. They have awakenings where they realize that this pattern is basically causing all my problems and want to get it. Once they get it, they never go back to doing that again. These are things that all of us can learn and they're good, old fashion wisdom, but they will do two things: they'll avoid a lot of pain and create a lot of success.


Dr. Cloud suggests in Never Go Back that people should never: 1. Return to what hasn't worked; 2. Do anything that requires you to be someone else; 3. Try to change another person; 4. Believe that you can please everyone; 5. Choose short-term comfort over long-term benefit; 6. Trust someone or something flawless; 7. Take your eyes off the big picture; 8. Neglect to do due diligence; 9. Fail to ask why you are where you are; 10. Forget that your inner life produces your outer success.

Learn more about Never Go Back:10 Things You'll Never Do Again online at Simon & Schuster.