pattern rigidity

If it takes but a tiny action to disrupt a pattern, what happens when thousands of small actions occur over the years?

Suppose somebody sets their mind to working out three times per week. Upon coming down with a cold, maybe three gym sessions are skipped due to feeling under the weather. It’s hard to get going again. It can take weeks to form a habit, but only days to destroy it.

Suppose somebody sets their mind to working super productively every day of the week and creates tons of added value for their employer. Feeling unrewarded after months of hard work, it’s hard to keep going.

Sometimes small actions, or more specifically, lack thereof, make or break a pattern or (winning) streak.

fixed flexibility

I’m slightly allergic to the following crap: follow these five steps so you, too, can have a magical morning. Activities such as reading, meditation or praying, working out all can make your morning more magical.

However, what none of these pieces of advice seem to entail are the more mundane things. What about washing up, eating, getting dressed, helping others in the household get dressed, traveling to work, the list goes on…

One of my biggest pieces of advice is; include a flexible component.

I find a plan to be only as good as its flexibility. Returning to the morning routine example. One of the activities on the planning should be; a wildcard. After all, you never know what’s going to happen. Suppose you are overcome with sadness due to the inability to complete all items on your list. What then is the purpose of the routine?

What’s true of morning routines is also true of businesses.

Taking the Pareto principle into account, include gaps, breathing space, or wildcards in your planning. Complement fixed components with flexible ones.

routine contingency

Some people take comfort in routines. Others find it predictable and perhaps even dull. Regardless of the routine’s schedule and frequency, knowing what lies ahead facilitates planning.

For a business, predictability is desirable. Intelligent decisions can be based on estimations, preferably as accurate as possible. Peeking into the hypothetical future allows companies to decide how to allocate resources better.

The issue with routines is this. It’s hard to build them up. It’s easy to destroy them. A simple cold can break a fitness routine that took weeks to establish.

Routines need fallback scenarios. What should happen to the routine if, for some reason, something comes up. Try again later?

Map out contingencies for routines and approach them in an “if this then that” manner to ensure continuity.

pattern shifter

Some wicked tunes are created by shifting patterns. Play a chord, have a synthesizer chop it up and then rearrange it. Outcome; hit single. Obviously, a lot more is required to reach the top of the billboard charts, but pattern shifting plays its role within compositions.

In an attempt to save energy, our brains try to unify separate actions into patterns. For instance, driving a car is no longer, crank the engine, pop the clutch, hit the gas, shift into gear… We simply draw from our pattern library and pull up the one for driving a car. Notice that when you first started driving, these actions weren’t a pattern yet. Just a few weeks later, you’re driving on (human) autopilot.

Breaking patterns is very hard. The neural pathways become eroded over time. Depending on the pattern’s age and how frequently it has been used, it becomes increasingly difficult to crawl out of the neural pathway ditch.

If, for some reason, a pattern must be broken, try rearranging or shifting it first.

pattern breaker

Two weeks into a streak, something comes up and… bye bye newly built habit. Working out in the gym every day can take as little as a runny nose as an excuse to skip a session. Maybe two. Before you know it, you stopped going altogether.

Humans are creatures of habit. Patterns take time and effort before they start to stick, but once fully established, they become hard to break. Before the habits you wish to pursue become an integral part of your life, they’re fragile and prone to suffer from curveballs. There will always be curveballs. Life will throw you one or multiple when you least expect it.

Some curveballs can be foreseen, and others can’t. Identify precisely what causes you to break important patterns so that you can anticipate maintaining your streak better.

two wrongs indicate one right

It’s usually easier to notice bad behavior in others than it is in ourselves.

You and your friend, while studying together, have to have a sandwich at three in the morning. Sweet, savory calories stuffed in a bun. They’re delicious, alright, but the late-night snack induces other bad behavior. The energy boost you get prevents you from going to sleep, resulting in an array of undesirable secondary effects.

Relatively easy to identify among the two of you. Now what?

When two people show the same type of behavior that they wish to get rid of, noticing it is a great start. External input is still required to improve upon the situation.

Two wrongs might (not) make a right, but they surely can indicate what’s wrong.