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Using Patterns for Personal Development

Friday, October 7th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Using Patterns for Personal Development (download podcast MP3)

Today's podcast I have a special treat for you. This is a recording of a live mini seminar that I presented earlier this week. And the title is using patterns for personal development. It's a presentation about the sub conscious behaviour patterns that control your thinking and thereby control your results in life. And the goal of this mini seminar is to teach you to become aware of these patterns. Which are operating in your life right now, and then to enable you to take conscious control over them. So you can align your subconscious behaviour and thinking patterns to be congruent with your conscious goals.

Now at a few points during the recording you'll hear a mention of a handout, and I've included the complete text of that handout as part of the blog post, which accompanies this podcast. So you'll have access to the same material that the original audience had. So please enjoy using patterns for personal development.

How many people here have a goal? For themselves. Quite a few, would anyone be willing to share their goal. Just one goal, that you might have. John, increase traffic to my website. Increase Traffic to your website, great. Now how would you go about achieving this goal.

Well there are many ways to achieve goals. People have already written zillions of books on these topics.

- One method the trial and error approach, just fiddle your way forward and hopefully you'll eventually get there. I'm sure some of us have tried applying that one.

- Another method, the cause and effect approach, this is a method often espoused by speakers such as Brian Tracy. Where you say your goal is an effect to be achieved and all you have to do is create the cause that will achieve that effect. That make sense. So what you are trying to do in that case is create a plan of action to reach your goal and then you simply implement the plan step by step by step until you get there. Adjusting your approach as needed.

- A third method to achieve goals is what I call, the intention manifestation approach. Some of you might be familiar with this and this approach to achieving your goals it's all about getting yourself to believe that you can achieve it. The idea of think and grow rich. So a writer in this area might be someone like Napoleon Hill, or Dr Wayne Dyer. You have to see it first through things such as visualization, seeing your goal in your mind and then when you believe you believe it enough you'll eventually achieve it, it will manifest for you.

Sometimes through a process of direct action, sometimes through a process of subconscious action, you're not even necessarily aware of how the goals being manifested. Sometimes though a process you might call synchronicity, where events seem to happen in the world that reinforce your goal. For the purpose of this little mini seminar that we are doing now the process by which your achieve your goal doesn't matter. So much as the fact that all these methods of achieving your goal all have something in common, they all start with a thought or an idea, and they all take you forward through a series of steps and end with a result. This make sense.

So every, no matter how you want to achieve your goal it requires having an idea, and somehow carrying that forward and ending up in some sort of results state. So for example the goal john mentioned of building traffic to his website, his at a certain point, he has this idea, he wants to have more traffic to his website. Some process has to occur, and he's at that end state.

In this case were talking about going through this process consciously. The problem however is that these processes also run unconsciously, they run in such ways that were not even aware of it. Right now in our lives, we have many examples of these processes going on where we have thoughts that are somehow creating results in our lives, and we don't even know how they are happening. And most of the time when we try to set a goal and move towards it, we get blocked in someway, something knocks us off course, its not just a smooth path from a to b. And one of the reason that that happens, is that we have subconscious goals and patterns and thoughts going on that are knocking us off course. That are in conflict with the goal that we consciously want to achieve.

What I call these are patterns, so we have these patterns subconsciously running in our lives, and we may have many, many more of these subconscious patterns. Then we have conscious goals, and they are constantly knocking us off course. So this little mini seminar what were going to do is go through a process of how to identify these patterns, that are going through your life how to up root them, and replace them with patterns that are going to support us on the path to our goal.

So the first thing I want to do is identify three primary patterns, and you have these on your hand out. These three patterns, in which these sub conscious processies take place, are the chain, the loop and the spiral. And well go over each one of these right now.

A chain pattern you might think of as a stimulus response, some trigger happens, either an environmental trigger, external to us or an internal trigger such as a feeling. It causes us to have a certain thought, and that thought eventually triggers a chain of events that produces a result and that's where the chain ends.

