It’s Only a Problem if it’s a Pattern

changing your patterns

If I told you that in order to change any problem (“problem” being defined as something that’s holding you back or creating disruption in your life) all you need are three things, would you believe me?

Backstory: I’m currently training for a half marathon (more on that later). Included in the training program are a few clinics including injury prevention, proper nutrition, and one that I knew I’d totally geek out with: mental strategy.

I was excited to see what this was all about — not just for how it could support my running but, always and forever being the dot-connector that I am, how it might also enhance and support my work with my clients. Since, in all honesty, most of my coaching revolves around mental strategy or thought work, about seeing what’s hindering us and then understanding how to use our minds in ways that can support us in achieving our goals of living lives that feel like the ones we want to be living.

The presenter of this particular clinic was a man by the name of Michael Cerreto, a Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapist and Sports & Performing Arts Psychology Counselor here in Richmond. He touched on the various mental barriers that can arise when taking on a challenge like this and he offered several great strategies to help us overcome those things and work with ourselves throughout the process.

But it was what he said at the very end that blew my mind open in a million directions and has stayed with me (and, of course, ended up in every one of my coaching sessions since). This one succinct and direct statement pulled together so much of what I’ve learned in all of my avenues of work and practice and life: it’s only a problem if it’s a pattern.

Let me repeat that again to let it sink in… It’s only a problem if it’s a pattern.

The pattern is what creates ruts. The pattern creates the experience of being blocked, stuck, trapped, unable to change. The pattern becomes the problem. When followed, the pattern disempowers. When unexamined the pattern seems like the truth. But it isn’t…

In order to break the pattern we must disrupt the pattern which happens when we choose to do (or think) something different than whatever the pattern would have us do.

This, my friends, is everything.


So, here are the three things this “un-patterning” needs:  

  • Awareness – in order to see the pattern and that you’re in it
  • Ability to choose – something other than what the pattern would have you choose
  • Repetition – the willingness/courage/patience to do that over and over again until the pattern is undone

I know this seems quite simple (and really, as a process, it actually is). But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The undoing of patterns (especially super old, super deep, super unconscious ones) requires work. It takes repetition over time. In fact, it can take LOTS of repetition over LOTS of time for the pattern to become completely undone.

I promise you, however, that each and every time you take those first two steps (seeing the pattern and choosing differently), you are changing. You are growing. You are evolving. You are shifting from impossible to possible.

So get curious, friends, and stay curious. Where are you feeling stuck? And can you see what you’re telling yourself? And when you’re telling yourself that story? Look for the pattern and then get to work.

April 8, 2021


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