Have you ever been able to predict something before it happens? For example, you are working remotely from the coffee shop du jour when in comes a group of rowdies. They are laughing and talking and flailing their arms about in an act of “someone pay attention to me please,” when you notice sitting on the counter behind one of these four non-blondes a trenta-sized mega-coffee resting precariously on the ledge. You try to look away but you can’t. In your gut, and your mind’s eye, you’ve already seen in high-definition slow-mo what is yet to come. You’ve seen the flying elbow collide with the sugary-sweet thing-a-chino and all 31-ounces of its delectable contents ending up in the lap of the poor sap sitting at the end of the bar.
So you move on this apparent act of precognition, swoop in, and spare the coffee from an untimely demise, only to be met by the judgy gaze of rowdy number three for interrupting her story about so and so and that thing they did. As you walk back to your cozy, ultra-modern corner nook, you have a fleeting thought about how you might better use your innate ability to see the future, and what good you could do with it a la Dr. Strange. Seconds later, you are met by the sweet kiss of your caramel macchiato and the thought passes. You smile softly as you sip your drink, preserving the secret of your superpowers until you are once again called upon to save the day — or the $7.31 someone paid for that drink.
Contrary to popular belief, what I’ve described is not a superpower. It’s a little thing called pattern recognition. According to Michael W Eysenck and Mark T Keane, “In psychology and cognitive neuroscience, pattern recognition describes the cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.” It is that recognition that makes it possible for us to seemingly predict the future. Not something otherworldly, sorry, Stephen.
As it pertains to our general sense of well-being, so much of our mental health stems from how we act and react to scenarios that play out in our day-to-day lives. Getting good at pattern recognition can extract us from the pits of isolation and despair commonly found in the remote work community, help us avoid paralysis by analysis, or make us better able to assert stupidity over malice when we have applied our own negative self talk to that email Sally in accounting sent over.
Understanding the power of pattern recognition and by intentional application, we can build intelligence, confidence, and resilience that can protect our otherwise fragile state of being like impenetrable armor. For remote workers, freelancers, contract help — or really anyone working in isolation — recognizing patterns, good and bad, gives the strength to overcome the many challenges we encounter with style and grace.
- If we are feeling alone, isolated, and experiencing despair, merely being aware of the changes in our body that are making us feel that way can allow us to turn the tide of emotions before we are fully engulfed in them.
- If we are caught up in a loop of overthinking leading to inaction, just recognizing it and making a purposeful pivot can get us back to work.
- If we feel attacked or triggered by a communiqué that makes its way into our inbox, being mindful in our interpretation of its meaning is critical. Paying extra attention to any emotion or attitude we might be bringing to that interpretation can help us recognize the actual meaning versus something implied or imagined.
For some, the ability to make sense of patterns is something you’re born with. For others, we need to get our 10,000 hours to develop the acumen and subsequent confidence to reap the rewards. So far be it from me to say that getting great at pattern recognition is easy. But like anything of real value, it is attainable. You just have to work for it. According to the big-brained Neil deGrasse Tyson, “the best thing we have going for us is our intelligence, especially pattern recognition, sharpened over eons of evolution.” And that is the good news; we’ve essentially been working on developing this skill for eternity — without thinking about it — through genetic memories, verbal traditions, rights of passage, and so on, and in our lifetimes through lived and shared experiences. So take comfort in knowing that the foundational bits are already in place. Now, you simply need to align them with a little intention, and you’ll be well on your way.
What role has pattern recognition played in your work? Your life?
How have you managed to flex your ability to see patterns to benefit yourself and others at work and in your life? How can your experience help others? Please, share your thoughts in the comments below, find me on LinkedIn, tag @ryanroghaar or use the hashtag #TeammateApart on the socials and lend your support to the broader remote work community.
I am an entrepreneur, creative director, podcaster, remote work advocate, consultant, author, and speaker committed to building authentic end-to-end relationships for my clients — from top management to top consumer. My unique philosophy puts specific importance on human relationships and their inherent value in both business and in life. As a society, I believe we are reaching a kind of technological saturation point, which is leaving consumers anxious and yearning for tactile human experiences, and it is that core ethic that fuels my purpose — to bring people together.
From my office in Salt Lake City, Utah, or occasionally from my office-away-from-home in Barcelona, Spain, I will offer enlightening insights on a vast range of topics. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my ideas and experiences to help others explore fresh perspectives on business, lifestyle, and the future of work.