The Definition of Insanity

A week or so ago, I was lounging on my bed and got into a tiff with my three year old. She was laying on me, being hyper, wiggling, jabbing me with legs and elbows, and so I asked her to stop and get down. But she didn’t.

I repeated it in a different way. No good.

I really wanted her to hear me and understand that she was hurting me and do it on her own (rather than me dumping her to the side on the mattress) but it just wasn’t happening.

And I was getting frustrated, and loud(er).

After the whole ordeal I came out of my room and my husband piped up with: “You know the definition of insanity…doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

This is a phrase I have come to despise. And I told him so. Quite passionately. And he thought I’d gone insane.

But here’s my beef:

It’s a phrase that gets tossed around, usually by someone outside looking in, usually arrogantly,  usually condescendingly, and almost always with a closed mind rather than an open one. And it doesn’t apply to every situation.

If you are digging a hole, if might seem like you are doing the same thing over and over (shove, scoop, fling, shove, scoop, fling, shove, scoop…guess what comes next) with little to no results. But that’s not true. You are making progress, going deeper, getting closer. It might be the next dig that breaks you through. | You never know how close you are.... never give up on your dreams.:

If you are trying to start a fire with flint, it might seem like you are doing the same thing over and over with zero results. But that’s not true. Every strike you make is teaching you, strengthening you, sharpening you. It might be the next strike that makes the spark.


What happens if you stop now? Nothing, that’s what. But if you keep going…who knows!

Even Steve Urkel eventually got a date with Laura Winslow. (Thanks for the reference, hubby)

I think it has become our standard reply when things get tough or don’t happen as fast as we’d like. An excuse to give up.

I am tired of the mentality that justifies, even encourages, quitting just because something isn’t happening in a quick  or obvious way, just because the progress is not readily seen. The progress and value of your task might be measured on a different scale than you’re used to.

And I concede that the quote, originally by Einstein, makes sense in many situations–like trying to reason with a three year old–but I think Einstein meant for us not to give up, but to look at a problem differently, to find new and creative solutions. And to buck status quo thinking. Think bigger and braver.

That is something I can wholeheartedly agree with.

And sure, if you’re trying to dig a hole with a spaghetti noodle it won’t matter how many times you flop it on the dirt. Lying down in water, you’re more likely to catch a cold than a spark. Assess your methods. Get the right tools / team / skills. Adjust as needed.

But don’t let this phrase be a barb that shames you into giving up. Let it be a revelation that comes from within when you need it most.

[Is there something in your life you quit that could have been saved with creative thinking? Can you begin again? Will you?)


One thought on “The Definition of Insanity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s