I have always loved this quote from Albert Einstein:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It’s made me stop and think on more than one occasion. Am I actually getting somewhere? Or am I stuck, and it’s time to try something different.
All of us are stuck in patterns, where we repeat the same thing over and over. These patterns can be physical patterns or mental, like a thought pattern. Most of us have the same thought patterns over and over).
Let’s take a second a discuss a physical pattern. Sometimes, patterns serve us well. We often think of these as healthy habits. A habit is really just a pattern that you repeat, over and over. But, let’s think about a healthy habit. For example, you make yourself a healthy breakfast every day. That’s a good pattern that is going to serve you well. You’re guaranteed to start your day feeling energized, satisfied, and ready for the day.
But we have lots of not-so-helpful physical patterns (or habits) too. Maybe every time you feel your stress levels rising at work, you reach for a doughnut, or another equally sweet treat. That’s not a habit that is going to serve you well, in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, having a doughnut once in awhile is perfectly fine! But when it becomes a habit every time your stress levels rise, that pattern is no longer serving you well.
We do the same things with our thoughts. We tend to think the same things, perceive things the same way, and believe the same things again and again, sometimes without question. Do these patterns serve us well? It depends. Let’s say you’re looking for a new job, but it’s hard going and there are a lot of people looking for a job. If you get told you weren’t successful in your job interview, you might have one of the following responses:
- “Too bad for them! They’re missing out. I’ll find something else where my skill set will fit perfectly, and that will help me learn and grow.”
- “Of course they don’t want to hire me. I’m such a loser. I’ll never find a job.”
Either of those statements can come from thought patterns (and underlying beliefs) we have. You can probably see which one would serve you than the other.
We’re not all aware of all of our regular patterns. Some we know about, but are you aware of how many times you scratch your ear out of habit? Or play with your hair? Or take a drink of water? We tend to do these same things over and over, in a pattern, without realizing it. Many patterns are neutral. Some, like the healthy breakfast, are even helpful. But there are some that are harmful.
This brings me back to the Albert Einstein quote. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If we have something in our life that we’re not happy with, or we want to change, or we want to work out differently, how can we expect anything to be different if we’re repeating the same patterns over and over?
To make something different in your life, there is no other option than to change something. To do something differently.
So how do we make changes? How do we break patterns?
The first key to breaking a pattern is awareness. You need to be aware that you’re in a pattern. Once you’re aware that your pattern exists, only then are you able to get out of it. You can’t change a pattern that you aren’t aware exists. If you’re intent on not scratching your ear every 2 minutes, you first need to be aware that you do it.
So, now I turn it over to you. What is something in your life that you want to be different?
- Have more energy?
- Sleep better at night?
- Lose weight?
- Improve your relationships?
- More patience with your kids?
Whatever it is, you might not be fully aware of the patterns that currently exist around that thing. So the first step is to start paying attention. If you want to have more energy, start paying attention to your sleep, what you eat, how and when you exercise. Pay attention to the things that give you energy. And the things that take your energy away.
Paying attention doesn’t mean judging. If you want more energy and you know you could eat more vegetables, don’t judge yourself for not eating enough vegetables. I promise you, that will get you nowhere. Just notice it. Maybe somewhere you can write down “I could eat more vegetables”. But that’s it! Just notice it.
The next step might be to make a deliberate goal to increase your vegetable intake. And maybe you’ll do that by buying more vegetables at the grocery store. Or maybe you’ll do it with a meal plan. How you do it, isn’t overly relevant. What IS relevant is that you do it.
When we make changes, when we recognize and break patterns that aren’t serving us, that’s when we grow. Growth comes along with change, whether we like it or not. And I would argue – is the ability to learn, change, and grow not one of life’s greatest gifts? The ability to become an even better version of your already amazing self!
Expecting something to change, means you’re the one that needs to make the change. I can guarantee, nothing is going to change for you. You have to make the effort and take that first step.
So. What is it for you that needs to change? What are you sick and tired of? What are you so fed up with, that you feel like you might go crazy if you have to live with it for one more day? Whatever it is, it’s time to make that change. It’s time to do something differently. It’s time to stop waiting and do something about it.