Patterns are very important when we use the systems and habits approach to improvement. We use patterns to tip us off to the underlying systems that we probably don’t recognize.
These patterns give us clues as to what is really happening systematically, and give us a way to manipulate the systems and habits in our own life to create the life we desire.
In my role as Director of Operations I oversee many individuals. Whenever I work with them to get them onboarded or to provide ongoing coaching I am very particular about looking for patterns.
Humans make mistakes and have bad days. So if a mistake is made, we always stop and investigate to see what is going on. Is this just a one-time error or is this part of a pattern that shows the individual is not staying focused.
In my personal life I take the same approach. If I have a bad day eating healthy and make a bunch of choices of what to eat that are not ideal, I can look and see if there is a pattern. If this goes against the pattern and is just an anomaly, I probably don’t have much to worry about.
But if this is forming a new pattern, I stop and put more focus on that area to see why. Am I starting to form a new routine or habit that goes against my goals? Am I letting stress impact my decisions in a negative way? Am I not aware of a new trend in my behavior?
The more I explore these patterns the more I learn about improvement because I can see elements that impact my habits and routines that we might not even realize are related. I can start to see that the recent event is causing me to have more anxiety, which is causing me to be more uneasy, which then influences how I choose what to eat.
Then when I see the pattern I can usually trace it down to see the causes. As I go about adjusting I now can focus on those causes, not just the symptoms that I experience. But it all starts with pattern.
Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi talk about the importance of pattern in their book The Systems View of Life. They say, “To understand the phenomenon of self-organization, we first need to understand the importance of pattern. The idea of a pattern of organization – a configuration of relationships characteristic of a particular system – became the explicit focus of systems thinking in cybernetics and has been a crucial concept ever since. From the systems point of view, the understanding of life begins with the understanding of patterns.”
The notion that the understanding of life begins with the understanding of patterns is important. This means that if we want to better answer questions about our existence, what we want out of life, etc., this can be helped by exploring the patterns in our life.
They go on to state, “The study of pattern is crucial to the understanding of living systems because systemic properties… arise from a configuration of ordered relationships. Systemic properties are properties of a pattern.”
But humans are not always clued in to this phenomenon and instead put more value in linear relationships. We see cause and effect, beginning and end, before and after. If we can shift our focus to be a bit broader, we can then start to see a higher-level view of the various systems at play in life. Then we can use the systems and habits approach to improvement to manipulate those systems and ultimately become who want to become.
We can do this to grow a business, coach up an employee, or for self-improvement purposes because it all follows a similar process. We usually start by learning about the current systems and processes, then standardizing them, then innovating them, then measuring. If we discover that the innovation has improved the system (by our measurements) then we standardize that new process. Then we start all over by looking for ways to innovate and go through the cycle again.
Over time the outcome is usually a significant improvement even though each change by itself might not seem very consequential. The key is to keep improving and improving so we leverage time to give us a larger outcome and not expect an instant result. This allows us to slowly move closer and closer to our goals and the life we desire.