Do you ever feel like Bill Murray destined to spend eternity re-living the same events until your dense skull figures out how to do it differently? Try as you might, you seem to wind up in the same relationship, the same bad hire, the same reaction to your struggling employee, the same diet choices, the same response to your kid’s meltdown.
Einstein (or whoever actually said it) may have been right in his definition of insanity as being doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results but that doesn’t help us to get out of the habitual patterns of our lives.
You want to improve your golf swing or your public speaking or your writing, we’ve all heard the answer since we were knee high to a duck – “practice makes perfect.”
So why on earth can’t we get of our own way and stop living in these repeated patterns, why can’t we improve?
Practice isn’t doing the same thing over and over. Practice is observing how to improve from the last time and trying it differently, over and over.
In my 20’s I spent a lot of time driving around the country. I ate at Denny’s, a lot. I don’t particularly like Denny’s but I would plan my driving distances for the day around Denny’s. You see, I know Denny’s, I know their hours, I know what they serve, I know what it’s going to be like there. It’s not particularly good, it’s not necessarily what I want but I know it and I know the result will at least be familiar.
If you’re running into the same wall, even though this time it’s got stripes and polka dots, you have to be willing to journey into the unknown. What would happen if I ate at Minny’s Diner instead?
Did you just crash into the wall again? Stop. While your head is still smarting, stop. What could you have done differently? Don’t just repeat the same golf swing that didn’t land the ball in the hole last time. All your doing is guaranteeing that it won’t go in again. Try taking a deep breath and just observing. Observe yourself. Try something different. The change may make the ball land further from the hole but it’s the only way you’ll break out of the pattern that is failing you.