If you pay attention to your inner monologue, as the exercise I call The Most Effective Self-Awareness Exercise I Know leads you to, you’ll notice patterns. Songs get stuck in your head. You judge people. You judge yourself. You try to figure out the best order to do things in. You play out arguments you might have with others. Sound familiar?
Years ago I had the idea to catalog the types of thoughts you repeat. Before doing the exercise, I thought we could think about anything. After doing the exercise enough times and hearing how much others’ thoughts resembled mine, I concluded we think in patterns, and not as many as we’d think.
I suspect the types of patterns emerged through evolution, so most patterns helped our ancestors survive, or at least didn’t hurt them. I suspect that most patterns are adaptive, meaning we don’t think to contemplate nature but to motivate behavior that kept our ancestors alive and passing on their genes. We feel like we’re thinking because we like contemplation, but really some parts of our minds are observing processes that we inherited from ancestors that beat competitors to food, mates, and other resources.
I also think that learning our thought patterns would reveal parts of our brains.
I also expect that no thought patterns will conflict with adaptive behavior.
I’ve held back on cataloging thought patterns since there may be too many, but I don’t want to put it off forever. I’ll add to the list as I think of new patterns. If you think of patterns to add, plus suggest them. I’ll start with a few and add when I can.
- Efficiency (optimizing how to do upcoming tasks in the way most consistent with goals)
- Songs and rhymes
- Finding one’s place in hierarchy (judging others, self, envy)
- Motivating self
- Justifying guilt
As I said, I’m starting short to avoid discouraging myself with early judgment. I have low standards the first time to motivate doing over planning after I’ve planned enough.
If you have other thought patterns, please mention and I’ll post them.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book