232 Days ’til 40: Einstein’s Definition of Insanity

04 Jul

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. ~ Bruce Feirstein

Human beings have speculated about the relationship between inspiration and insanity for centuries. ~ Patty Duke

An elderly gentleman at a local gas station (“petrol” for those non-Americans reading this!) was the inspiration for this post. The poor man appeared to be in need of wiper fluid. He needed to open the hood of his car (“bonnet” for those non-Americans!) in order to place the new windshield wiper fluid in.

I first noticed this gentleman when I heard both of my daughters suddenly break out into fits of laughter, then hysterics. The man was pounding, and I mean POUNDING on the hood of his car with his hands, trying to get it to open. He would then curse, stop on the ground, run to the back of the car, and then head to the front of the car and repeat the pattern, continuing to pound on the hood – over, and over, and OVER again. He would then walk away and repeat. This must have happened over half a dozen times. Each time the man returned to the car my daughters found themselves laughing harder – “Mom, he is SOOO funny! Why does he keep doing that? It isn’t helping him open the hood” Needless to say, after all those attempts, he opened the bottle of windshield wiper fluid and directly dumped about half the bottle on his windshield and then got in the car and turned his wipers on.

This incident, of course, made me think of the Einstein quote that I listed at the beginning of this entry. How often do we insist on doing the same thing over and over and over again even though the results do not change? How often do we insist on doing the same thing that is NOT working for us over and over and over again even though the results do not change? Sadly, more often then we realize.

I can think of so many different situations and circumstances when people get stuck in patters that do not serve them well. Relationships are often the most common place this occurs. People will repeat patterns of dysfunction and continually blame the “other” person – even when they have had a string of five or six divorces! How is it that a person who has had five or six divorces lacks the insight to realize that the one common factor in every divorce is them?!?

I also see this pattern regularly with people who struggle to maintain employment. There are people who just do not manage to properly fulfill their duties and responsibilities and end up moving from one position to the next, often let go because they just cannot do what they are needed to do. Sometimes laziness is a cause, and sometimes it can be a deeper issue, such as attention deficit disorder that is causing the continual failure. It would be wonderful if these people had the willingness and resources to analyze what is causing the dysfunctional patterns and work to change them.

Sometimes we find these patterns in our daily lives…. my kids do silly things all the time without thinking. My daughter had dry itchy hands at school a few months ago. She kept putting lotion on, but her hands got worse, so she was diligent with the lotion – throughout the day. When she came home completely red and with hives I had to break the news to her that she was most likely allergic to the lotion at school (she was) and that she actually made her problem worse by continuing to apply more and more throughout the day. I gave her a different lotion at home (and an antihistamine) with instructions to never use the school lotion again and the problem was solved.

Today, 232 days ’til 40, I challenge you to evaluate the situations in your life that seem to cause you to meander in circles without meaningful movement and change. Ask yourself if you are repeating patterns with the expectations of a differing outcome – if so, change those patterns!



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32 responses to “232 Days ’til 40: Einstein’s Definition of Insanity

  1. My Journey into Art

    July 4, 2012 at 00:14

    Your post was excellent, yet being on the senior side of life I find that many no longer assist our senior citizens. They cannot reach to the top shelves or bend down in the grogery stores as they use too. It takes them longer to move out of “our” way. Being active, biking, walking (5 miles a day) and swimming daily I forget that there are those my age that need just a bit of help. You are such a wonderful writer, maybe one day an article on helping us old geezers, be kind when writing it though! A 400 Days ’til 40 fan. ajm

  2. Whitney Rains

    July 4, 2012 at 00:31

    You speak the truth! It’s so easy to keep repeating the same behavior and just ignore the fact that it’s not working. Change it hard, maybe one of the hardest things we must contend with in life. But, without change, how will we become who we are suppose to be?

    Great post! Very inspiring! 🙂

  3. Whitney Rains

    July 4, 2012 at 00:32

    Reblogged this on A Serendipitous Happenstance and commented:
    Another great post today! Read!

  4. jensine

    July 4, 2012 at 00:45

    i love this … am guilty of the einstein quote

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:40

      I think we all are to a certain extent….

  5. michellestodden

    July 4, 2012 at 01:01

    Five minutes prior to reading your post, I had the same Einstein quote running through my head. I was reevaluating my terrible writing habits. Well, that and a dead-end relationship.

    By the way, I’m at 350 days ’til 40. I’ll be following your posts all the way!

  6. livingforjackie

    July 4, 2012 at 02:33

    well at one time I kept repeating a certain pattern in my life…with no change in outcome….so I divorced him….. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:39

      🙂 🙂 I hope it helped!!!!! 🙂

      • livingforjackie

        July 5, 2012 at 21:54

        oh for sure it helped!…. 🙂

  7. Lucianus Mauricius

    July 4, 2012 at 04:46

    I don’t believe it’s insanity per se, as much as it’s the idea and personal belief of any individual not to face the issue, instead move ahead in repetition. Repetition is comforting, as I used to say to my shrink years ago, I’m comfortable in depression cose it’s something familiar, what I don’t know and I’m scared of is how to be happy, at least content.

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:38

      Ah, so more denial and patterns that feel comfortable, even when bad for us……

      • Lucianus Mauricius

        July 6, 2012 at 06:37

        Everything in life takes time, and the more bad habits you have the more time and work it takes to break free of them.

  8. brettbatten

    July 4, 2012 at 05:30

    I liked your post but believe Einstein should have included once in a lifetime behaviours. Sometimes insanity has nothing to do with repetition, this I know.

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:38

      hehehe – I think he never expected to be quoted and was trying to be witty, more than create a theory! 🙂

  9. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

    July 4, 2012 at 06:31

    Your last paragraph is a good reminder to change our patterns that get us nowhere. Thanks. I appreciate you stopping by my blog and Liking my recent post earlier today.

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:37

      Yes, and thank you for stopping by my blog!

  10. meredith

    July 4, 2012 at 14:12

    Excellent article.

  11. narf77

    July 4, 2012 at 14:20

    I think what you are saying is “Learn from your mistakes?” it would seem that this is one of the most incredibly difficult simple statements to comprehend these days! 🙂

  12. mskatykins

    July 4, 2012 at 20:24

    Ahh, an interesting post here, 233. (I’ve decided I’m just going to call you by the daily changing number! 😉 )

    It would have been nice of you to tell the man what he was doing wrong! 😉 You’re right, sometimes it’s hard for a person to work out that a problem lies with them. That part about your daughter, that’s what makes you a good mum. You pass on your wisdom to her and I’m glad she got better. Another thought provoking post – go you! 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      July 5, 2012 at 20:35

      Yes, it is all about the learning process…… as for the old man, I think he knew was he was doing wrong… the hood was broken…. 🙂

  13. walkwiththerabbi

    July 4, 2012 at 21:15

    Great reminder (and as always – a well thought out “entry”)! Make it an Ollin day.

  14. thelastsongiheard

    July 5, 2012 at 08:11

    A great post, as always 🙂

  15. miladynotes

    July 8, 2012 at 01:04

    Reblogged this on Miladynotes.


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