Lately, I’ve been kind of gob-smacked by how many people are showing up on my proverbial doorstep saying “I’m fed up with the pattern I keep’s Groundhog Day all over again. It’s painful and damned stupid. I KNOW better, I keep trying to break it, but I keep getting sucked in, and it feels bloody disempowering” (or thereabouts). They in turn, are gob-smacked when I metaphorically seize them by the shoulders, shout “HUZZAH!!!!!” and have them join me in a high-kicking folk dance. I celebrate patterns.

Here’s why: unlike pattern’s kissing cousin “stuck”, there IS a neat and tidy formula to the pattern.

Now IF someone truly desires to step out of that pattern (and that “if” deserves capitals, because not everyone really wants to leave the safety of a pattern) it’s about as easy as 1-2-3 (or 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, depending on what it is).

Here’s how.

Write out the pattern

Make it goooood, robust and juicy. Make it yours. Own it. You keep reliving it so you MUST know the steps like the back of your hand, non? Like, you could teach a course on “how to fall out of love (with a person, idea, project)” or “how to be late for every single important event”, or  “botching sensible weight loss plans” or “racking up debt”. In fact, assume you ARE teaching on course on your pattern. You are the world’s leading expert on it, after all.

Here’s an example. Say you’re a blogger. And say you don’t write as often as you’d like.

Your pattern MAY be:

  1. You get an inspired idea. A fabulous, wonderful idea. You’re a little breathless, it’s just that good.
  2. You sit down to write. But before you put fingers to keyboard, you decide to research who else has written about your topic, juuuuust in case.
  3. You read and read. You make notes on what others are saying about your topic. You start getting a touch grumpy as you begin to believe you don't know anything about this stuff after all.
  4. You start to try write in your voice. It’s feeling stilted because the wind’s out of your sails. Then your saboteur voices take over: “no one’s going to read YOUR take on this topic when they can listen to THEIR take on the topic”, and “everyone’s going to know you’re a fake”.
  5. You back away from the computer and put your attention elsewhere. You know intellectually that this should refresh you.
  6. You come back annoyed that you haven’t posted this damned thing yet. You soften the tone of the piece to make it more palatable for a broader audience.
  7. You close your eyes and press “publish” and think it’s shit.
  8. No one reads it (you know this because you obsess over blog traffic), which you hold to be confirmation that you’re not a very good writer and CERTAINLY not an authority on this or any topic.
  9. Rinse and repeat.

Not overly surprising that with a pattern this you’re not writing as often as you’d like.

Here’s  the thing about pattern-busting stuff. It feels scary. This pattern has been your default for, like, forever. And busting ANYTHING has a quality of mayhem and debris.

So let’s take it down a notch and woo-woo it up by calling it pattern “shifting”.

Make shifts happen

Now consider how you can make any number of incremental shifts at any given step in the above sequence. Not necessarily radical stuff, just manageable tweaks to your approach. One or many. (NB that the examples below are not intended to be sequential...that would be crazy talk).

For instance step #1 could be deciding WHO you’re writing this piece for. If it’s you, great. If it’s your readers, fab. If it’s for your future publisher, exquisite. Get clear. This will impact the outcome. You’ll notice that immediately when you get to step #2. It may even have you skipping that step.

In step #3, perhaps you decide to research only the ONE person you know or suspect is the master voice on this topic and reference them in your post. Or ask to interview them. This may become a video and the start of something great. Who knows?

Take #4. You might decide to press post when the saboteurs are the loudest. If they’re that loud you MUST be on to something good.

Maybe the “elsewhere” in #5 is writing about something new, like say, how crappy #4 is?

In #6 maybe you ramp up your tone (not down).

Maybe you DON’T press publish in #7. Maybe you pitch the piece entirely. (Oooh, what’s THAT feel like?)

Make any ONE of these shifts and #8 will look a lot different.

No way, no how am I suggesting that any of these are the RIGHT new paths…nor are they wrong. They’re just different from what the pattern’s been to date. What I am pointing to is that you don’t need to make a radical detour to impact the outcome. One shift can unravel, short-circuit, and destabilize any pattern…no matter how strong the hold it’s had on your life to date.

That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?

So, next time you notice a pattern, write it out. Mindmap it. Scribble it. Draw it. Whatever works for you to get it out where you can see it.

Brainstorm possible shifts for every step. As subtle or as loud as you like. Then try one or two shifts next time you get your super-hot, sweat-inducing fabulous blog post idea (or decide to lose weight or draft a budget, or, or, or).

Notice how easy that was. Notice and enjoy the newness of this outcome. Notice that you get to continue to recalibrate. Notice the power’s back where we like it. In YOUR hands.


Please share in the comments YOUR experience with changing patterns in your life, with huge thanks!