“If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again.” This saying is fundamentally flawed, and here’s why.
The other day my toddler was getting frustrated because she couldn’t get her puzzle piece to fit. She was furiously trying to shove the piece into the wrong place. To try and help her I quoted the age-old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again.” After saying this I realized how ridiculous that is! After all, don’t they say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results? The saying should go more like, “If at first you don’t succeed, try it differently next time.”
I rephrased this in words my toddler could understand, and this got me to thinking about my life and how often I keep doing the same things and yet magically expect things to change. If something isn’t working, perhaps it’s time to find another way. How often do I say “I’m going to do better next time. I’m not going to repeat the same mistakes.” Then, I end up doing the same things over and over and again tell myself, “Next time, I’m going to change. I’m going to do better. I’ll be better tomorrow.”
This way of thinking lacks the first step to change, the why.
If I keep saying I’m going to change but I don’t stop and ask why I did something, then I’m bound to keep repeating my choices the only way I know, the way I always have. Change begins once I purposefully choose to look at why I acted a certain way, and how I’m going to do something differently. Only then can I transform my arbitrary desire for change into an action plan.
It starts by asking, “Why did I do that, and what can I do differently?” This is problem solving. This leads to success.
Our habits condition us to do things a certain way. For example, maybe you take the same road to work every day. Then one day the road is closed for construction. You make note of the construction dates but the next morning find yourself at the same road closed sign. In frustration you turn around and tell yourself you’re going to remember next time. Repeating past mistakes is a lot like this. We train ourselves to go a certain way, so when we need to do something differently, it takes conscious practice to change it.
First things first, the why.
If I don’t know why I’m doing something, I’m not likely to change it. And the answer, because that’s the way I’ve always done it, won’t fly either. I love the story of the baked ham to illustrate this.
A young bride cuts the ends off a ham to cook it. Her husband asks why she does that. She replies “that’s the way my mother always did it.” They call her mother to ask and she replies “that’s the way my mother always did it.” So, they call the grandmother to ask and she says “my pan was too small, so that was the only way I could get it to fit.” (http://www.snopes.com/weddings/newlywed/secret.asp)
Once you know the why, then you can figure out the how.
For example, “I keep driving to the road closed sign because I forget, and it’s my habit to drive that way. So, I’m not going to drive all the way to the closed road sign tomorrow because I’m going to leave a sticky note on my steering wheel.” Once you figure out the why and how, it sometimes can be as simple as a post it note.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford
I’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments of a time you changed an old habit and how.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.