Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

10 02 2007

To close out the week, I wanted to post some thoughts on a quote I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

In the typical Google search for the quotation, it’s quoted by marketers, life coaches and sofa philosophers throughout the Internet. This contradictory post that states that this is the dumbest thing ever repeated by smart people stands in the face of all these hoorah-hoorah posts that use the quotation as a motivation to enact change in peoples’ lives, marketing campaigns, organizations or anything else anyone can think of.

Of course, this quotation is not meant to be taken literally, it’s origins are not actually verifiable and it’s not universally applicable.

The quotation in fact encourages experimentation by trying different things. Don’t alter your existence completely, but understand that eventually you need to smarten up if things you are doing aren’t producing the results you desire.

Similarly, it’s well known that persistence is the most common trait that characterizes a successful entrepreneur who’s made it. It could also be said that the quotation discourages persistence. A good quote (source):

Sometimes doing the same thing a second time when it hasn’t worked the first is indeed just foolish. But sometimes it’s shrewd. Wisdom consists, in part, in knowing the difference. Flexibility is a virtue. But in most matters, flexibility properly kicks in only after persistence has been given a fair chance.

So there we go. Persistence and experimentation working one after another. One without the other really isn’t worth much independent of the other.

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110 responses

8 04 2007
testingjeff

FYI, I recently searched for a reliable attribution to that phrase, and believe I’ve found one:

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
- Sudden Death by Rita Mae Brown, Bantam Books, New York, 1983, p. 68.

3 06 2007
bubba

It was by EInstein, it is meant to be taken literally, and it does not neccesarily mean we should experiment. The point of this quote is to point out that every person is insane becuase we all try to better our situation by using our on methods that often don’t work.

14 11 2011
Charles

It was written by Ben Franklin,Long before Einstein was born,Take your time when doing research.

5 06 2012
buba is an idiot

no, it wasn’t you idiot. don’t you think that if it was that easy that someone would’ve discovered that before you blurted out your stupid post? the entire point of this post is to point out the fact that everybody thinks that it came from einstein or franklin, but nobody has a source. but, oh ok, it was einstein because some idiot named buba says so. do some research before opening your stupid mouth you fool.

14 07 2007
Andy Moran

Enough said!! Thank you Bubba…LOL Who wrote this article again???

5 12 2007
DJ

Ah..the results are not always fact, but can merely be opinions to those
presented for, so by repeating the doing doesn’t necessarily make you crazy,
it just depends by whom.

5 12 2007
DJ

Ah..the results are not always fact, but can merely be opinions to those`presented for, so by repeating the doing doesn’t necessarily make you crazy, it just depends by whom.
Who decides the results are final , when many results can be altered and changed each time by the automatic hand of fate, so therefore repeating the same thing might be a smart idea. HOW MANY TIMES DID BENJAMIN FRANKLIN FLY HIS KITE BEFORE HE GOT THE RESULT HE KNEW WOULD EVENTUALY HAPPEN ?

17 12 2007
Nathan Kowarsky

I think the jest is that if you don’t change your approach when it doesn’t come in your favor, then your are not learning from each encounter and experience.
-Nathan

19 05 2010
MOE WIENER

is that your requirement to be INSANE because you are not nominal

4 02 2008
All Downhill From Here » Try Something Else

[...] “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” [...]

19 03 2008
catherine todd

Thank you! You have expressed what has always bothered me about that quote: it’s unevenness. Practice and Persistence is absolutely necessary TO “produce different results” (i.e playing the violin, ballet, gymnastics, sports, education, writing and other skills etc.) It’s only when I’m in a bad relationship (be it at work, family, lover etc) and I keep doing the same thing and they keep doing the same thing that there is no difference in the outcome. So it’s necessary to learn discernment as to what one has control over (and can change, get different results) and what one can’t.

ANYTHING involving other people or “forces beyond our control” (i.e. nature, etc.) may well mean that it is INSANE to keep “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” But where does that leave Christians who say “pray for them?” I guess they mean that some day “God will change their hearts?” Then we have the Buddhists who say the key to life is “acceptance” of how things are, and practice not adding any suffering to the world. I’m no expert in any religion, so I might have this a bit confused, but it seems it comes down to “change what we can and accept what we can’t and have the wisdom to know the difference.”

Oh, I surely don’t… but thank you so much for posting the “CONTRADICTION” in this quote! It has always bothered me, and now the practicing patience and “persistence” aspect has been explained! Yes!

