“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
I eventually remember this quote after I’ve been berating myself about something negative that I’ve done once again because I haven’t yet learnt the lesson.
The quote has been variously attributed to many people, to Mark Twain, to Albert Einstein, and to Anthony Robbins the motivational speaker and self-improvement guru. It doesn’t really matter which of these famous people said it.
What matters is the meaning behind it. In a nutshell, it’s all about putting a stop to those things you keep doing over and over – no matter how hurtful to yourself or others – with the same result. How can you expect the result to be any different if you’re doing the same thing again and again?
When counselling people with eating disorders I often set them a piece of homework that centres around this quote. For instance, people with eating disorders (and even those without) generally come home after work and head straight for the fridge or biscuit jar. And this can be without even taking their coat off or saying “hello” to their loved ones! How often do you find yourself with your head in the fridge or in the goodies cupboard, looking for something to eat because you’re full of the tensions and stresses and you feel that you deserve a treat? So the way to change this particular negative eating habit is to change what happens when you walk through the door!
The homework I set was therefore very easy: do something different when you walk through the door. The problem however is that people don’t know what to do that’s different. They’ve spent so much of their life following this annoying little habit that changing it can be sort of frightening. It can be so difficult to think of what else to do that won’t be so negative.
For instance, you could walk through the door and switch the TV on, but end up watching one of those mind-numbing programmes that are generally on between 5pm and 7pm – which will quickly make you want to eat something just to get away from it! So the idea is to do something that’s different but also pleasurable to your mind and soul.
I used to spend a lot of time working with my clients to come up with something that fitted the ‘pleasurable to mind and soul’ description. For one client it was walking through the door and up the stairs and straight into a bubble bath (after shedding clothes, of course). For another it was changing into her gardening gear and heading out for an hour or so to melt away her frustrations of the day out by pulling up the weeds. She’d go into the greenhouse and tenderly look after some newly sprouted plants, whilst telling them all about the awful day she’d had – but being gentle enough to make them still want to spend time on this beautiful planet!
What one thing in your life could you change for the better – today?