Lately, I’ve been traveling to faraway and exotic cities, walking new streets and pathways, discovering. Each place has its own foods, smells, sounds, textures and patterns — yes, patterns. We take them for granted normally in our rush to get from one place to another, but travel can allow us to slow down and notice the details.
In the stunning city of Lisbon, I noticed a myriad of patterns. The buildings, homes and sidewalks all boast unique patterns that, stitched together, make up a beautiful city and a place that people call home.
And in those beautiful surroundings it occurred to me that, although far less visible, the lives we live are woven from the day-to-day patterns we choose — and that a lifetime really is just a long series of repetitive patterns. All the days that make up our lives are spent engaging in patterns — patterns that are disguised as habits, choices, preferences and behaviors. They all add up to define that one and only life we get on this earth.
Given Lisbon’s lasting beauty, the craftsmen and artisans who built it must have taken great care to create beautiful, intentional patterns that could stand the test of time. And, so I wonder, do we humans work as carefully to design the patterns of our lives? Since we are building our lives, one pattern at a time, shouldn’t those patterns be carefully crafted so that they, too, can stand the test of time. Our language is filled with phrases hinting that we do not. We’ve all heard of “bad habits,” and we know that most marriages can easily “fall” into dysfunctional patterns. Such language implies that we have no choice in the matter.
Breaking bad habits is difficult, I agree. But what if it’s not a matter of breaking a habit. What if it’s a matter of slowing down to notice our patterns. Perhaps if we can see them clearly and objectively, we might be inspired to exercise our free will, our intentionality, and choose to design our patterns and, by extension, design the life we really want. When patterns are not haphazard or developed as a result of comfort and ease, but rather with intentionality and design, they tend to serve us better. After all, patterns that are developed without design are likely to produce less-than-ideal outcomes.
It’s something to think about in your daily routines: What patterns have you developed? Which ones are well designed and leading toward the outcome you desire? And, more importantly, which ones are leading you to a place you don’t really want to be? Take a close look and notice. Decide which patterns can be shed and which need to be re-designed.
After all, a house pieced together without a plan is simply a shack. What is it that you want to build with this limited time on earth that is your life?