You are probably familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We quote it, laugh at it, and nod our heads knowingly when we hear it.
Then, we do exactly what he described. We do the same things, think the same thoughts, and perceive people and events in the same way – all while expecting different results.
Years ago, Bob Newhart appeared in a recurring Saturday Night Live skit as “The 5-Minute Therapist.” I laughed until my sides hurt as he would listen to the patient’s problem for a minute or two before saying, “I’m going to say two words to you now. I want you to listen to them very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life.”
His advice was sound, of course, even if horrifying. Why can’t we heed this advice and simply stop thinking the thoughts and doing the things that make us unhappy and unhealthy?
“If you want a different ending, tell a different story!” is such an elegantly simple solution, right?
“I don’t know a different story!” Oh, yeah… that.
So we keep repeating the only story we know, and we’re right back to Einstein’s definition of insanity.
What gets us stuck in this rut is that we want to know the whole story, the right story, the answer, before we make a change.
But what if we didn’t wait? What if we just thought any new thought, saw other people in any new way, told any new story?
Wouldn’t this break the cycle and create momentum in any new direction? Couldn’t you then make easier course corrections from that new place? Don’t new thoughts trigger other new thoughts? Don’t new actions trigger ideas for other new actions? And don’t new thoughts and actions inspire new stories?
We can sit on the sidelines, struggling (yet again) to figure it out, but you know where that leads. Or we can get in the ring – right now, in this moment – and do anything different.
Albert Einstein and Bob Newhart had it right. Time to do something different.
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