Life is full of patterns that can be seen as swirls, circles, dots, dashes, lines, squares, etc. We learn to recognize these shapes fairly early in life and associate meaning to them based on context. If they repeat, we associate other meanings to them. A repeating dot could mean to continue as was previously. But the meaning of other shapes that repeat may have a more secluded meaning – such as repeating squares for example. If we saw repeating circles in front of our eyes it could mean that we were seeing double and needed to sit down! Ok, a bit of pattern humor. Let’s move the discussion down to the human level.
When events or situations repeat in our lives there is also meaning but it may be more subtle. Perhaps you’re in a job that you dislike because your team isn’t friendly to you. Eventually you move on to a different organization thinking it will be better only to find the same situation arising. At some point you realize there is a repeating pattern – you’re not popular. Is it them or you?
Another take on the job environment is when your boss doesn’t appreciate your work even though the customer rates you highly and you put in extra time getting things done over and above the call of duty. Again, you decide to move on thinking the grass will be greener elsewhere only to find your new boss acting the same way. Wow, why? Again another pattern emerges.
In each of these cases, we find that it takes a lot of time and effort to recognize that we are part of a repeating pattern. Often, it’s easier to see it happening when someone else is involved and there is less emotional involvement. Standing back a bit we can see the pieces of the puzzle and then recognize what kind of pattern is emerging.
Once we “get” that there is a pattern, the next step is to decide what it means and then to work through the next steps.
It’s important to understand the following concept: Once can be serendipity – it just happened. Twice is interesting and most likely not a coincidence, but the third time is a definite pattern. We need to become more sensitive to the events surrounding the stuff that happens to us so that we can take it apart and then understand it better. Often, we get lost in the details. Think of it as root cause analysis – what is the ultimate reason that this is happening?
So let’s go over each of the above examples:
(1) You’re not popular among your peer group at work. Do you have your head down so much just staying afloat that you neglect the niceties of interacting with others? We get rated on how well we work within a team (usually) so don’t forget to play nice with others even when you’re in a competitive environment.
(2) Your boss doesn’t appreciate you. This one can be a double-edged sword. Are you doing so much for so long that you’re taken for granted? I once had a client who worked for a company for 15 years and was indispensable. So I told her to do less, she listened, and was then recognized. She had been afraid to leave them, then she realized that she could live without this company; that her workmates were not her family, and she moved on to her dream job. It was a wonderful transition to watch and for her to experience.
We’re really talking about life lessons here. Each scenario had learning experiences. There is always a reason that challenges present themselves and if you do your work, in the end, you will not only get over your negative pattern, you will achieve your goals.