I’ve noticed some patterns in my writing that have inspired me to shake things up. I tend to rely on the same words (like tend), and start out most posts with a recap of what I’d written about the day before.
Despite my best attempts to try to diversify my writing style, certain patterns have still emerged. Some of them I like (using we instead of you or I; posting something new each work day), and some I don’t (just-in-time writing versus planning ahead with ideas and themes). But now that I’ve noticed them, I can take additional measures to adjust those patterns I think aren’t working in my favor, shore up those I think are helpful, and create new ones to help replace the ones I want to shift or lose completely.
The same thing goes when we’re transitioning to a change in our lives. Some of our patterns naturally shift in conjunction with the change (chewing gum instead of smoking), while others might stay the same despite it (drinking coffee in the morning regardless of where we live).
Sometimes we resist shifting those patterns we have come to know and love (sleeping late on weekends), other times we use our change as an opportunity to shift our patterns in other parts of our life (riding our bike instead of driving to our new job).
Patterns as habits.
Patterns can be a lot like habits; those routines we have come to rely upon to help us through our busy days, while allowing us to save our mental energy for more important and challenging things.
I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work around habits, even though I have a very different perspective about them as a person who generally likes less, rather than more, routine. That being said, sometimes having more structure is good, and it’s finding the best balance for our individual preferences and needs that is, in my view, the most important thing.
What I’ve come to recognize is that it is really easy to go through life unaware of most of our patterns. But once we intentionally try to see them, they start popping up all over the place.
Patterns as fractals.
My definition for patterns is closely related to that of one of my favorite concepts; fractals. I love fractals. They are replicating scaleable patterns, and are often visually represented by the famous Madelbrot set. Bringing it closer to home, things like broccoli, ferns, trees and waves are more common examples of fractals.
My interest, however, rests with the replicating patterns of people. At this point I run the risk of leading you down any number of rabbit holes, such as how they show up in organizations, and how I believe it is at the edge of human fractal patterns that the tension of change and our willingness to accept or reject differences exist. But I’ll reserve those ideas for another time.
For today, I’d like to put the spotlight on our own individual and/or family patterns and the importance of noticing them in order to adjust them when necessary to align with our change.
Overt and covert patterns.
We have very overt patterns, of which we may or may not be aware, such as what we do for leisure, our movie, music, reading or food preferences, clothing styles, driving routes, and so on.
We also have many hidden patterns of which we are more often than not clueless. These can be things like frequently used phrases or words, default mannerisms, how we position ourselves in the stories we tell, or the power tactics and thought patterns we use.
Some of these patterns hold more importance during times of change than others. Those patterns that will likely be disrupted because of the change have the highest potential for derailing it. If the change is unwelcome, then the risk is especially high, but even for those changes we’ve invited, certain patterns - especially the hidden ones - could create counter-productive results.
How to detect your patterns.
As the intention of this post was to introduce the idea of patterns and how they can influence our smooth transition to change, I’m going to leave it pretty general for now. But in order to get you started on your pattern-seeking journey, I suggest trying one or more of the following:
Start with your daily routines and scale out from there.
What do you do every single day without fail? What do you do differently on some days than others? Do you purposely make changes in your routines to shake things up, or do you find you depend on them to get through the day? What daily or frequent patterns do you like, and which are more a result of convenience, but aren’t particularly patterns you embrace?
Observing yourself and your behavior with an objective eye is a great way to surface those patterns that are most often taken for granted.
Uncover your rituals.
Rituals are things that we savor. They may be little things (it may seem odd, but one of my simple favorites is brushing my teeth), or bigger ones, like listening to a favorite podcast on your way to work, or gardening in your free-time.
Rituals are important to be aware of, especially during times of change, because disruptions to these could result in increased stress and discomfort.
If you aren’t aware of the importance of your rituals, you might not be able to pinpoint the source of your related anxiety. Being aware allows you to also give higher importance to your rituals to minimize the discomfort of uncertainty or disruption during your change.
Think about your thinking.
Some of us have very consistent patterns of responding to change. I’ve noticed a pattern where some people initially embrace new ideas while others are more skeptical. The really interesting thing is how both perspectives tend to represent opposite ends of a funnel; slowly moving from openness or constriction to settle around the same point in the middle.
How do you respond to new ideas, differences, or surprises? These can offer clues on your reaction patterns and help you to better understand your process of deciphering and adapting to information.
Also, what, if any, patterns can you notice in your inner voice? Is the tone judgmental or welcoming? Blaming or encouraging? Noticing these things can help you to make shifts if it seems the tone or perspective isn’t what you’d like.
Patterns are about choice.
Surfacing our patterns can be a really fun, but also, at times, a somewhat vulnerable exercise. Sometimes we don’t want to know that we have a pattern of saying, “alright?” at the end of every sentence, and that it’s possible everyone who has ever listened to us speak publicly has picked-up on it before we did.
The thing to keep in mind is that once we recognize our patterns, we have the choice of keeping or changing them. But when we are oblivious, it doesn’t make the patterns go away, it just pushes them behind the curtain as they continue to pull the strings of our personal puppet-show of our behavior.
What have you seen?
In my experiences, some people have an easier time noticing patterns than others. What have you found? Are there certain patterns that are easier to detect than others?
Share your perspective and let's get a conversation started!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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