Definition of Insanity

photo credit: BigStockPhoto

photo credit: BigStockPhoto

When I went out for Track & Field in high school, I started with the race that circled the track one time (400 meters). I could keep up for half of the lap but then everyone else finished faster than me. If I was good for 200 meters, I thought, “Why not sign up for a shorter race?”

The same thing happened when I ran the 200 meter race. Even though the pace was faster, I could still keep up for about half the race. But then I got smoked.

The real problem wasn’t the length of the race. [SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t have the stamina.] But… I wasn’t ready to learn that lesson yet. So I dropped my distance down again. This time I entered the 100 meter race. And guess what happened? You may have guessed: same effort, same result!

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

-attributed to Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, AND Mark Twain (but this nugget of wisdom was only coined for the first time in 1981 by Narcotics Anonymous)

I don’t even know why I went out for Track. I hated running. I loved getting in shape by playing soccer but I didn’t put any effort into getting into shape FOR soccer.

Looking back, I can see my mental error in seeking a shorter race that I could master. My competitors were in better shape than me, no matter what distance we ran. I had no sense of preparation as a teenager. Now, a few decades older (and somewhat wiser) I have stopped trying to win Track & Field events.

Now I plan for things, mostly because I have to. It’s not an option to get in shape. I’m actually starting to like running! But I still suffer from the same mental errors.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like I have learned much from my days circling the track.

When I attempt to change my behavior now, to eat better or exercise more, it usually starts like a sprint, with 30-day goals. I can be really disciplined for that stretch of time. While I’m in it, I feel good about myself, proud that I am building new habits. But I never seem to account for day 31. As soon as the 30 days are over, I begin the inevitable slide back to where I started.

After each unsuccessful sprint, I feel defeated. I invest so much hope and energy. I feel worse than losing a race on the track. These losses feel personal, like failures.

I brush myself off and get back up again, only to make the same mistake from high school, but in the opposite direction! I see that life is longer than a sprint so I take a longer view. I decide, “Life isn’t a sprint. It’s really a marathon!” Then I proceed to spread my willpower over 90 days or six months instead of 30.

Same mental error, same result. My new habit doesn’t stick. To be honest, I just ran a longer sprint. By the end, I was even more exhausted and felt even more defeated.

Rinse, lather, repeat (for years). Sliding back to the start of multiple sprints and marathons chipped away at my confidence. But…

I am happy to say that I have finally found the secret to end my cycle of “insanity.” What have I learned? Tune in for part 2 on Thursday…

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you:

  • What race are you running?

  • Why did you join your “Track team”?

  • What do you expect winning to do for you?

What is your biggest challenge right now?

What will help you to solve it? If you want to stop circling the same track, it helps to find the right supports for you.

Resources like emotional and mental support go a long way to help you react to negative situations without engaging in self-defeating behavior.

Most of us don’t need someone to tell us what to do. The mentoring group that begins in May is designed to help women share resources and best practices.

Join a group of femmes (a more inclusive term to invite all female-identifying people) who want to honor their hard-fought successes ...and failures... by supporting others.

🌟Update 🌟

Special guests will join me in facilitating several sessions of the Mentoring Group. Each co-facilitator has dedicated her professional life to empowering women in a different way: finance, voice, self-care. The unique experience and insights of our co-facilitators will propel each session to greater heights.

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Robert Zeitlin