I believe it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. A seemingly simple concept it is to comprehend, yet many of us wrestle with its unseen complexity.
Most likely you have watched gymnasts and, if you are like me, freestyle BMX riders, take their three runs in their individual events. With each of the runs, these athletes are given an opportunity to improve their score.
Now, to an untrained eye, like mine and perhaps yours, many of these second and third attempts at a single event appear to be identical to the first.
However, they are often not. In order to alter his or her score, hopefully for the better, the athletes must also alter their performance. So, however slight a difference, an adjusted foot position or take off speed; doing something different will have an impact on the results.
Most of us are not gymnasts or X-game riders, and some of us are not athletes at all, but we are all participants in the game of life.
Sometimes we don’t get it right the first time. Failed relationship, fired from a job, failing grade on a test, unplanned pregnancy, time in prison. Sometimes we need another run at it-another opportunity to make it right. The hard part though, is that in some of these cases, we get another run, then another, then another. Yet, we are still abusive to our partners, late to our jobs, putting off studying, having unprotected sex, and breaking the law. The same is true for those working to save money, increase sales for a business, get a job, or even to meet someone new.
The same behavior is producing the same results in our circumstances. But, this would make sense because to expect anything different would be insane, right? Well, I think that I would see this as being more “insanely stuck”, than viewing the person as insane. Nevertheless, being stuck in a stifling pattern can take a toll on our mental health. If you are doing the same things, the same way, then, it is time to rethink those things and do something different.
I don’t think that we can change behavior, however, without changing how we are thinking about something. If you know anything about sports, you know that when a team plays and loses against another team, they go back and study that game. They watch game film and make notes to determine what things cost them that game. Then they practice something different in preparation for their next one.
Coaches and athletes understand that plays and strategies that worked against one team, may not work against another. How they are thinking about their approach to the game must change before they can implement something different. They understand that they cannot go up against every team or even the same team with the same strategy and expect a different outcome.
Neither can you. As participants in this game of life, we will face challenges at a number of events. When we don’t do so well our first run out, we have to go back and study that event.
What can we glean from our previous attempts, experiences, or decisions?
Be curious about your pattern and look for opportunities to do something different. Go ahead, take another run at your event in life, and be encouraged.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.