So for example lets say a friend of yours, comes back from Hawaii, and they tell you what a great time they had, in Hawaii they loved it they had a great time there, wonderful vacation. That's an external stimulus. That triggers you to have a thought; wow I could really use a vacation myself. So you think that thought then may lead to a chain of events, could lead to maybe some synchronicities happening, you get a flyer in the mail for travel agency that's having a special on a trip to Hawaii. Maybe it's that you decide and make a detailed plan of action. To get yourself to go to Hawaii, but somehow you end up taking that vacation to Hawaii. But then you return from your trip and that's where the chain ends.

Another way this could happen is it's simply an internally triggered chain, you just have this feeling of being run down and you think I could really use a vacation right now. And that gets you thinking maybe I should actually take a vacation and soon you have this chain of events that leads you to take the vacation you get the result. A very simply stimulus response pattern. I'm sure we've all seen this happen in out lives. Now how many times has this happens subconsciously where you're not even aware of it.

This is what advertising is all about. To program this subconscious stimulus response events, so that you see a commercial, you see a billboard and suddenly your going out to eat at a restaurant or going to one of the casinos near by. And your not even your not even sure why you're doing it, you never actually consciously set that as a goal to do it. You just find your self exhibiting running these patterns.

The second type of pattern is the loop. This is where you have a chain that is going back around and beginning the chain again. So you have a loop in your behaviour. Another word for this is a habit or addiction. So we see these patterns where you have a thought, it causes you to take an action, you get a result that result then triggers the same original thought. Then that causes you to take that same action, and so on you keep repeating in a loop. So you're not only in this case get what you expect, you also expect what you get, you expect it to continue.

So an example of a loop is watching your favourite TV show. You watch an episode of your favourite TV show, the result is you like it, triggers the though to consider watching it again. Next week your watching the same show again, you like it again, you decide to watch it again, and so on. And it keeps repeating and then you watch a whole season of shows. Often these loops are just looping unconsciously and you're not even aware of the pattern that you're going through. And loops are everywhere. A great deal of our lives, of our lives, are run by loops right now.

Think about it you go to work each day, just looping through the same pattern of thinking and behaviour. You eat your favourite foods. You shop at the same places. You come to these meetings every week. It's just this pattern of looping behaviour and your not even aware of actually making the conscious decision. Usually you make the conscious decision at one point to start the loop, and then suddenly your on auto pilot and your just keep going and going and going. The loop doesn't end until something happens, often some kind of external event that happens that knocks you out of that pattern, knocks you out of the loop.

Lets move onto the third pattern, now the third pattern is the spiral. The spiral what's you get when the loop pattern becomes unstable. In the case of a loop the response is retriggering the stimulus but to the exact same degree. So you just keep watching your favourite TV show each week. You keep going to work, but it's not changing, the pattern is just reinforcing it self as it is. With a spiral though, every pass through that loop changes in intensity. It's either weakening in intensity with each pass or strengthening in intensity with each pass. You can also have positive spirals which seem to be giving you some type of benefit. Or you can have negative spirals which seem to be doing you some type of harm.

So you have really four types of spirals, and these are listed on your handouts to. You have the positive and negative matched with weather it's a mild change in intensity each time through the cycle, or it's an intense change in intensity through the cycle. So let's go through these fours types with an example of a relationship.

So let's say you're in a relationship with somebody and you're noticing a spiral pattern in the behaviour of your relationship. If you have a positive and another name for positive is an upwards spiral. You have the positive mild spiral when you're in a relationship. Your relationship is getting better and better but very very gradually. So this might be the result you might see, would be you have a very long engagement period. You fall in love you have say a four year engagement period. You're spiralling upwards but very very gradually.

You might also have a positive intense cycle. With all the wedding chapels here in Vegas. We see this one quite a bit. So a positive intense cycle, what would that be instead of a 4 year engagement, you meet fall in love, four weeks later your married.