18 03 2010
Melanie

Some of you read way to much into this quote. It is not meant litterally or that it applies to every single situation you encounter. I take it simply to mean, that if keep repeating the same behavior, you will get the same results. It’s not rocket science and for a quote to bother a person so much, shows that you have a little too much time on your hands and need to find something more constuctive to do, than to sit and tear apart a quote.

5 06 2012
buba is an idiot

no, it bothers people because it’s quoted over and over by people proclaiming themselves to be experts. they say things like “if you look up the definition of insanity in the dictionary you’ll see that this is the actual definition”, when it’s not and it’s so far from the truth. it’s just retarded to keep hearing it knowing it’s not true.

27 08 2011
Cathy

You are forgetting that when you practice ballet, violin, writing… you are tweaking it each and every time to make it better. So you are not doing the “Same” thing over and over again because you wound not get better.

5 06 2012
buba is an idiot

in most cases of practice and experimentation you’re not tweaking i consciously, you’re just taking the same basketball shot, playing the same notes over and over and your brain is making connections that make you better. the same could be said about what this quote is meant to dissuade… you could be making minor adjustments that aren’t consisted to be the same thing over and over. so it’s a moot point.

19 03 2008
catherine todd

DJ: You probably said it best, along with the author of this blog and description of “persistence:”

“HOW MANY TIMES DID BENJAMIN FRANKLIN FLY HIS KITE BEFORE HE GOT THE RESULT HE KNEW WOULD EVENTUALY HAPPEN ?”

Good point!

testingjeff : Thanks for the research. How did you determine the author of this quote was from:

- Sudden Death by Rita Mae Brown, Bantam Books, New York, 1983, p. 68.

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

2 01 2010
smartypants1

Albert Einstein said this quote DUH!!
“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Obviously he changed his approach WHICH IS NOT THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY.
Grow a brain.

10 11 2012
C. Williams

actually it is only attributed to Einstein. It is also possible that Franklin said it. The fact is that there is no way to prove that either of them actually said it first.

And there was a book written in ’82 (published in ’83) that had a quote almost identical to the passage in Browns book from ’83. Which makes me ask the question. If Brown got it from the ’82 book on addiction or the author of said book, then what was her connection to the Author?

22 03 2008
Adrian

I think the quote is techincally accurate.

If you’re practicing something and improving as you go, you are technically NOT doing the same thing over and over again. You’re doing it slightly different and better each time. If you do it exactly the same each time – that’s not practicing, that IS insanity.

If you’re conducting an experiment, then several tries to determine a result’s probability counts as “doing ONE thing”. Repeating the experiment after a failed result without changing anything would be the “insanity”, in this case.

Persistence by its nature indicates that a person is doing something slightly different and improved with each repetition, or is relying on changing circumstances for further repetitions. to get different results. It’s not “doing the same thing over and over again”.

And as for praying, it’s a process over several days, weeks or years. It doesn’t count as “one good try” until the whole process is done. It builds up several things at once; it’s far from a dead, repetitive action.

30 06 2011
ssbbkk76

Best answer. Im glad you wrote it.

24 07 2011
Chris Morrow

But by this argument, we never do anything over and over again — after all, any two instances of our performing some action are going to differ at least slightly. And performing the same experiment after a null result can be a good idea for precisely this reason; the outside conditions may have been wrong, perhaps you made a mistake the first time, etc.

13 11 2011
GXE

there are a lot of things one can do things over and over again and waiting/expecting for a better outcome…for example, if you are in a bad habit (addiction, could be anything) and do the same thing like going church once a week and expecting things to get changed or get out of the bad habit, it is INSANE. For a habit to be broken there are serious steps you should take for it to be broken from ones life…

27 08 2011
Cathy

You explained it exactly. That is precisely what it means. I don’t know anyone who practices the same exact way every time. First of all that would actually be difficult. And secondly if it was not giving you the desired result then yes it would drive you batty and you would quit.

30 11 2011
djdedan60Hz

Praying is insanity. (It’s actually proven that sick people who know they are being prayed for actually do worse than those who either don’t know that someone is praying for them – which of course has nothing to do with divine intervention but more to do with the human psyche). But i agree with everything else you said.

13 05 2012
Tibi

But then you wouldn’t expect different results if you’re doing it the exact same way you did it in the first place..

