Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conscious Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition is not a new and groundbreaking topic by any means. I myself can recall numerous recent experiences where I have recognized the importance of piecing together life's recurring patterns in different contexts. The successful economist, writer, and muser extraordinaire Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on our mind's unique ability to process unfathomable amounts of data through subconscious pattern recognition. He describes this subconscious ability in the book Blink as the human equivalent of instincts. These instincts are the subconscious mind's recognition, collection, and organization of patterns. The mind then sends the conscious mind a message so to speak at very rapid speeds. This ability is definitely important, but what about conscious pattern recognition? The kind of pattern recognition that can be honed through conscious recognition and effort.

It wasn't until today about 90% through a grueling workout provided by my lovely personal trainer wife that I had the epiphany of the extreme importance of conscious pattern recognition. As I said earlier, I have always had little moments of clarity where I recognize parallels that arise in different life contexts. However it wasn't until today that it fell into place for me as I realized how much better my wife's workouts are than mine. I started to think of how far ahead she is with her ability to create dynamic workouts that truly push me through an entire full body workout.

What do workouts have to do with pattern recognition? Well nothing really. But the disparity between what I can create and what she can create has a lot to do with pattern recognition. Certainly her talent isn't purely superior knowledge. I enjoy working out, am fairly knowledgeable on the topic, and have the benefit of osmosis as I live with her. So as I was walking back from my work out I began wondering whether her talent is a gift or whether it was honed from pure passion and a superior ability to recognize patterns within that facet of life.

I heard a phrase on The Biggest Loser a while back. Jillian Michaels, who is a beauty by the way, told the contestants one day that she and Bob are the best in the world at what they do. She went on to say that no one can make contestants lose weight like they do. I believe her. I wonder what her conscious pattern recognition ability is like when it comes to creating workouts. Does her mind visually piece together a map of the body and the areas of focus for each workout. Does her mind flawlessly fashion together workout algorithms to fine tune the body in master fashion? Does she use pattern recognition of similar problems amongst contestants past and present to devise her transformation strategy?

I think that conscious pattern recognition ability is one of the key components to success in almost all things. To this day I can step on the ice and recognize patterns in the game that many other people who didn't play at as high a level cannot. Are these people way less talented than me? Most aren't and many have more natural talent than I do. However, when it came to hockey I had an ability to recognize recurring themes in the game that was built through hard work and years of experience. Wayne Gretzky often talked of his ability to see two or three plays ahead of the game, an almost ESP like ability to anticipate. I would venture to say that his pattern recognition within the game of hockey is greater than perhaps anyone who has ever lived.

Many people who are successful in one area tend to be successful in other areas. This isn't due to the fact that they are superior human beings. They achieve consistent success because they possess a superior ability to recognize patterns which allows them to posture themselves for success in a wide variety of areas. Can you apply this concept to other facets of your life? I am sure you can. Think of your office environment. Do you see the same mistakes being made day in and day out? Do you see the same communication problems manifest in different organizations and sectors? Do you see similar attributes in the successful people? The unsuccessful ones? How can you consciously attempt to recognize patterns to continually adapt to each and every situation thereby setting yourself to achieve your goals? Kind of a new agey concept but a very transcendent and helpful one nonetheless.

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