The Anti-Pattern Approach to Personal Development
As many of you know, I have a lot of experience working in software development. I also have a lot of experience with personal development. Every now and then, I run across a topic that applies equally to both fields of interest.
The other day, I was reading a book on software anti-patterns, and I thought, wow, anti-patterns aren’t just a cool software concept; they’re a key to happier living.
And if you keep reading, I’ll explain the connection in plain English so you can start using anti-patterns to live a happier life now.
Before I explain what an anti-pattern is, let’s spend a moment talking about patterns. A pattern is a known and repeatable solution to a common problem. Just as there are patterns for quilts, there are patterns for business processes and patterns for software development. And yes, there are patterns for life. For example, if you decide you want to become a doctor, there is a well documented, provable, and repeatable pattern involving medical training and internship that will get you there, provided you can keep up.
Put simply, a pattern keeps you from having to re-invent the wheel every time you want to do something because it allows you to leverage the experience and collective wisdom of all the people who have already done it.
The opposite of a pattern is an anti-pattern. In life, as in software, an anti-pattern is a potential solution to a problem that just doesn’t work. It offers false hope, yields misery. You can think of an anti-pattern as a potential solution that’s so compelling that millions of people flock to it, the way a man dying of thirst wanders toward a mirage in the desert. And like the mirage, the anti-pattern offers nothing but a mouthful of sand.
If you’re looking for a way to identify and correct the less than optimum solutions that have infiltrated your life (or want to avoid future mistakes), review this list of common life anti-patterns:
1. The Blind Careerist: Instead of viewing job satisfaction as a long-term goal involving trial and error and continuous improvement, a person using the “blind careerist” anti-pattern stumbles blindly through college, picks the most convenient field of study, and then stays put, despite being professionally dissatisfied.
2. The Purely Emotional Lover: Unfortunately, millions of people never got the memo that real love is more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling. They stay in ill-suited relationships because they have strong emotions for their partner, even when a relationship no longer makes sense. News flash: real love isn’t just a noun; it’s a verb. You can tell whether or not a person loves you by the way he or she treats you.
3. The Addiction: In an attempt to fill an emotional void, people turn to food, alcohol, cigarettes, or even hard drugs. While substances may provide a short-term fix, only by addressing the underlying emotional roots of the problem can you learn to be free.
4. The Positive Thought Roadblock: Given the popularity of The Secret (and the Law of Attraction in general) it has become fashionable for people to believe that they can have whatever their heart desires simply by sitting around wishing for it. But in the real world, accomplishment is the result of labor, ingenuity, or both. Yes, it’s important to think positively, but change requires action.
5. Extrinsic Obsession: In an effort to feel better, people turn to extrinsic factors instead of intrinsic ones. For example, they value appearance more than health, popularity more than virtue, status more than accomplishment. Yes, extrinsic factors matter too, but when the shiny exterior of things becomes top priority, you’ve got a problem.
6. The Grudge: If your primary motivation in life is getting back at someone who has wronged you, you’ll wake up one day and realize that you haven’t been living for yourself at all.
7. Focus on Others: Instead of focusing on our own personal growth, it’s all too easy to become obsessed with how others are doing. Jim makes more money. Betty is prettier. The Johnson family has a bigger house. News flash: your personal growth is not related to anyone but you.
When it comes to life’s biggest anti-patterns, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. If you notice that one of these bogus solutions has crept into your life, look for an alternative pattern.
And if you find yourself unhappy with a certain aspect of your life, try to mentally step away from the situation and view it from the perspective of an unbiased third party. If you saw someone else doing whatever it is that you’re doing, would you think that person was crazy? If so, there’s a good chance you’re engaged in an anti-pattern.
November 19, 2007 Monday at 8:17 pm
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