5 06 2012
buba is an idiot

in many experiments, the point is to do it exactly the same way to demonstrate consistency or inconsistency, so in many experiments you are doing it exactly the same way and hoping that there will be a different result. singing the same songs without adjusting anything at all improves the quality of your voice, so doing the same thing over and over is beneficial just by sheer virtue of practice and improvement. the quote is stupid and only applies to certain specific circumstances and shouldn’t be used as a blanket statement, especially when it’s so often misquoted and misunderstood.

17 04 2008
testingjeff

@catherine todd : I entered variations of the quote into Google, looking for citations, which led me to http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rita_Mae_Brown

8 04 2011
mikey

By your logic, Jeff, this blog is just as reliable a source. Did you verify that RM Brown’s book was the FIRST TIME that quote was used? Any author can use somebody else’s words.

17 04 2008
Catherine Todd

THANKS… I’ll have to read up on the wiki Rita Mae Brown site.

18 04 2008
Catherine Todd

Adrian, I think you’ve got the “real” description down here. Thanks so much! This notion has been driving me crazy!:) Now, with persistence and prayer, maybe I’ll have a fighting chance…:) smile!

5 06 2008
Tom Mason

I’ve just had this tattoo’s on my forearm, i love this quote!

5 06 2012
buba is an idiot

so you tattooed a stupid quote that doesn’t make sense on your arm permanently? when it’s not correct? wow, you’re an idiot.

23 06 2008
Richard Croft

If you are practicing a musical instrument or performing an experiment repeatedly, are you not expecting the same result? That is the reason why you repeat it – so that you attain your expected result. However, expecting something new and yet to do the same thing is insanity.

24 06 2008
Catherine Todd

I practice music all the time and I DO “expect a different result,” as I do with practicing ballet, swimming, gymnastics, anything that requires skill learned by rote. Doing something over and over again the same way leads to an effortless in action, like swimming underwater or “moving in a dream.”

All this repetitive motion always led to “ease of use” and effortless, so when I applied the same principles to relationships, for example, and things DIDN’T CHANGE, and they didn’t “get better,” they got WORSE, I could never understand why. If it worked “in practice” with music and dance, why couldn’t it work “in love?”

All I know now is that there is a difference in what I do by myself, and what I try to do with others. When they have control over their situations (and mine) things don’t turn out as planned. Yet hanging in there, year after year, certainly led to “insanity” on my part.

Thanks for yet another comment to try and explain a difficult, if not impossible, concept to me. For now, I stick with “practice makes perfect” when it comes to things I can do – by myself – and “the way it begins is the way it ends” when it comes to relationships, professional or personal, and it involves more than just one!

Hope one day I can understand the difference. It’s incomprehensible to me right now.

24 06 2008
rodgerv

Personally, I would look at this quote internally. You can’t control outside forces, and this quote is more about yourself than anything else.

If by practicing a skill, you hope to achieve the same result every time by repetition then you can achieve that goal. If you’re improving, then yes, you aren’t doing the same thing over and you can hopefully expect a better result every time.

I don’t think there’s a huge difference whether you’re talking about life, work or relationships. If you’re often expecting that performing the same actions will produce a different result, then you’re falling into a very human trap which is the exact reason why I still really like this quotation.

Give your methods a fair shot and do what you believe in, but sometimes be wise and change your methods. That can be very universally applicable.

24 06 2008
catherine todd

I guess it boils down to if I keep changing my methods, hoping for a different result and they never change their methods, then we still get the same results! No good.

You wrote: ” If you’re often expecting that performing the same actions will produce a different result, then you’re falling into a very human trap which is the exact reason why I still really like this quotation.

Give your methods a fair shot and do what you believe in, but sometimes be wise and change your methods. That can be very universally applicable.”

“Why you really like this quotation…” OK, I will have to keep thinking on this! Thanks for the response.

7 07 2008
Jubael

Ha!

Excellent article. I’m glad I found it.

-jjj

20 10 2008
Nigel

This quotation is not intended to contradict the idea that “practice makes perfect”; rather, it’s saying that systematic, unvaried repetition– simply going through the motions– and hoping to achieve success is, in essence, insane. When you practice an instrument and find that the way you play something does not produce the sound you’d hoped for, you don’t keep playing the same way– you work out the best way to play that piece of music and practice that way.

26 06 2010
Bayard Baylis

Practice does not perfrect. Perfect practice makes perfect. There was an excellent tv commercial that started by showing an obviously amatuer softball shortstop fielding a groundball and attempting to start a doubleplay. The announcer says amatuers practice something until they get it right once. The scene with the amatuer fades out and a scene with a well-known professional shortstop fades in. This pro fields a ground ball and starts a double play. The announcer then says “Professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong.” The repetitive perfect practice locks in the brain synaptic paths and the muscle movements into place. They become habits and automatic. If you practice something incorrectly enough, you will have a very hard time doing it correctly.

