Understanding Your Pattern-Seeking Mind is The First Step Towards Real Wisdom
Your thinking patterns are shaping your future — everything you know is gradually influencing your life
Here is the bitter truth, our minds are stuck in our own thinking habit loops. We rarely think outside this thinking habit cycle unless we deliberately intercept our thought process, change our habits or improve our mental models.
The brain is a pattern-seeking survival machine — it heavily relies on what you know to conserve energy. That way, you don’t have to think too hard about what to do when familiar situations arise, thereby conserving brain energy for slow and deep thinking.
With time, you start to recognize patterns around you and internalize these patterns so that we can reuse them in the future. That’s why it’s so hard to change your mind about your existing beliefs, assumptions and perceptions — your brain is in the constant process of scanning for patterns to reinforce what you already know and believe.
This process makes you look at information from a singular point of view. Your life is being shaped by the same patterns you have built over the years.
Understanding your pattern-seeking mind is the first step toward real and practical wisdom. If you want different results, outcome or a better life, you have to upgrade your thinking habit loop. Or better still, the different life you are desperately seeking is a different thought process away.
“I’ve spent my life trying to undo habits — especially habits of thinking. They narrow your interaction with the world. They’re the phrases that come easily to your mind, like: ‘I know what I think,’ or ‘I know what I like,’ or ‘I know what’s going to happen today.’ If you just replace ‘know’ with ‘don’t know,’ then you start to move into the unknown. And that’s where the interesting stuff happens.” — Humans of New York
You can’t keep repeating the same things and expect different results. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” says Albert Einstein.
“The things you did yesterday have brought you to the life you have today. If you want something different, you have to do something different today to create a different life tomorrow. There’s no other way to get there,” writes Trent Hamm.
Your thinking patterns are shaping your future — everything you know is gradually influencing your life. How you think affects everything — from your ability to make decisions to how you understand meaning happiness and purpose. Information or knowledge alone is not enough — it’s not what know, it’s how you think.
The results are you looking for in life is a different skill, idea, mindset or approach away. To think well and take the life-changing actions you need, you have to be aware of your own limitations and work smarter to overcome them.
Wise people look for new wisdom
To improve how you think, change the narratives you tell yourself and make a better judgement, you have to consistently update or upgrade your mental models — an explanation of your thought process about how things work in the real world.
Only a mind free of confirmation bias can truly improve its capacity for deep and better thought or judgement. Once you maintain an open mind, you expose yourself to many opinions, ideas, perceptions, events, environments, facts and cultures. And the more you seek to improve your knowledge, the better your ability to think (both fast and slow) and improve your life.
Vera Nazarian says, “If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief if you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant.”
Wise people specialize in what Roger Martin, the author of Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking calls integrative thinking — “the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads” — and reconcile them for the situation at hand. In the words of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
Your thinking pattern is creating your subjective experience daily. The more diverse your thinking patterns are, the more accurately you will be able to interact with the information or knowledge you come across.
“So — the next time you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between two seemingly incompatible paths, start asking yourself whether there’s a third path you haven’t yet considered,” recommends Nicole Dieker.
You could also try Edward De Bono’s six thinking hats, in which you make better judgement or decision in five different ways — factually, emotionally, pessimistically, optimistically, creatively — the sixth hat being worn to move between them.
Another great way to improve your ability to think is to spend time thinking. “It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise”, says William Deresiewicz.
Be more intentional in diversifying your thinking patterns. Identifying your cognitive biases, deciding the best mental models to apply in decision-making, and challenging your existing thought-processes is an enriching experience.