Are you insane?
Have you heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
It’s cute and pithy. It’s relatable. And side note, it’s also misattributed to Albert Einstein, who never said it.
And just like its provenance, it’s sentiment is false. If insanity is defined by the repetition of futile behavior, then there are a whole lotta insane people out there. Maybe even all of us.
Our human brains are made to do the same things over and over again. It’s convenient and it saves time and energy. Consider what would happen if your brain didn’t operate that way. It would mean that every time you were faced with any sort of stimulus, you would have to figure out how to approach it, as if you had never seen it before.
So, imagine you see a door. If your brain wasn’t interested in repeating the same thing over and over, you would have to spend your energy figuring out the function of the door, every time you see it.
What a waste of time! So, evolution has provided us a shortcut. Once your brain has seen enough doors, it just does the same thing every time it sees the door. It does not consider other options. In fact, it avoids even acknowledging that other options might exist. When you understand that, you also understand it’s not insane.
Why is this a problem?
Ah, but it’s the results we are interested in. We want those different results!!
Think about what that might look like for you.
What results have you been saying you want, but just can’t seem to get? A better relationship with your family? More time to do things you enjoy? Fitting into a brand new pair of pants? Being able to spend money on a brand new pair of pants?
And what have you tried, over and over, to move towards that outcome? And why hasn’t it worked?
A Personal Example
I want a neater, cleaner home. I’ve never been the type of person who cleans fanatically (or even at all). But I do like to have a clean house! So, what do I do? Well, my primitive’s brain favorite go-to when faced with a messy home is to retreat. That’s one of my responses. I’ll just avoid the mess, maybe by leaving, or sinking into the couch with Netflix and my dog. Or, I’ll trick myself into productivity by writing a list of all the things that need doing. Then I’ll feel so accomplished at having created that list that I call it a day, leaving all the items on the list undone. A third option is to research the best way to clean. Yes, I have concocted many home made cleaners, which requires spending my time buying spray bottles, lemons and white vinegar, leaving me less time for the actual cleaning.
These are a few of the preprogrammed responses I have when I see my messy house.
None of them get me the clean home I want. But when I’m doing them, they FEEL like great ideas.
In other words, the stimulus is the messy house. When I see it, it triggers my old, well rehearsed reactions. I do those things, and end up right where I started, with a messy house. The next time I see my messy house, I guarantee my brain is gonna say “hey I have a great idea! You should research how to make a non-toxic bathroom cleaner.” Same action, expecting a different result.
So, how do you get the life you want while keeping the brain you have??
When you want to make change in your life, you have to work through this tendency of your human mind to want to react in its rote way. You have to find the courage to start seeing the door as not a door.
In other words, you can bring your brain to the next level, where you actually try something DIFFERENT.
Here’s a few ideas on how to make that happen:
1. Get to know your mind’s habits. Practicing some mindfulness is one way to really learn what’s going on up there. Here is a link to a quick guided meditation that will help you gain some clarity.
2. Find a role model. Do it their way. And when your mind pipes up with “Oh, well THEY can do that but YOU can’t,” return to step #1.
3. Act crazy. Here’s the real kicker – doing something that SEEMS crazy, actually crazy, is exactly what you should be doing. Returning to my example of a clean house, the key to the clean house may not be anything I have come up with on my own. It may start with sitting still and journaling (again, return to #1 on this list).
4. Treat Yo Self. Making change is hard. When you do it, figure out a way to reward yourself. But don’t give yourself the reward until you’ve earned it!
5. Tell someone. Get an accountability buddy. Be very clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and check in with that person.
Now that you’ve figured out all the changes you want to make, let me remind you of something. You are actually perfect, exactly as you are. You don’t need to change a thing. In your pursuit of growth, you may have identified changes that you want to play with, that you want to try out. And I am here to support you in that, because I know it’s possible and I can’t wait to meet the version of you that’s tried lots of crazy shit. But you are 100% enough just as you are, right now, in this moment.
Now, I’m going to do something really nuts, like hiring someone to clean the house.