27 08 2011
Cathy

Thank you Bayard
Also a very good point. That is how muscle memory works and this is true. Although the person did practice it different ways to get it to that perfect form first by changing it slightly. Then they repeat the same thing to the best of their ability to build muscle memory. And yes you need to be careful that you do not build memories of the wrong method. Very difficult to break. My daughter was a figure skater and learned the entrance to her Axle incorrectly. Her coach had to not allow her to attempt the jump for almost 6 months while learning the motions for the entrance first to allow her muscles to “forget”.
This is very interesting to talk about.

11 12 2008
Mr. Dufresne

Insanity is having a comment box seeking opinionated responses and not expecting a cyber argument…

27 08 2011
Cathy

That is hilarious!!!. So very true. Mr. Dufresne.

2 02 2009
Eddie

I’ve never taken this as a literal definition, because it’s not. Like everything, every single word, statement, whatever, everyone should read it and grab what meaning they can from it. Hell, people hear what they want to anyway.

What fun is there if everything is taken literally?

Anyway, to me, it points out the folly in situations where people keep trying to fix a problem, but all they do is treat the symptoms and never logically find the root cause of the problem and fix that.

12 02 2009
William Blake

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

-William Blake

2 03 2009
Sarah

What are you talking about? 1st of all: it was said by Benjamin Franklin, not that weird lady, I know she probably said it too, but it is commonly known as coming from him. second: the quote is talking quite simply pointing out a flaw in all of us. Your argument about practicing music, falls, because that is a good example of what this is talking about, I play the clarinet, and if there is this one rhythm and I know how it is played, but I practice it this different way every time, and I expect to play it correctly on the concert, that is insane. And finally third: All quotes are contradicting if you take them apart and scrutinize them. I personally love this quote, and you need to grow a brain, and have some fun in life and stop over annalyzing things. You only did this to get comments, we all know it, we all know that’s probably exactly what this site is for, and I would like it better if you kept your thoughts to yourself, because then the whole world’s IQ would go up 10 points.

8 04 2011
mikey

And if you kept your thoughts to yourself…?

27 08 2011
Cathy

Wow Sarah. pipe down. yours is the first comment I have read that has been so defensive and immature. Everyone has the right to their opinion and discussing different viewpoints in a calm and friendly environment can foster growth in everyone. It is very closed minded to say that you love the quote and that he has no brain and should stop thinking for himself. I mean really? You are absolutely correct about your clarinet, I also played clarinet and it took a lot of practice to get that rhythm down to a science so that it was automatic. Which required some minor “adjustments” to get it that way. If we all “kept our thoughts to ourselves” as you say then where do you leave room to learn and grow as a person? You sound young. If not then that concerns me. However you, I, nor anyone else knows everything and understanding that is the first step to becoming a mature intelligent adult. Intellect isn’t necessarily about how much you know but also knowing that maybe you don’t know everything and are open to new information.

30 03 2009
Koffee Brown

Hmm you know what I don’t do drugs, so I don’t get high, but sometimes I wish I did. That way, when I messed up in life I would have an excuse. But right now there’s no rehab for stupidity.
Damn that would be great to have a excuse for all the times I’ve Just f*cked up.. But what makes it feel so so wrong is if I had to do it all again .. darn .. I would do the same damn thing ..lol.. Hmm I must be Insane, or is it just a case of doing the same thing a second time as it hasn’t worked is me just begin shrewd. who knows who really cares …

21 05 2009
Pat M.

The original quote was “Doing the same thing, the same way, and expecting a different result is insanity”. If I play a musical instrument the same way each time, I will get the same resulting sounds. If I alter the way I play just a little bit (such as hitting a note sooner, or waiting longer to hit it, altering the wind in the wind instrument, altering the way I move across a stringed instrument, etc), then I will indeed get a different result. Practice is…trying it a different way each time, to try to achieve perfection. If you take the same test, and give the same answers each time, you will get the same result. If I stick my hand on a burning hot oven, I will get burned each time, the only difference will be based on what part of my hand touched the burning hot oven. The author of this quote was trying to point out that we need to learn from our mistakes. The author of the quote is trying to get each of us to consider what we need to change in our lives or situations to achieve the result we are looking for. I tried playing piano by ear as a kid, and I kept trying DIFFERENT notes until I finally figured out how to play certain tunes. It would be INSANE to assume that if I played the same way each time, that some how it would eventually be different.

