Patternicity and the Search for Joy

This week I learned about patternicity - the human tendency to look for patterns where none exist. Michael Shermer coined the term to explain why humans develop superstitions and believe in things like astrology and magic - you know, the fun things in life. 

In case you’re wondering how I feel about these things, I evaluate pretty much everything using the scientific method and also I’m a Libra sun, Virgo rising, and Sagittarius moon. 

What I'm saying is that it's complicated, because I’m human. Plus, what’s the fun in not believing in magic?


I do think patternicity makes a lot of sense, but there are downsides. If there’s an evolutionary reason for seeking patterns, it means that we’re biologically equipped to look for danger, to worry, to focus on the negative. That explains so much, doesn't it? It reminds me of that feeling you get when something good happens, and you just know that bad news must be around the corner. Tell me it happens to you too!

However, all isn’t lost. It takes work, but you can make a conscious effort to look for positive patterns, to notice the things that bring you joy. Training yourself to do the opposite of what we’re evolved to do (which is search for danger and predators!) changes your life from one where you're constantly in fear to one where you regularly experience little bursts of delight.

Thinking like prey may have allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to pass on their genes to us, but now that we don't really have to look for saber-toothed cats on the regular I think it's time to reprogram ourselves. 

I don’t subscribe to the belief that finding joy dumbs you down. In fact, I believe that finding patterns of joy and even intentionally creating them only improves our pattern-finding ability. Practice makes perfect and you might as well enjoy the patterns you find!

Impostors, Unite!

I’ve started writing again. What’s even more exciting, ideas keep coming to me and I know what I need to do.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a creative project, and I’m scared. I’m sharing this with you because I have a feeling you’ve been thinking about doing something big yourself, and you’re scared too.

I’m willing to bet a million dollars (that I don’t actually have, but let’s pretend) that the thought of getting started on whatever that exciting but scary thing is makes you break out in a cold sweat. Your heart starts beating faster not necessarily because you’re excited but because deep down you just know that you’re not ready yet.

It’s not that your idea isn’t brilliant, or that you doubt your ability. (Well, maybe you do, just a little.) It’s that you’re just not ready yet because you don’t know what you’re doing.

You tell yourself that you just need to go back to school. You need a bit more practice. You’ll be amazing, eventually. But first, you need some more time.

OK, LET’S STOP DOING THAT. We’re ready now.

Let’s stop giving in to impostor syndrome - and definitely stop letting perfectionism eat us alive.

Perfectionism isn't exactly a monster, but I find it to be a very convenient excuse for everything. I find I'm always telling myself little lies, "Oh, I'd totally get this done but it has to be perfect." This is clearly not smart on my part, but never more so than when I spend hours researching, let's say, the perfect font for my project. Who cares? I don't even care that much, but I must have spent hours trying to figure out if words look better in Arial or Proxima Nova. Sigh.

Of course, when I keep putting things off -- in the name of research and perfection -- all I have to show for it is a big knot in my belly because I know what I really need is to just get started already or quit before I even begin.

Does this happen to you as well?

This is what works for me: I have to admit that I don’t actually have all the answers - and that I never will. And I have to be OK with that.

That’s actually a really hard thing to do. But here’s a secret that actually helps me, and I learned it in business school, of all places: No one has all the answers.

Yep. None of us know what we’re doing. At least not all the time.

Isn’t that freeing?

(And terrifying?)

We’re all somewhat clueless together! Humans are social creatures; we need to know this about each other. It’s scary as hell to admit this, but at least we’re not alone.

Isn't that what perfectionism is, fear?

And isn't it interesting how perfectionism is so closely related to procrastination?

I've got to remember the awesome feeling of relief when I finish something, even when it isn't perfect. What they say is true, done is better than perfect.

I'm always amazed at how well things turn out when I allow myself to be imperfect.

I guess I’m asking for your permission to be imperfect as I get back to writing and sharing my words.

And know that I’m giving you permission, if you need it, to be imperfect too.

That thing you want to do? Do it now.

You’ve got the rest of us impostors cheering you on.