As I take a moment to reflect on my continuous journey of personal growth, perhaps the most noteworthy aspect that comes to mind is pattern recognition.
While I attribute my ongoing maturation to many things, including a constant willingness to better myself, a hunger to learn, and a desire to live true to myself, I rank pattern recognition high up on that list.
Personal growth requires reflection on one's life up to a certain point. When we reflect, we get in touch with a part of us that is begging for attention, but that we so often overlook. It's the part of us that could be doing something better, but never gets the chance to because we don't ever revisit it.
While we shouldn't live in the past, a healthy dose of reflection goes a long way. It's sort of like one step backward, three steps forward. We need to regularly evaluate our approach to anything to make sure we're not drifting afar. Otherwise, it's too easy for our minds and conditioned stimuli to take over, and before we know it, we've spent years on autopilot, neglecting our true selves.
A result of this reflection is self-awareness. And when we develop self-awareness, we learn about the patterns in our lives. That is, we come to know how we react to different life conditions. For example, knowing when you're most and least productive is a good thing. So is knowing what times of the day you get hungry and when you tend to feel lethargic. Knowing these things help us anticipate potentially negative circumstances before they happen.
However, most of us concern ourselves with the short-term self-awareness, and totally neglect something else, which is far more important.
Getting to know your long-term patterns
Knowing what time you're most productive is beneficial, but it won't do you much good if you neglect the larger cyclical patterns in your life. The ones that appear less visible on the surface, but actually have the most impact on your life. For the majority of my life, I fell into the same patterns without even recognizing it.
For example, playing sports all my life, I never saw practice as a time to actually practice and get better. I always dreaded practice. No matter what sport - karate, hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, even playing the piano - I always viewed showing up to practice as something I had to do against my will. From age 4 to age 18, I never once saw it as an opportunity to actually get better at whatever I was doing.
Had I recognized this pattern earlier on in my sports career, I could've broken it by reminding myself that the entire point of practice, even the word itself, is to improve by making mistakes. But I never, ever saw practice this way. And I guarantee that's what kept me from taking my game to the next level.
I would just fall and become victim to the situation. I wasn't even aware that it was a pattern, and I certainly wasn't aware that I wasn't aware. In a spiritual sense, I was fully asleep.
I always just assumed you were either good or not good, and that was that. In essence, I had a fixed mindset. It wasn't until I started learning about the importance of personal development that I began to awaken.
And awaken I did - to a very, very important fact of life - that if you want things to change, you have to change. If you want things to get better, you have to get better. I learned that if I wanted to take control of my life, I had to embrace a growth mindset. No more dreading practice. I had to get excited for practice. Had I embraced a growth mindset earlier on, I could still be playing one of those sports this day.
Luckily, recognizing this pattern in my mid-20s was enough to point me in the right direction for the years to come.
Shortly after, I started to learn more about myself, my patterns, and how I reacted to different life situations. Sure, I could've done a little less judging along the way, but nevertheless I learned about myself.
Perhaps the most important pattern I've recognized is how the initial high in starting a new endeavor always disappears - and that's not a bad thing. Had I not recognized this pattern, you would not be reading this blog, because I would've quit a long time ago, as soon as the initial excitement of starting a new blog went away.
Because I recognized this pattern in my own life, when it came time to start this blog, I already knew the pattern was coming. I was able to anticipate it and work around it. And that's why I'm sitting here right now, 116 posts later, writing about it. I could almost cry thinking about it.
Pattern recognition in our own lives is probably the single most important habit we can develop. Like the patterns in nature, we can grow by getting to know the patterns in our own individual nature.
What long-term patterns can you recognize in your life?
What phase of a pattern are you currently in?
Could you do anything differently to break or leverage the pattern you're in?
Could you enhance your progress by exploiting a pattern you know is coming?
When we become aware of the patterns in our lives, we can either break them, or leverage them for our own personal growth, and ultimately, our happiness.
Live with substance!