29 05 2009
Kia

This quote has absolutely NOTHING to do with lack of persistence. It is LITERAL and is a quote by Einstein who was a very literal and logical person. The quote is: “it is insanity to do the same thing, the same way, over and over and expect a different result”. For the person that used the Benjamin Franklin example, he did not do the same thing, THE SAME WAY, over and over. When he flew the kite during a storm he didn’t get the desired results. Then attached a tail to the kite, then a METAL key to the line, then he flew the kite during a DRY lightning storm and only then, after many changes from the original experiment, did he get the desired result. If you study Einstein, you will see that this quote evolved when he was frustrated by fellow scientists that refused to entertain new ideas because they wanted to stick to ideas that were already in existence and proven, but yet wanted to get “different” results. Personally I think this quote is a perfect example of LEARNING from your mistakes and succeeding by being open minded and persistent enough to keep trying new approaches and not being stuck in your ways because your ego won’t allow you to accept that change is necessary for progress.

4 06 2009
Mel

What about playing the lottery, you do the same thing over and over, buy a ticket, and one day maybe you win millions, isn’t that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

6 08 2010
irene

Great Point!

8 04 2011
mikey

Well, if you actually consider the odds, it might be insanity anyway (though for a different reason).

30 11 2011
60Hz

yep, it’s insane to play the lotto but you are actually not doing the same thing unless the winning lotto number never changes but you insist on playing your same numbers over and over again, then yes i would say that’s insanity or a tleast stupidity… the fact the number changes per drawing means you are NOT doing the same thing because the winning number is actually a part of what you are doing… you are trying to guess it.

a quick example would be i have a coin in one of my hands, guess which it is, i’ll give you infinite tries to guess it… now if you guess left, and it’s wrong, if you guess left again you are insane (according to einstein, ben franklin and random lady author – to me you are stupid lol)…

now if i switch the key per guess and you constantly guess left, you should have a 50/50 chance of winning, assuming i’m randomly switching… so you are not doing the same thing because each guess is a new problem…

hopefully that makes sense???

22 08 2009
23 08 2009
D Stevens

This is why I hate comments. Cause everyone has to compete. If one person states there opinion on the way something is said then another person has to come around and quote there own opinion and pretty much tell the other person to F Off. you know what a opinion is just that. Just like a belief or faith. There is a reason it’s a belief. Cause if it were Completely true… it would be a fact… not a belief. but thats all they are is someones own belief on what they choose. so shut up with all your bickering.

23 08 2009
D Stevens

And for Christ sacks in not a F-ing quote… it’s IN the dictionary. It was in there the day Mr. Webster wrote his book!

21 09 2009
Chris

i think some people are missing the point here, especially the flying kite and lottery remark. we don’t play the lottery over and over expecting different results, you play for one result….winning money. that’s repetition for a a reason. same with ben franklin flying his kite. hew flew it over and over trying to get a singular result. once again, persistence for a definite result.

i think a better understanding is someone touching a hot stove over and over expecting each time it won’t hurt, thus i think that quote is a result of insanity, not the definition of it.

21 09 2009
Chris

Nice reply Kia, makes sense when you put it that way. so it seems like he wasn’t trying to define what insanity is or anything like that, but merely saying it’s kind of stupid for you guys to keep doing things the way you are and expecting something different.

it seems like he was more misquoted than anything. like if i say “you just keep banging your head on the wall and expecting something different.” 50 years from now people might say i was trying to define insanity byt saying if you hit your head on the wall over and over, you’re nuts.

maybe because he was Albert Einstein people hung on his every word like it was the gospel.

29 09 2009
Ron

Einstein was a physicist. In the physical sciences, doing the same thing and expecting to get the same result is part of the scientific method. In the social sciences, the probability of doing exactly the same thing twice is very low. But that doesn’t stop the social scientists from re-using a good idea for one domain (physics) and using it another domain (psychology) where the idea must be diluted and/or qualified

5 11 2009
Jeremy Snitkin

I use this quote often in my work as a therapist, especially in relationship work, and I use it to demonstrate that having the same “argument” or “fight” or “issue” over and over and expecting/hoping/acting like its not going to end the same bad way it did before does not make sense – its nonsensicle. Insanity is not a scientific or medical term – it has no agreed upon definition like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. In popular use, insanity can mean menatlly ill or it can mean “that makes no sense” – like, “thats insane, man”.