You can also have a negative spiral; another name for negative spiral is downwards spiral. What would be an example of a negative mild spiral in a relationship? Slow decline towards breakup over a period of years, the relationship gradually getting worse and worse.

What would be a negative but intense downward spiral? Where after a short period of time it's like get out of my house, I hate you. And then probably a very messy divorce.

So these different types of spirals you have positive mild, positive intense, negative mild, negative intense. These are patterns we run in our lives all the times. But spirals unlike loops are unstable by there very nature at some point there going to break. As the intensity increases eventually the spiral destroys itself, or as the intensity decrease the spiral eventually fizzles out. So you see your relationship either ends with a lot of negative energy, gets closer with a lot of positive energy, fizzles one way or the other too. So you can have a relationship that's fizzling in the negative area, or fizzling in the positive area. In the sense it's getting better but very very slowly, and it sort of tapers off and plateaus. This make sense.

Why worry about these patterns, why consider these patterns. Because there running in your lives right! There controlling your behaviour, there controlling your results, worst of all there interfering in your conscious goals. In your path to your conscious goals, your trying to move from A to B and these patterns these feedback loops, these spirals. Are pulling you right back where you started. Or maybe there knocking you off course entirely.

So our goal for this little mini seminar is to figure out how to change these patterns. Now that you're aware of these patterns you can start to look for them in your life, but how do we actually change them. Well every pattern, every one of these patterns has a vulnerability. Even though there running subconsciously once we become aware of them, we can change them, we can literally destroy them. Because all these patterns rely on stimulus, thought and result. Then in the case of loops or spirals, the result is the stimulus once again.

So you have a chain pattern where its the stimuluses response, I'm sorry stimulus, a thought, a result. The loop pattern you get a stimulus, a response, a stimulus, a thought, a result, which then becomes another stimulus to the same thought for the same result and back again. And the spiral patterns, very similar to the loop pattern except the intensity is changing each time through the cycle. But the vulnerabilities are at those three points, at the point of the stimulus, at the point of thought, or at the point of the result.

So the way to break the pattern is the attack one of those three points, to actually break it. How would you break the stimulus? As an example and this may be somewhat severe, if your in a pattern you don't want to be in, such as a chain pattern. The way you would and lets say your in a relationship and your spouse is constantly pushing your buttons and making you angry. Well one way to break the stimulus is to dump the person. No more stimulus you literally get rid of the stimulus, you prevent the stimulus from occurring at all.

Another example if the smell of donuts turns you into Homer Simpon. I gotta have a donut, what do you do. Prevent donuts from appearing anywhere in your reality. Don't allow donuts into your house; don't allow donuts into your workplace. Keep donuts away from me, and you see people trying this approach to break addictions, just keep that away from me I don't want to see it.

How would you break the thought? Lets say you don't cant break the stimulus, now your working on the thought. The stimulus has occurred, but now you have the prevent it from creating the thought that's going to lead you forward in that chain, or in that loop, or in that spiral.

As an example, one of my favourite examples of how to break this pattern is there was a Las Vegas pit boss. I read about years ago and he wanted to quit smoking and he tried everything and just couldn't quit smoking. Because everything in his environment was reinforcing the pattern of smoking. So here's what he did, he took out a billboard near the strip put his picture on it really large picture of him, and the caption read “If you see me smoking, I'll pay you $100,000 dollars.”

Now what did that do, did that change the stimulus to start smoking? No he still had the craving to start smoking. But what it did do is it changed the thought. Because now instead of thinking I'm going to go have a cigarette, he's thinking if I have a cigarette, and somebody sees me, I'm out a hundred grand. Change the thought and that thought breaks the pattern now he's not going to go smoke, now he's not going to proceed forward to that result. Does this make sense?

