Two phrases spewed by motivational speakers and “life” coaches drive me crazy.

When I hear them I want to strangle the messenger.

They are attributed to a variety of people, so no one really knows the first person to say them. That’s probably a good thing, since those people would probably prefer not to be associated with the phrases by now.

I’ve heard them attributed to Albert Einstein (he seems to be the most mis-quoted of all), Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford and Anthony Robbins. The only one I can attest to hearing them directly from is Anthony Robbins, whom I doubt is the original source.

What are these phrases?

Well, they are similar in nature and used to make a similar point.

The point is that we need to change our behavior if we want the results in our life to change.

It’s a nice concept and important for us to take under consideration.

Yet, I’m skeptical these phrases are effective in all circumstances.

As a matter of fact, in quite a few contexts, they hold us back.

These two phrases are:

  • “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.”
  • “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.”

Maybe, maybe not.

As time goes by, the more you do something, and as the environment changes you should expect a different result from the same actions. If not, you’re not improving.

If I pick up my guitar to learn a new chord and practice the same movements over and over, I better expect a different result. If I continue to do it the same way over and over, I am doing it to not get what I’ve gotten in the past.

As a matter fact, it’s virtually impossible to “get what I’ve always gotten” if I continue to practice the repetitive action of playing the guitar chord the same way. I should expect to get better.

Likewise, as we age eating the same types of foods as we did as children, we will not get the same results or reactions from our physical bodies. We need to believe that is the case so we can stay healthy as we age.

If companies apply the same marketing strategies they implemented 20 years ago, they better expect a different result or they’ll be out of business. Technology and globalization have changed the way business is conducted in that time period, and continues to do so.

Here are four reasons we must reconsider these motivational phrases as universal truths:

  • Continually changing demographics
  • Continually changing economics
  • Continually changing social mores
  • Continually changing technology

So, next time you hear these phrases spouted by someone trying to motivate you to improve your life, let him or her know that the concept is not universal and those philosophies must be applied in the right context.

Few things that are not proven laws of nature, like gravity, hold true 100% of the time.

Believing some random motivational phrases do, will hold you back from being the best you can be.

That’s why I’m going back to keep practicing over and over again, that new guitar chord today and I will be expecting a different result by the end of today.


Skip Weisman, The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert, works with small business owners to help them lead their employees from drama & defensiveness to ownership & initiative. During a 20-year career in professional baseball management, Skip served as CEO for five different franchises. That experience gave Skip tremendous insight and skill for build high-performing teams in the workplace. Skip’s new small business coaching program, based on leadership during the American Revolution, is called Revolutionary Leadership.