STRONGER TOGETHER: Understanding the patterns that help and hinder our drive

Last updated: 29/08/2022

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses behaviour patterns and how they can help or hinder our drive.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

I was so excited when I got my learners and jumped into the driver’s seat for the first time.

Can you remember the first time that you drove a car?

Tanya OShea IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

I recall meticulously thinking through every step – putting on my seat belt, checking the rearview mirrors and the immediate surroundings. After a while, I no longer needed to think through each of these steps. The repeated pattern of behaviours required to start and drive a car enabled me to move from a highly conscious, deliberate process to one that was automatic, faster, and much more efficient.

We each create and rely on patterns that become automatic (and seemingly unconscious) on a daily basis. For some people identifying these patterns is easy as they have created them purposefully aligned to their goals. They know the routines that work for them and while sometimes it can feel hard to remain committed, they continue to do it because it’s important to them.

However, the reality is some of the patterns we can create are unhelpful.

Our brain supports us every day to create and make sense of patterns; but sometimes these ‘patterns’ are not really patterns at all. Klaus Conrad recognised this within his patients, coining the term 'apophenia' - the tendency to perceive patterns between objects or ideas when they simply don’t exist.

One type of apophenia is gambler’s fallacy, where people perceive patterns or meaning in random numbers in pursuit of their next big win. They might argue they’re due for a win or continue to feed money into a poker machine believing their odds of a payout are increasing with each spend.

Reflecting on the patterns we create provides insight and the ability to make change when certain patterns of behaviour aren’t serving us.

At times, sticking to a schedule to achieve your goals can feel like a sacrifice or trade-off for free-time or splurging. But when you’re striving for something important to you, what are you really trading? Your health, your quality of life, your relationship, your financial independence, your self-worth?

If something needs to change, it’s only you who can disrupt the old pattern and start anew.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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