That's one way of breaking the though. Another way to break the thought, promise other people that you're going to do something, promise other people that you're going to make the change. Now if you don't make the change and you have a tendency to procrastinate, instead of thinking oh I don't really care I don't need to do it I can just be lazy. Now instead you're thinking well if I'm lazy I'm going to disappoint a lot of people and I'm going to be embarrassed. So there's another way to do it promise other people it will break the thought. So that now you've changed the thought you've morphed it, you've introduced another side thought, it's not the same thought anymore. So it's not going to continue the same pattern.

And the third place to break the pattern is to break the result itself. Let's say you have a chocolate addition, and so you think about having chocolate, oh chocolate, love chocolate. Pretty soon your eating some chocolate and you have chocolate in your house of course. And so you think about chocolate , you eat chocolate, tastes good, feels good, and you later on think about having more chocolate. So your in the cycle this looping pattern. One way to break the result is to buy chocolate you don't like. Fill your house with chocolate that doesn't taste good to you. Maybe some kind of unsweetened chocolate, so that every time you have this thought to eat chocolate. You eat chocolate that tastes bad, so you've broken the result, the result is no longer pleasurable, this make sense.

There are many ways to break these patterns and just to make this more clear, were going to go through an example. So I'm going to have you help me, and were going to go through an example together. So here's our problem, lets say Maureen, has this problem where she's constantly over spending on her credit card. Cause she just loves clothes, and she just wants to keep buying more, more high priced clothes. She's deeply in debt and she's sinking further into debt. She wants to break that pattern of behaviour, its a subconscious cycle she keeps running through. She's not even consciously deciding to do that, but this pattern keeps running in her life. Its a downward spiral, that may eventually lead to bankruptcy.

So we have the save Maureen from this, so how, how are we going to do it. We have three ways we can break it, we can break the stimulus, we can break the thought, or we can break the result. So lets start with the stimulus, the stimulus is that she's, she's out shopping and she sees these new clothes. These new expensive clothes, that she just has to have. How could we break the stimulus, how could we break that stimulus? Anyone [audience member] Don't take her shopping. Don't take her shopping, exactly. Don't go to the store, stay away, keep it away. Prevent that stimulus from ever happening.

Ok what about the thought? The thought is that she's having when she sees it. Now we've already had the stimulus happen she's there in the store and she sees the clothes and she thinks I want that and I'm going to buy it now. How could we actually break that thought? Anyone [audience member] promise her new husband john that she won't ever shop again, for high priced clothes or use the credit cards. Make a promise to someone else, so now if she breaks it she's thinking oh guilt, guilt, guilt, if I do this. Another way to do that would be, say wear a rubber band, and you tweak it see cause yourself a little bit of pain each time you do it.

Now lastly we have the result, the result is she pulls out her credit card and buys the clothes. How could we break the result of being George [audience member] destroy the credit card. Cut up the credit card, or buy ugly clothes exactly, so you break the results not as rewarding anymore. Or tape your credit card balance to your credit card so you're looking at it when you pull out your credit card. Is another milder way. Give me your credit card.

So the idea of breaking these patterns we can do, we can break the stimulus, we can break the thought, we can break the result. But ideally, lets try breaking all three together, because patterns tend to be very strongly established, and most people honestly use to little energy when trying to break these patterns. Sometimes you might try to attack just the stimulus, and it doesn't quite work, your solution just sort of fizzles. Or you might try just attacking the thought or just the result, and its not quite enough.

So we have this military analogy of overwhelming force. We don't want to just, just change these patterns. We want to destroy them! We want to annihilate them! We want to just knock them out of existence. So we advance on all three fronts simultaneously we break the stimulus, we break the thought and we break the result. So in the credit card example we would do all of those things together at the same time. Now even if two of them fail if the third one works the pattern is broken the pattern will not continue, so we just increase our odds of success.

