Pattern recognition is one of the greatest aspects of the human mind.
While it is far and away not infallible, pattern recognition allows us to see trends in our environment – and ourselves – and to predict future events. It is through pattern recognition that that all science was formed. Science, all skills, and even simple communication, depends on our understanding of patterns.
Patterns in nature are called cycles, but patterns in our own behavior are often called habits. Habits are interesting phenomena, both physiological and psychological. They are a product of both our bodies and our minds, often without us even being aware of it.
Through the application and use of pattern recognition, we are able to see habits, identify them, and understand them. And more, we are able to change them.
Habits are self-perpetuating behaviors, that we do because we have done them and we’ve always done them because we’re used to doing them. They are easy, and humans will by nature follow the path of least resistance. Changing a habit, then, is an act of will, of dedication, of sheer determination. It is by changing our own habits that we take command of our own lives.
No habit can be unconquered. Even critical habits such as eating and sleeping can be mastered (see intermittent fasting and polyphasic sleep for extreme-but-healthy examples; tragic and unhealthy examples exist as well). More mundane habits such as diet and fitness, with nothing to say of skills and knowledge, can likewise be conquered in days and weeks.
In the exercise world, we have two major benchmarks to shoot for: six weeks and six months. If a fitness program or a diet can be maintained for six weeks, it’s considered to be a habit. Maintaining the diet or exercise program now takes less effort than before. The person will ‘default’ to that diet and program. At six months, the behavior is now a lifestyle. It now becomes harder to NOT do it than to do it.
One of the easiest ways to affect change in your life is to apply simple pattern recognition in the form of a journal. Monitoring one’s diet in a journal has had documented and profound effects, even without the person going on a diet. Just being aware of what a person is eating day in and day out, for each meal, causes changes for the healthier.
Journals also provide us with other key information. Dream journals can often provide insight into what our mind does when unleashed during the small hours of the night. Thought journals and spending journals can astound the keeper at what their resources go towards.
Keep a journal. Review what you write down from time to time to see what patterns jump out at you. Decide if those patterns – those habits – are really things you want to maintain. And then, if you so desire, seek to correct them.