So I use the quote to point out that when we don’t interject “rational thought” into our actions, we often keep doing the same thing, getting the same (negative) result, and not knowing why.

As to the source of the quote – I first heard it in an est seminar back in the 80s and it was attributed to Rita Mae Brown. My own research results, as in these responses, have included both Rita and Einstein most often, but no one can site where and when he said it so that it can be looked up. The Rita Mae Brown citation includes the publication and the page, which leads me to believe that she did write it – but not necessarily first. If Einstein actually said it, someone should be able to tell me where and when and, if its not written down, who witnessed it.
The earliest attribution, by the way, was an “ancient Chinese proverb”.

21 11 2009
Paul R. Goldin

The quote is from Rita Mae Brown’s Sudden Death (1983). It’s not from Albert Einstein and it’s certainly not an ancient Chinese proverb. Why are you people all so self-assured that it’s from Einstein? Did you hear him say it yourself?

14 12 2009
Jennie

ugh! for those of you commenting…. my 8 year old understands this quote. you are probably the insane ones who repeat yourselves over and over because you won’t admit when you’ve messed up in life. you get a shitty result… ie gossip about someone and then lose a friend… you would be insane to keep repeating this pattern and not expecting it to blow up in your face yet again, right? sadly, we all catch ourselves making the same mistakes if we aren’t careful. so, what do you do? you find yourself gossiping about another friend… or whatever dumb thing it is you do.

1 02 2011
someguy

ive robbed 15 houses and never gotten caught. am i insane for thinking i might go to jail?

28 12 2009
Lynchie

This quote applies to what the Colts just did in benching their players not that they have made the playoffs…. I thought Dungy retired!

10 03 2010
aj

I believe the quote is directed to individuals thats not happy with their situations/results, and keep repeating the same pattern and hoping their situation will get better. Hoping for intervention from the spirit of good.

22 03 2010
Joe Green

Yes, that is the correct answer.

22 03 2010
Joe Green

Your quote:

“Sometimes doing the same thing a second time when it hasn’t worked the first is indeed just foolish. But sometimes it’s shrewd.”

The attributed Einstein quote doesn’t say “NEVER DO THE SAME THING TWICE”.

It says don’t do the same thing OVER AND OVER AGAIN and expect different results.

Any Scientist will tell you that any experiment should be repeated to insure that the results were consistent and accurate – maybe several times.

But to run the same experiment 1000 times, expecting a different result, is idiotic.

THAT is what the quote means, but I think you missed that.

30 03 2010
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14 04 2010
Darryl Duke

I like to take the opposite approach. I do the same things over and over again and expect the same result. Happiness. Some of these same things are practicing love, kindness, understanding, and tolerance towards myself and others.

21 06 2010
pete

how many trees do you have to sit under before you get hit by a falling apple? I believe repeating yourself is madness but its not proof of an unsound mind

26 06 2010
Jarek Przygódzki

You are not repeating yourself If you are performing the same action, but in different conditions.

24 05 2011
Adam

exactly

5 09 2010
Richard V

But does anyone know in what CONTEXT Einstein used this quote? I suspect he was talking about religion….

23 09 2010
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29 09 2010
Stan

Has anyone ever found an original source where Einstein said or wrote this quote?

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3 12 2010
James

The perfect analogy for this quote, is the fly trying to enter the room through a glass window or door… repeatedly flying into the glass and thinking there’s nothing in it’s way and then proceeding to fly into it again and again and again… this is the definition of insanity… To repeat the action over and over again (getting the same results) and still continue to do the same thing… this is, insanity. Now if that fly were to try the same thing a few times and then decide to wait by the door or window until it was opened… this would be an example of the opposite, a rationally conceived notion that will ultimately lead to a different result… This is what separates most humans from most insects and animals, the ability to learn and the ability to change our approach to something…

22 12 2010
Melissa

I think the point of the quote is not to discourage people from practicing or perfecting a craft or to stop scientific progress (where doing the same thing over and over is necessary to see results). I too believe that if you view this too literally you miss the message which is that if certain things, people, situations, jobs…life circumstances are bringing you undesirable results, merely repeating what brought you to them will bring the same results. So if you want DIFFERENT results you have to force yourself to take a new approach. Period. Otherwise your life will be “Groundhog Day”.

I recently experienced the MOST extreme example of this and I swear I could kick myself for not applying this principle. I think this is where the expression “I saw it coming a mile away” came from. It’s that feeling that I had the ability to predict the future but did not appreciate that. So I then found myself repeating something terribly unpleasant that I could have easily avoided.