Now once we've broken that pattern we need to condition a new pattern, why? Well for one reason, patterns exist, because they fill a need. So for example, if you have a pattern of smoking, maybe the need its filling is it relaxes you. And that's a good need to have filled and if we eliminate that pattern, now we have this void. And a new pattern is going to be conditioned to take its place. If we don't fill it consciously somebody else is going to do it for us, advertising, society, our family, the people we're with, our work environment. Something will just be conditioned into us automatically, because we have a need to fill that that has to be filled. There's a void there.

So to condition a new pattern you basically go through the exact same process. You set up except now you're doing it positively instead of negatively. You set up the stimulus, you set up a thought, and you set up a result. That perhaps you want it to loop, you want it to spiral or you just want it to be a chain event where it's triggered by something. But now you're the one who can decide how to do this.

Let me take you through a personal example of how I had to do this to make a big change in my life. Of how I went through this process of breaking the old stimulus, thought, result pattern and conditioning in a new stimulus, thought, result pattern. And that was last year, when I decided I wanted to make a change in my career. I wanted to stop working in the computer game industry and I wanted to move over to working on writing and speaking in the field of personal development.

So of course what did I do first. I set a goal to do it, I made a plan of action and I also focused on the intention manifestation process. I started visualising what I wanted, and you know what happened, months later, nothing. I was still working on games; I was still developing games why? Because at the same time I was working on those things consciously. Still the bulk of my thoughts, were those old chains, and loops and spirals. That I'd established over the past decade of working in the game industry.

They were very strong patterns, the pattern of how I spent my time. The people I associated with. The thoughts that went through my head. The type of projects I decided to work on. The way I viewed reality, all this stuff was simply reinforcing the old identity. And so as soon as I started making a few steps forward, those little patterns would start circulating even more strongly. I was sucked right back to the old way again. So after a few months of that, I realized working on this goal directly is not going to work, I'm not getting any where.

So what I did is instead of attacking, attacking the problem itself, I attacked the resistance to the problem. In other words I attacked those chains, and those loops and those spirals that were keeping me where I was. So for example those specific things I did were.

I went though my home office and I took all the game programming books off my book shelve. I stuffed them in the garage and I replaced them with books on personal development, and books on speaking and books on writing and if didn't have enough books for it -- which I didn't -- I just left a blank, an empty bookshelf to make room for those to come in.

I stopped reading books on game development.

I stopped going to game development seminars

I started going to speaker seminars, and speaking workshops.

I stopped accepting invitations to speak at game development events.

I changed my computer desktop. I run Microsoft windows. So I changed the desktop where all the icons, were set to run game development software. I deleted all those. And I replaced them with icons, to run like text editors, and things I would use for speaking. So now whenever I looked at my windows desktop it was no longer a stimulus to work on games.

In my web browser, I deleted all the bookmarks that I had or all the favourites I had for game development websites, they were all gone. I replaced them all with links to websites on personal development and speaking. So every time I ran my web browser, now it was a stimulus for a different line of thinking, therefore a different result.

I quit my membership in trade associations.

I quit my membership in the association of shareware professionals.

I quit my membership in the international game developers association.

I joined toastmasters and started coming to toastmasters meetings.

I had a shelve with some gaming industry awards, I cleared it off and put all of those in the closet. Took them out of view, and made space for speaking awards. And now I've got shelve full of a few speaking trophies from speech contests. What does that do? Reinforces my identity as a speaker. Instead of as a game developer.

I was running a popular game discussion forum on my website. I turned the whole thing over to someone else for free. So that they could run it on there website. So now I no longer had to support it, I was the administrator of that site.

I stopped hanging out with game developers, and I started hanging out with people who were doing speaking or writing or somehow related to working in the field of personal development.

I changed the people I was social with. In fact shortly before this, I moved from Las Angeles to Las Vegas. When I came here instead of building relationship in the game developer community. I built relationships in toastmasters and with other people working on writing or speaking or personal development.

