I am sure you have heard this before – The Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The quote has been attributed to both Einstein and Franklin. According to Wiki – neither are true. But the statement sure is. And that made me think – why is it that we do that?
I have come to the conclusion that for most people there are strong neural pathways that keep us focused on making our current situation work. The human race seems to be pre programmed to keep us focused on making it work, without thinking about HOW to make it work, or even whether we should make it work.
Let me give you an example…
When I was 16 I went away on holiday with the girls. It was a weekend camping at a YHA in Derbyshire – oh the glamour!! I felt so grown up – it was my first foray out “on holiday” without my parents. We were due to stay a week. 8 girls in 2 tents.
Well, the first few hours went well. We pitched the tents, went and said hello to people in the Youth hostel, made a fire and sat round it smoking cigarettes and drinking cans of cider. And that felt wonderful….until night fell. If you had been with me as dusk fell you would have heard a disturbing sound – the sound of mosquitos. Now – I don’t know if you, like me, are a major target for the pesky things – but suddenly life became very irritating. Then it started raining.
Suddenly the idea of camping out wasn’t so much fun. After a miserable nights sleep involving lots of scratching the morning broke. We all complained about it. We had forgotten to bring some essentials, like toothpaste, a can opener, mosquito repellant. But our minds as a collective group were looking for ways to make it work.
We visited the local ‘village’ which was a VERY long walk and had one small shop, and no they hadn’t got any mosquito repellant, the woman behind the counter informed me with a look which said “where do you think you are – the tropics?”.
So – what happened? My lovely friends spent a miserable week, trying to make it work. Me? I got on a train and went home. You see I am not a quitter – and if something is worth it – no-one will fight harder to get to the goal. But when something is clearly not going to make me happy, I know myself well enough to get out.
We have a truism in recruitment – when hiring staff, fail quickly. If you know you have made a mistake 3 weeks in – don’t drag it out. If you try to make it work whatever the cost you are not being fair to the person concerned, to your employer (if you are the employee), to the team or to your customers. Now if you know it takes 6 months for someone to get to full productivity I am not advocating killing the golden goose before it has laid. What I am saying – if it becomes clear that something is making you unhappy, change it.
Don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Change the things you are doing. Or change the outcome you are expecting. But take action.