“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity is hilarious until you actually take the time to apply it to your own experiences in life. Then it resonates loud and clear. I’ve seen friends repeat gym routines, using the same 3 or 4 machines every workout, and ridiculously complain about not getting results. I’ve witnessed colleagues employ the same sales strategies day in and day out and never hit their numbers. I’ve observed acquaintances eat the same junk food daily and struggle to comprehend why they cannot lose weight. I’ve looked in the mirror and seen how I procrastinate over projects or paying the bills with the same methodical approach of convenient excuses.
We’ve all thrown our own pity party on why we aren’t getting better results in some aspect of our life. But we keep our defense mechanisms on high alert, readily armed with a million rapid fire excuses: too busy, too tired, too lazy, too hard to change. We stubbornly defend our position with shaky facts (blaming it on genetics is my fav) or often deflect it with humor (ahem, my weapon of choice). Sticking with the status quo, the path of least resistance, is easiest to deal with as it is safe, comfortable and habitual but it impedes us from breaking out of our comfort zone and striving for better results. There are also fear-based reasons that may be at the root of the cause:
- We are uncomfortable with the unknown
- We don’t like taking ownership for our negative behavior as it’s easier to blame someone/something else
- It feels too overwhelmingly difficult to change and we are not up for the challenge
- People may judge us, dislike us and/or disagree with us if we make the changes
But before you give in to Einstein and start to question your insanity level, recognize the brain loves to be on autopilot working from the subconscious mind. For example, how many times have you driven home and not remembered the drive? That is our subconscious mind at its finest, working on minimal brain power, navigating a 2000 pound hunk of metal through busy but now familiar streets in your neighborhood. Our subconscious gathers all our experiences and decides whether it needs to have this readily available or put in storage. It operates like a computer – save it on the desktop for quick access now or neatly file away in folders for later. This saves the brain a lot of energy and prevents us from being overwhelmed with too much information.
So how do we go about changing behavior? It starts by creating new networks in the brain by shaking up the current web of neuropathways in our subconscious. Yes, the very same ones your mind brilliantly created for efficiencies. Metaphorically, you need to click on that icon on your desktop and open the file. Bring it into your consciousness by visualizing a clear picture of the desired result, projecting what success looks and feels like. Seek help from others with a spirit of curiosity and attach a positive emotion around your goal. The proper attitude and frame of mind can increase focus and resolve towards achievement.
Armed with a new strategy, break down the process into attainable steps so it doesn’t look so daunting overall. It’s important to believe these are realistic and achievable as each step builds confidence towards conquering the next. Beware of setting your expectations too high as pie-in-the-sky goals can backfire by derailing all your enthusiasm. I’ve seen countless friends dive into a gym routine with overhyped exuberance, only to flame out in a few weeks (it’s an annual tradition in the fitness world to see all the newbies with their January resolutions burn out before Valentines!). Take baby steps and try to enjoy the journey without the pressure of rushing to the finish line. In most cases, you’re only competing against yourself so know your limitations and reward yourself at certain milestones. With a gradual, steadfast approach, you can keep your sanity on your path for change. Change typically does not follow a linear path so be gentle and forgiving when you deviate from the path and gracefully correct the detour to get back on track. Lastly, take a bow for striving to improve a dimension of your life as the power of habit is a mighty force but you are striving to improve a dimension in your life. And following the words from the genius of Einstein is proof positive you are not insane!