Are you seeing where this is going, how I just completely altered my environment. To destroy all those old patterns, just wipe them out one by one. I also told people I was making this change. I discussed it with my wife, I got her on board, I got her to commit to it and agree to it. I said stop thinking of me as a game developer, don't even mention games at all, forget it. Don't talk to me about games; I don't want to know anything about it, I've got it. I said talk to me only about personal development, or writing or speaking. And she was ok with that she agreed.

I set aside time each day for writing; I launched a new personal development website. So here I'm starting a new pattern, and all I had was just a few pages and one article, that was it. But it created a new stimulus to start working on, to have a new line of thinking and new results. And what all this did is it changed the soil, that I was planting my seeds in. So that now when I started doing the cause and affect approach and the intention manifestation approach to reaching my goals. Now I barely even needed to do that, because what happened was, everything around me was already supporting me going in that direction. It was pushing me forward, it was just kind of an automatic process. And that's where I am right now.

Its just pushing me forward, I'm not really I don't really feel like I have to exhibit that much conscious effort. All the loops and the spiral patterns I've set up and the chain patterns are just pushing me in that direction. So its this idea of overwhelming force, if you want to make a change in your life, especially a big change. People usually put to little energy into that. The thing is that overwhelming force in the long run, takes a lot less energy. Because you have to exhibit, you have to excerpt all this energy up front but just for a brief burst, maybe a 30 day period. After that all the patterns are established, and now you're coasting.

You know people say go with the flow. And that's exactly what you should do. However maybe you don't like where the flow is going, and if you don't like where the flow is going you don't have have to go with the flow. But at the same time you shouldn't fight the flow, what you should do is divert the flow, change the flow where you want it to go. Then you flow with it and it takes you right to your goals that you want to achieve. So there's really a four step process we've covered. To change your patterns to be congruent with your goals, and this is also on the front page of your handout right at the bottom.

1. Identify your goal, what it is you want to achieve.

2. Diagnose the patterns that are working against you. What trigger pattern, what chain patterns do we have, what loop patterns what spiral patterns do we have. List them out identify what they are; know where you have the stimulus the thought and the result.

3. Then design a new set of patterns that will support your goals. What are the new patterns you want to create? And this is just where you brainstorm, you use your own imagine, use your creativity. What patterns will make it easy for you to achieve your goal? For example if you want to become an expert in some particular field, you can establish the pattern of reading for an hour a day in that field. And this was a pattern I established 12 years ago. A very simply pattern read an hour a day on personal development, but 12 years later, it means having read 600 books. So you can see one little change, having a huge result over a long period of time.

This is what people will tell you to do in terms of investment. Start in your 20's invest 100 dollars a month and by the time you retire you're a millionaire. Just creating that one little loop pattern, one hundred dollars a month, every month, hundred dollars, hundred dollars, hundred dollars. Then it just carries you forward and your there. That's going with the flow but that's also creating the flow you want to achieve. See patterns, the reason to use them is that they put your results on auto pilot. And these little patterns can produce tremendous long term results.

So my challenge to you tonight is to think of a change you want to make in your life, a goal you want to achieve. Think about what patterns are holding you back, figure whether their chains or loops or there spiral patterns. Create a plan to neutralise them, a plan that's going to use overwhelming force, to attack them on all three fronts. To attack the stimulus, to attack the thought, and to attack the result all simultaneously. Implement that pattern that plan and stick with it just for 30 days. Because if you can last for 30 days just that one burst of energy. You'll find that the old patterns have been destroy and the new patterns have been established.

Its been said that creating a new habit takes 21 days, I say 30 just to push you over the edge, give it a little more overwhelming force just to make sure you get there. To make sure you don't slip back, 30 days also has sort of a natural rhythm to it. Its one month, so you might start at the beginning of the month by the end of the month your done. And since were just at the beginning of a month right now this would be a great time to start. And then all you have to do to achieve your goal is to go with the flow. [Applause]

Thank you for listening I hope you enjoyed this little mini seminar, so until next time live consciously.