Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results," and he was right. We like to think we learn from our mistakes, but having gone through the pain of learning a lesson the hard way the first time around, it can be utterly mystifying to find ourselves falling into the same traps.
I know I am definitely guilty of it, and looking back, I would love to slap myself around the head for being so stupid so often and so spectacularly.
I previously worked as a freelance public relations agent and am now a freelance journalist. I love my job, nothing is too much trouble, and being single and child-free means that I can work all hours.
While I've had many lovely and fulfilling experiences working with some really amazing and appreciative people, I've also had several clients over the years who took advantage of the fact that I'm a bit soft.
I seemed to regularly find myself working with people who had huge talent and ambition, but no funding for promoting their business.
Or else they never seemed to have money to pay me properly, although they appeared to have it for other things. Or else, I'd get involved in a media project where the budget was so limited and the demands of the job so consuming, I would end up working all hours of the day and night for very little money.
I can recall working from morning to night on a particularly all-encompassing and lengthy project, huddled under a duvet with my laptop on the sofa, because my heating had been cut off as I couldn't afford to pay the bill. My family paid to have it put back on again, while pleading with me to rethink what I was doing and start to put myself first.
For every healthy, fulfilling and mutually beneficial project I worked on, there was another where the client or employer took complete advantage. Looking back, it is easy to get exasperated at how stupid I was to allow myself to be used on these occasions.
I came to realise that I was always excusing and defending people who treated me badly professionally and refusing to listen when others pointed out that I wasn't receiving fair treatment. I seemed to be a bit dim and it took a long, long time for that penny to drop, but I finally had enough and saw that I was repeating the same mistake over and over again.
It broke my heart initially, but eventually I embarked on better-paid projects that were much healthier to be involved in, and now I'm far happier and more fulfilled (and solvent, too!)
I still occasionally look back and wonder why I was so stupid to stay involved with people who didn't treat me well, which left me feeling resentful and disappointed. It wasn't a healthy situation to be in.
"Many of us simply need to reach that psychological pain threshold that makes us realise when enough is enough," says confidence and motivation coach, Anna Apricio, (www.delite.ie). "We don't make those necessary changes until we've reached a level of discomfort that we simply can't stand any more
"Some people will say it stems from low self-esteem, but I believe it's the result of lack of planning. If you don't want something to happen any more, then establish what you do want to happen, and what do you need to do to make that happen
"Take some time to identify your values; what's most important to you in life and what you will not accept under any circumstances. Get clarity on who you want to be and what you want to do and have, and then make a detailed plan that you can track."
At 44, I now realise I need to put more thought and planning into achieving my own ambitions. You only have one life and you deserve to spend it being treated well!