Are habits and patterns one and the same?
We often confuse habits with patterns thinking they are synonymous, but they are not. Patterns go one level deeper. It’s important to understand the difference, so you can learn how to deal with patterned behaviors and experiences, and most importantly release shame and judgment you have placed on yourself for engaging in self-sabotaging habits.
Here's the distinction between habits and patterns:
When it comes to habits, most people feel that the answer is willpower and discipline, and it’s true but only to a certain extent, under specific conditions and during an appropriate stage of the healing process. But what they don’t realize is that deep down we all have the subconscious mind which controls most of our results.
They are aware of the symptoms such as overeating or procrastination, so they work on creating better habits and leave the core issue untouched. It's how we get trapped in recurring patterns - doing more of the same without uncovering deep beliefs driving our habitual behaviors.
As Einstein said, we can't solve the problem from the same level it was created. That's why I invite you to go level deeper and based on the diagram included in this post try to unpack your patterns and deduce what possible unhealed experience or hidden belief could be driving your behavior.
To guide you through this exercise, I'm going to use a hypothetical example of Anne.
Anne has developed some unhelpful spending habits and finally got to the point where she wants to create financial abundance. She became very serious about budgeting and educating herself about money. She is on top of her bills and knows the state of her bank account. Anne is seeing some progress and is feeling quite motivated.
However, she noticed that she still tends to make purchases which are not necessary and sabotage her financial goals. On top of that, whenever she manages to put some money away something unexpected happens such as her car breaking down, which in turn wipes out her savings. Since it's a recurring experience, Anne is very frustrated, and a little bit scared that she will never get ahead financially.
Since she can't control those events, instead she focuses all her attention on things she can manage - her budget. She is very hard on herself for her overspending and full of shame and guilt she decides to go on a spending fast. She watches YouTube videos and reads several blogs on the topic and places a spending ban on anything but necessities.
As you have guessed, after a while Anne goes out and buys herself something that's not in her budget, get's an unexpected bill, and the cycle repeats itself.
1. Let's start with habits.
Anne is budgeting, educating herself about finances, searches for new tactics and disciplines herself in regards to her spending. So she is doing lot's positive things. However, she still goes off her "financial diet" and ends up sabotaging herself.
2. Let's spot some patterns.
Even though Anne is determined to create financial abundance, repeatedly something unexpected happens and jeopardizes her goals. She also keeps maintaining her overspending pattern despite her efforts to the contrary which is fueled by her thoughts and emotions. I want to emphasize that the extent of those unforeseen events is much more considerable than the ordinary unplanned expenses. In case of Anne, the costs are substantial and happen with unusual frequency.
3. Let's dig for some beliefs.Anne has engaged in some inner work with her subconscious mind and uncovered that one of the beliefs she is holding is "Having money is dangerous." She recognized that unconsciously she makes her money disappear so she can feel safe. That's why she spends the money she wants to save or keeps attracting events that sabotage her conscious efforts. Anne has had created this belief because growing up she experienced jealousy and rejection by her peers due to her family's socioeconomic status. She felt attacked and excluded, and this experience imprinted her subconscious mind with the misunderstanding that money equals danger.
If you follow this process moving from the surface level to the base level, you should gain a better understanding of your habits and patterns and illuminate possible limiting beliefs blocking you from your goals. If you are curious what beliefs are fueling your repetitive patterns and habits, take this quiz to uncover what's holding you back and how to tackle it.
Similarly to physical illness managing symptoms is not the same as curing the disease. This analogy is valid for psychological patterns as well. That’s why I urge you to stop beating yourself up over “being bad at habits” or lacking willpower.