Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why we Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over Again

Dance Class at Dance Conmigo
Alain correcting mistakes at Tango class

When I used to live in the States, for a short period of time I lived in a poor neighborhood called Little Havana. The rent was cheap and I did not mind the night entertainment. Who needs a television when you can witness a new drama every night? The husband and wife screaming at each other, the prostitutes on the corner waiting for their Johns, the drug pushers making their rounds and the gamblers collecting their bets. Unfortunate chains of events created numerous tragedies almost every night. Someone getting killed, someone getting robbed, someone getting arrested.

While living in this neighborhood, I saw  the thief, the prostitute, the pusher going to jail, but as soon as they got out, they would go back to the same old, same old. It is so comfortable to go back to the same repetitive behavior, to go back to what seems natural.

To change is difficult and painful, almost impossible. We see many patterns in almost all phases of life, the overweight person tries to diet and after a few weeks gives up and continues eating unhealthy. The smoker quits for a few weeks and celebrates by lighting up a cigarette. The examples are innumerable.

Unhealthy repetitive behavior is also common in corporations and governments. Businesses are comfortable giving poor customer service, businesses stop innovating, businesses become reactive instead of becoming proactive.  Governments borrow more than what they can earn, governments go to war without exhausting diplomatic efforts, governments do anything to earn votes even if they will hurt their constituents a few years down the road.

Recently I asked my Facebook community this question:

Why do people (or corporations) consistently make the same mistakes.

Here are some of the responses.

  •  Lyne: It’s an ego thing….no one wants to recognize being wrong….
  •  Jan: One of the biggest mistakes corporations make is when they hire employees at a cheap rate. In the long term that employee will leave when a more lucrative opportunity arises. The cost of retraining a new employee and cost of productivity far exceeds had they paid that employee a good wage from the start.
  •  Ali: In my opinion, people are often very happy not to take responsibility for their actions and social habits. If someone doesn’t like an outcome, or a response they are getting, it would make sense to change or adjust their own output/reaction. But, changing habits and reactions is extremely hard work. So, they have the same reactions to things because it’s easier to think it’s someone else’s fault than their own fault. Or, they are self-deceivingly hopeful and think if they do the same thing, but better, they will have a better outcome the next time. Change is hard, and scary. It takes guts to admit to oneself that one’s mental map of a certain area is inaccurate. I don’t mean to criticize those that don’t make the change – so much can be at stake – change is hard. It’s just an observation!
  • Rowan: On a corporate level, sometimes the desire to make changes is there in the upper levels, but acquiring buy-in from staff can be near impossible. Change is scary and not everyone is open to it. One mistake leaders make as mentioned above is not changing tactics. There is often more than one way to achieve a goal and one must be flexible in order to do so. On a personal level, many of us are set in our ways and don’t want to be inconvenienced. We would rather live with the devil or in the cage we know. There is comfort in familiarity.
  •  Debbie: Can be a lack of organizational learning if information is not recorded and passed along appropriately. Can be that they don’t see or recognize the pattern. Or that they are doing stuff off the seat of their pants with no time to think or plan properly.
  • Maya: organizational change involves at heart a change in the value system of the organism and all entities composing it…such change is never easy to implement especially if those involved never had a hand in deciding what the change will consist in…
  •  Anick: People: they are doing what they know. If they don’t have access to any other strategies, they will repeat what they are comfortable with = what they know, even if this is slowing them down.

From reading all these great posts, I have come to the conclusion that the main reason why we continue making the same mistakes over and over again are: inertia: we are comfortable with the way things have always been; and fear: we fear the unknown so much that we prefer to stay unhappy with something that we know than to have a chance of happiness with something that we don’t know, how else can we explain the husband and wife who stay together even if they feel so miserable in each other’s company? How can we explain the person who stays at a job that she hates for fear of looking for a new job.

In future posts we will discuss how to tackle fear and inertia.

Thank you to the people who shared their opinion with me.

Here is a poem by my friend Cheryl Williams sharing her thoughts on the topic.

To judge a fly

It’s so easy to judge a fly
from where I sit and wonder why 
the screen he’ll hit but never try
to change his course – but just a bit!

Is it not freedom that he seeks?
in my mind these words repeat,
as do my actions that compete 
against my own will to move on…

A hundred times he’ll hit 
against the same spot that he knows,
and I think I know he’s thinking
that this time it will be different

But I know it’s not a hundred
or a thousand times it takes
to make you really want to hit the screen
so hard that it could break you

And I know the self-destruction
satisfaction, repetition
all-avoidance, self-denial
that will keep you incognito

So I watch the fly with pity
and I move to pull the screen back
and he jumps upon the offer
flying off to where it leads to

And I wonder if I’m waiting 
for an offer thus divine
while I try to change the ways
that keep me frozen here in time

My mind begins to wonder:
When does under turn to stand?
yet I turn away afraid again
to claim what’s in my hand

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Alain’s miscellaneous stuff

Every week I try to go to a new restaurant in the area of Le Plateau and write a review on Vacation Rental Montreal, the blog that I have dedicated to my vacation rental business. Here are some pictures one of my regular restaurants in the area: Sabor Latino.

Dinner at Sabor Latino
Dinner at Sabor Latino

Sabor Latino: restaurant, supermarket
Sabor Latino: restaurant, supermarket