Most of us live our lives facing the same stimuli every day, reacting or responding to them in all too familiar ways. I want to challenge you to see differently by looking at a few of the many patterns in your life. You will recognize some patterns and may be unaware of others. These patterns are behind the very things that drive our lives!
Let's first adjust our sight
Our lives are full of patterns, many hidden beneath our consciousness. In a word, we are subject to them.
Before continuing, it is essential to understand what it means to be "subject to" something for our discussion. Its meaning, according to The Free Dictionary, is:
be subject to (something) - To be guided, controlled, or ruled by something.
The meaning of being subject to something is well-known in leadership development. When you are subject to something, it remains outside your awareness. In other words, it controls you without your knowledge, which effectively makes you subject to it.
We are subject to countless things in life. Anytime we can bring them into our awareness, we gain the ability to take control of them. When you are not aware of them, you are controlled and essentially in a mindless state of being! Better we are mindful rather than mindless, don't you think!
Seeing patterns in everyday life
Patterns in life have to do with how we spend our time and what we spend it on. Since everyone has a limited amount of time on this earth, this would seem to be an important topic to most of us unless you don't mind wasting your time and your life!
As we gain awareness of these patterns that drive our habits and behaviors in life, we can begin to take control of them. By taking control, you can choose to either change, keep or eliminate them.
How did these patterns form? Even when we are aware of a pattern forming at the beginning, we may not realize it is developing a pattern or habit in our life. Over time these patterns and habits become like the pitter-patter of rain on a metal roof. They slowly slip from your consciousness into the background, eventually disappearing altogether. But when you pay attention to the rain and the noise on the roof, it reappears for a time. As we focus on other things, it will once again disappear from our hearing and our thoughts.
It is widely reported we make an average of 35,000 decisions each day. While this may sound very high to some of us, there is no doubt we routinely make a significant number of decisions. Resting in those many decisions are many patterns that can be surfaced and explored.
What are some of the more recognizable patterns in life? A few of the hundreds of regular patterns you will recognize include those in:
- Traveling to and from work
- Spending time with family and friends
- Social networking
- Watching television
- Enjoying hobbies
- Balancing the checkbook
- Taking care of the yard/house
- Maintaining your car
While the above things may contain a larger pattern on their own, each may also contain many smaller patterns. What would you add to this list?
Do you recognize any patterns in the above list to which you may be subject? Considering most of us do not examine the patterns in our lives, you have likely developed many habits you are unaware of.
For example, how many things do you do habitually at work? This could include things like regularly checking emails, phone messages, going through your calendar, working away a little at a time on that monthly report, stopping by someone's office to chat, and other such things.
Remember, existing patterns have created your habits and behaviors that determine your actions and how much time you spend on them. Take time to think about a few of the habits you have formed. As they come to mind, ask yourself, "Do I want to keep, change, or eliminate this habit?" If you examine each of your habits, you will wind up saving an enormous amount of time and will easily gain more hours in the day!
Patterns that impact your future
But what about patterns you may or may not have developed that can have a huge impact on your future? Things like:
- Planning your life
- Setting short and long-term goals
- Saving and investing for retirement
- Having a college fund for the kids
- Personal development
- Improving your skills
- Purposely learning and growing
- Spending quality time with your spouse and children
- Maintaining your health by exercising and eating right
What patterns do you notice in your life from the above list? Have any patterns developed into a habit of putting important things off? Yes, we can use that dirty word written about so much – procrastination! It is the bane of the existence of many of us! Have you ever thought of it as a habit resulting from patterns in your life? You may wish to give more thought to this.
To have the best life possible, pay particular attention to existing patterns in the above list and ask yourself, "What action can I take to create, keep, change, or eliminate any of these patterns and the resulting habits now?"
"Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued." Socrates (470-399 BC)
Why is it important to recognize these patterns in your life? Because they are behind or beneath the habits you form in life. Always remember, habits are the behavioral expression of underlying patterns.
Developing the ability to see patterns in your life is crucial to living the best life possible. In summary, we have a great number of patterns in our lives. We are subject to many of them, with little or no awareness.
From these patterns come our habits and behaviors, which greatly influence where we spend our time and energy in our careers and lives. By identifying some of these hidden patterns and the resulting habits, you can take control and create, strengthen, modify, or eliminate them in a way that will help you chart the best course for your life.
Lastly, by making these patterns visible, you gain the opportunity to take control of your life and use your time doing the things you truly wish to do. By bringing these patterns to light, you will lose less time and life.
You have a life worth living and worth living well. May you uncover the patterns in your life that will help you live the best possible years ahead!
"It is not living that matters, but living rightly. The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates (470-399 BC)