Goal Setting -Why Einstein Got It Wrong!

"Einstein", "Gordon Bryan",
Written by gordino

This article is about a famous quote by Albert Einstein, and why it’s all wrong for goal setting. The quote is ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. So what’s wrong with it…?

Well, it seems a reasonable message, right? Particularly in the fields of goal setting, self improvement, and personal development, it’s a great motivational quote, summing up key lessons in a short memorable sentence.

I would contend though, that there is another lesson we can learn from this quote, perhaps even more useful than the quote itself, and this leads me to the major flaw in this quote – Einstein never said it!

There is no evidential record of him saying it.

Recently I was doing what I enjoy doing, researching something or myself rather than just accepting things as true, and I thought I’d find out more about the context of Einstein saying this quote.

Although I found lots of sites attributing the quote to him, with no source, it didn’t take me long to find the sites telling me that it was wrong to tie Einstein to this quote.
It seems that the first recorded use of the sentence is in the 1983 book ‘Sudden Death’ by Rita Mae Brown.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Einstein, I have nothing against the quote. I write a lot about both the need to take action and the need to accept change, to make anyone’s life different from how it currently is.

It’s a great lesson, because one of the main causes of people feeling they are not where or what they want to be, is the fact that they are not taking different actions to the ones they currently take.

To believe that a different future will ‘somehow’ materialise without different action does seem very silly on consideration, doesn’t it!

The goal achievement lesson I draw though, is about education. You must not sit back and assume that your last day of school was the last day of learning. Even more than this, you must not rely solely on absorbing knowledge that comes your way, you must go out and seek it to really kick drive any movement in your life.

A further point about education – when you *do* go out and seek knowledge, which will most likely include going online, do not blindly believe the answers you find!

Anyone can publish online, and regulation is thin to say the least.

Even the self regulating ‘encyclopedia’ type sites are filled by users just like you and me. That’s why you can go online and see that quote ‘factually’ stated as by Einstein, with nothing to back it up.

Do your research! Go to lots of places, god forbid even go offline to a real book!

Whatever your goal is, take advice from many angles, but investigate that advice before you rely on it.

How far you examine things is up to you. You may be happy with a cursory level, and if that works for you , then great! Don’t be afraid either to go back and re-examine your knowledge if things don’t out. In fact that’s a crucial element in understanding how not to make the same mistake again!

"Einstein", "Gordon Bryan",

So to sum up, yes I know I was a bit cheeky to say Einstein got it wrong with his ‘insanity’ quote and how it relates to goal setting, because he never said it in the first place, but *that’s* the point take away – check new knowledge before you accept it!

This is exactly the kind of thing I cover in my free 8 Step Goal Achievement Formula!

I’d love to hear what you think!

‘Til Next Time,
Health  Happiness,
P.S. Don’t forget to connect with me over at facebook – either fb.com/thegreatgordino or my new page at Transform Your Life Now

Do leave a comment!

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  • Supposedly, the FIRST proven (which is still a secondary source) reference was in 1975 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (Volume 71, p. 54, Wildlife Management Institute, 1975). This quote attributes it to Einstein from his “Letters to Solovine 1951”. But, since AA was using it about the same time, it may have been started by “Bill”- as far back as the 1930’s…
    Now, all we need to do is have someone prove it true or false…

    • Thanks Amethyst,
      Yes, sometimes charge a lot fo money too, to tell us information which they either know is correct as it’s from personal experience, or they think is correct because someone else told them, or they guess is correct because they read it somewhere! Whenyou get the same message from different sources, plus back it up with your own research, then it becomes easier to believe it is genuine! I’ve been there too.

      Cheers, Gordon

  • Awesome! I believe education is necessary, especially in my industry of publishing. Things are changing so quickly. And I loved the history of the quote, since that’s one of my favorite. Thanks for posting this today!

    • Thanks Mary, yes, publishing really is changing, with the combination of smart phones and kindle opening up that world to a mass of new people.

      The content may largely stay the same, it’s the medium that changes. Tha’s why self education is indeed important!

  • Ahh yes … Assumptions without researching, questioning or investigating can get us in to all sorts of trouble. Blindly following another is even more dangerous. When I am walking across the road with someone, I also check for cars, I am not going to just trust that they looked first, or that they can see what I see. I want to research my world with awareness and curiosity, after all, it’s more fun that way 🙂

    • Thanks Kama!

      “I want to research my world with awareness and curiosity, after all, it’s more fun that way” I love that! ( it’s the kind of thing Einstein might have said…:-))

  • Great point you make Gordon. I am one who accepted that this quote came from Einstein. What a great lesson. It reminds me of another quote I heard years ago and don’t know the source of, “just because one million say something is true, doesn’t make it true.” (Or some variation of that).

    • I accepted it too Julia! I’m not even sure what prompted me to research it further, but when I found out more I thought ‘ooh, there’s an article to be written there!’ The quote you mention about a million people is a good one, sounds Chinese?
      Cheers, Gordon

  • I really like this post; it’s a good reminder. One of the perils of the internet, I’m afraid!I got some great training in being thorough and not accepting anything without questioning the source last year, when I was being a research student. That was taking things to extremes, though, and now I am finding a balance between academically thorough research and just accepting everything I hear without checking.

    • Thanks Harriet,
      It is indeed a peril of the internet, but I’m amazed at how many people don’t even consider the possibility that something they see online might not be 100% true! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised really! I agree that the checking can be taken to extremes, and also it depends what the research is for, how serious it is.

      With this Einstein quote for example, does it matter whether he said it or not? Or is the value of the sentiment higher than the accuracy? You never know, when people check it from now on, they may come across this article, which covers both! Ha!
      Cheers, Gordon