11 01 2011
vilignoble

Insanity needs to be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and getting different results.

4 02 2011
Karen

When you are getting married for the sixth time, this quotation is very appropriate. If you have been able to survive 5 marriages, and you are now ready to enter into another, there has to be something wrong with the picture. You are doing the same thing for the 6th time. Naturally, you are either doing something wrong or you are a collector.

13 02 2011
elgintodd

Because of the simplicity of the quote, we’re able to apply it into complex life situations that we get into. For instance, a lot of people wake up every morning and go to work- mostly to be able to pay their bills. Doing this every day for 30 years and expect to get ahead of the pack is foolish. One needs a plan, a roadmap to their goal, and work with a professional.

18 03 2011
Spencer

I’m gonna think outside the box for a second and take it in a different direction. How about people who are mentally ill? Like, really insane. Like, holy crap you’re trying to eat a frisbee insane. Text book OCD = repetitive actions. Eh eh? Delusional people calling the same phone number over and over again hoping someone will pick up? Or how about someone in an incoherent state repeating the same phrase over and over again? I’ve noticed a lot of repetitive traits in people with mental disorders. Glass of milk, glass of milk, glass of milk, excuse me. It totally works with OCD and the washing of hands and flipping light switches. Totally not what whoever said this quote was talking about at all, but we don’t know the context, so does it really matter if the quote means something different to different people? It’s like a song, it can mean something personal to you, even if someone else who you don’t know wrote it with their own meaning.

Either way, if it was Einstein, this discussion provides more evidence for a different quote of his, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits”. But blogs can go on forever!! I like what Mr. Dufresne said and Jeremy Snitkin is the only one who came up with a practical application for this quote.

14 04 2011
Because they got that way « Greenfyre’s

[...] More accurately, since we already acknowledge it, when are we going to change our behaviour accordingly?(HINT: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.) [...]

24 05 2011
Adam

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

its a paradox, it’s refering to logic, the paradox is that he uses insanity.

in actuality its meaning in a scientific approach using the same steps to create a different result is illogical.

the clever part; and quite witty it is; by using insanity people will automatically attempt to relate it to emotional and sociological situations, when in reality he was a scientist.

8 06 2011
Abhi

Hve i ever told you the definition of insanity…

Insanity, is, doing the exact, same, ****ing thing over n’ over again expecting… sh** to change…

That, is, crazy…

And the first time someone told me that, I don’t know I think they were bull****ing me so boom, I shot him in the head.

The thing is, hehe… He was right.

And then I started seeing it everywhere I looked, everywhere I looked, all these ****ing ppl… everywhere I looked, doing the exact same ****ing thing, over n’ over n’ over n’ over n’ over again, thinking, “This time, its going to be different. No no no no pleease, this time its going to be different”.

I am sorry… I don’t LIKE it, the way … Your ppl tubbing at me…. K?

You have a ****ing problem in your head, do you think I’m bul****ing you, do you think I’m lying–

**** YOU! Okay, ****… YOU.

Its okay man… heh heh, I’m going to chill man I’m going to chill.

Its okaay… Its like a camper under the bridge.

…Did I ever tell you, the definition, of insanity?

5 03 2012
Ivan

THANK YOU!!! I can’t beleave no one ells hear made that refferance. However, have I ever told you the deffinition of insanity?

12 07 2011
Joan Madera

“I didn’t fail. I just found 1000 ways how not to make a lightbulb.” ~Thomas Edison

This man was not insane. He tried again and again using different methods and even though he did not make the lightbulb he kept trying. That is persistence. Obviously he didn’t try the same mistake, cause then he would have only ‘failed’ once, not a 1000 times. His actions were repetitive but they differed in method. Therefore he was persistent and sane all at once.

Oh look! Fire can’t start under water, maybe it’ll work out of it.

Insanity is repeating the same mistakes, expecting different results.

If I wanted to start a fire but it didn’t work under water, but I kept trying to make it work under water, then I would be insane. But of course, what if I sealed it in something with a tube sticking out to allow air inside, it would still be under water, and it would not cease. In this case, I am not insane. Because I changed my method. Maybe he kept flying that kite, but only because he KNEW that nature was not insane and eventually it will come. How can you expect something, if you don’t even know whether it exists or not? Christopher Columbus set out into the sea to find land, because he knew land existed, but whether it was land different from his own was a mystery.

15 07 2011
Lower taxes do not produce jobs | Democracyinaction

[...] Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  [...]

