I’ll admit it.
I fell into a familiar pattern.
There I was, 9:30 in the morning, furiously tearing through my speaking notes for my upcoming teleseminar. When I say upcoming, I mean in 30 minutes. I had meant to finalize editing my notes the previous week (best laid plans and all). But you know how it is; things get in the way (you can imagine what those “things” were). Let’s just say there was laundry and dusting involved. Cursing myself for waiting until the last minute (again!) I continued to edit, add, refine.
Did I complete my notes? Sure. Did I do it easily and gracefully? Definitely not.
Patterns pervade our lives – whether they are actual behaviors or ways of thinking. Some of them work for us, propelling us towards our goals and dreams. Some of them work against us, stifling our creativity, keeping us stuck.
Those patterns that support you – keep them! Those patterns that don’t – eliminate or limit them.
You know your patterns; they can show up in a variety of ways — procrastination, habitual late-ness, over-simplifying or over-exaggerating a situation, people-pleasing, not following through on commitments, negative thinking and gossip just to name a few.
And, negative patterns, not only impede your effectiveness, your productivity, and your success but can also impact your reputation (IKES!).
Here are some steps to help you identify your patterns and some ways to limit or drop them altogether
Identify. Identify your patterns. It could be negative thinking, gossip, being late, whatever it is, write it down. Don’t skip this step, there’s power in writing things down.
Reflect. Ask, how does this particular pattern currently serve you? How or when might this pattern have served you? How does it get in your way, damage your reputation, and/or limit you?
Many patterns were developed as a response to something, so they may well have served a purpose for you at one time. Now? Not so much. Reflecting on them helps bring them to light. Note: This isn’t reflection accompanied by judgment or self-flagellation. This is reflection for learning. There’s a big difference.
Eliminate or Limit. If you can completely eliminate a pattern then do so. Let’s say your pattern is falling short on your commitments. When you realize the negative impact that has on your life and work, make a promise (or commitment) to yourself to follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Every time. You’ll notice that when you do this, you’re very selective about what you commit to.
Oftentimes it’s enough to simply limit a habit. Maybe your habit is chronic negative thinking. You can limit this pattern by simply being aware of what you’re focusing on or thinking at any given time. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, simply refocus your thoughts on something more positive. Or use a coaching tool called “reframe” to help turn your negative into an opportunity, and capture the learning.
Seek Accountability. Patterns are stubborn, and hard to let go of and you may need some help. When you’ve decided to do-away with a negative pattern, your best bet is to tell someone. Ask a trusted (the key word here is trusted) friend, family member or your coach to hold you accountable. They’ll be honored to help and you’ll have set yourself up for success.
Be Patient. Change takes time. When you’re trying to limit or eliminate a limiting behavior or thinking pattern, be patient with yourself. Judgment is the enemy of change. Simply notice when you’re thinking a negative thought. Then, make a conscience decision to do it differently.
The big question here is, are your patterns supporting you or sabotaging you? Are they pushing you gracefully and effortlessly towards your goals, or are they tossing you from side to side, like a boat in a storm, throwing you off of your path?
Once you’ve identified your negative patterns you can make a plan on how to limit or deal with them. I’ll tell you up front that it takes patience (with yourself and others) and perseverance, but the end result is worth it – taking control of your patterns rather than letting them control you is very empowering.
Enjoy your learnings!
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