25 07 2011
Ada

There was a fly who wanted to escape a house. He saw a window & flew into it. He flew against the glass, banging himself, over & over & over again, willing the invisible wall to disappear. He died of exhaustion/injuries.

There was a fly who wanted to escape a house. He saw a window & flew into it. The glass didn’t give way, so he tried a different route. He flew through an open door. Freedom.

26 08 2011
Jimmy

All it takes to change our results is to alter our behaviors when things does not work.

10 10 2011
micheal

Ithink it refers to motony or routine followed over and over such as going to work and expecting to get somewhere. I also think its been said and done arguing over the internet about it wont change what it means

18 10 2011
Dana L

The quote “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results” is contained in the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous which was published in 1982. The review form of the book was distributed to members in 1981 and work on the book began in 1979. All of this predates Rita Mae Brown’s book.
For those of you sure it was Einstein? Prove it. In what text.
Bottom line…we do not know the origin of this quote.

19 10 2011
Mitt Romney The Banksters Choice. | theinfotone

[...] The Same Old Same Old. When will people learn that these leaders are bought and paid for by big corporations and global bankers that run America.  The republicans and democrats need to take their blinders off and see it for what it really is. It’s not a left and right issue. Both parties have been bought and paid for by the same bunch of bandits. Obama and Romney both are cut from the same cloth. Citizens thought they were going to get change with Obama but they did not get the change they were expecting. If you think you’re going to get change with Mitt Romney? Think again. Insanity is voting the same left and right over and over again and expecting different results. [...]

26 10 2011
Jack

This is disgusting. People are still “debating” a four year old post? Besides, its not debatable. The original quote is indeed from Einstein. And it wasn’t any metaphorical bullshit. Einstein was a determinist. He believed if you could measure all the parameters of the universe, then you could write a single formula that predicted the precise location and velocity of every single particle, ie: nothing is left to chance. The quote was meant as a blow to quantum physicists, who’s theories state state that many things are left to chance and that we can’t predict everything. Therefore, by quantum physics (particularly the uncertainty principle) you can repeat an experiment exactly the same two days in a row and measure different results. This stupid quote was just Einstein telling quantum physicist they can shove it up their arse’s.

26 01 2012
Yuno

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it means that when it’s common knowledge that there are NO possible results and you know it but still repeat it trying to get a different result, THEN you’re insane. Like that guy who kept press the ‘open’ button on his already open microwave, trying to open it.

13 02 2012
Einstein did not say this...

This quote annoys me because most of the people who use it DO take it literally, as if this is how “insanity” is defined in the glossary of the DSM IV. It leads to lazy thinking and is often presented as the full extent of an argument against a course of action. It might as well have “QED” at the end of it.

I also take issue with it as a logical statement. The world is constantly changing. Just because something did not work the first time does not mean that circumstances will not be different the second time and allow for a different result.

14 02 2012
Sasha

Einstein was mentally unstable himself,

9 03 2012
deliciamo

Keep going to your boyfriend/girlfriend house after they’ve asked you to stop…That’s insane and it meets the definition… LOL!! Don’t try that experiment at home, you might get 10 to life.

20 03 2012
Rev. Rimas

Doesn’t it all depend? Seems it not only fits but actually works for alcoholics and addicts?

16 04 2012
Dan L

No justification whatsoever in attributing this to Albert E.

19 04 2012
Better to be crazy for the King of Kings, than sane for the world… « 42daysofprayerincorsham

[...] Incidentally, when I mentioned this definition of insanity to my previous psychiatrist, the wonderful Dr David Stevens, he didn’t agree with it.  I [...]

21 04 2012
dirac

i guess quantum physicists are all insane.

27 05 2012
Lon Scarlata

I am continually browsing online for ideas that can assist me. Thx!

7 08 2012
Going Insane

Insanity is arguing over a quote about insanity! Especially when that quote was probably meant to introduce some sanity into an insane world! (Now watch the stream of insanity that follows…..)

23 12 2012
Barbara

Hi all. I think that the quote “repeating the same mistakes but/and expecting different results explains abusive relationships to a “T”

5 01 2013
juliegeigle

I do believe it’s more your mind set than it is the action of pounding your head against the wall that is destined to provide different results. Maybe the first time you pound your head with anger, but the next time you pound your head with love. Sure enough your head is still likely to hurt, but there is a different energy expelled in anger than in love. I agree, sometimes it is persistence that creates change (with a dose of love) than giving up.

12 06 2010
Syed Shaffee

How to join. What i can do.

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