How to identify life patterns

June 22, 2016

Glen Ellen, Calif.

It wasn’t until I was into my 60s that I had the gift of vision. No, not a woo-woo gift, but the ability to look back over the many decades of my life and see life patterns. These are situations or themes that seem to repeat themselves. Even though no two events are exactly alike, if the umbrella theme matches up, that’s a life pattern.

It’s an amazing gift: I’m thinking maybe we should stop thinking about age as something to bemoan and instead appreciate its gifts. This is a very big one.

Of course, even as Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” those of us who have spent any time looking back and dealing with “things” know that the examined life can be hell.

I’m only a little kidding. Looking back at our book of life isn’t for the faint of heart. So why would we want to do it?

Is there a meaning to life?

Many people think we live our life, it ends and that’s that. Period, end of sentence, chapter, book.  The idea that it might have some meaning other than day-to-day existence is not something they entertain.

They may not even want to entertain it.

That outlook just makes no sense to me.  Our lives within vastly intricate societies didn’t just evolve without the hand of a Master. I don’t buy it.  Life is too complex.  And further, I don’t buy that life has no purpose.

Because I believe that we have souls that have infinite life over many incarnations, I also believe in a soul purpose.  So what does that have to do with life patterns?

The warp and weave of life

Our very complex lives are planned with patterns in mind, patterns that are lessons in disguise. Identifying repeating patterns in our lives provides the opportunity to determine if these themes are positive or negative. They can be either.

Do they serve us? If so, let’s give them more energy! Let’s promote the heck out of them and look for opportunities to appreciate, use and even strengthen them.

But maybe they’re not so positive. Maybe they don’t serve us.  There’s a lesson there, and it’s up to us to find it. And do something with it.

The class I’m taking requires us to do a significant amount of reflection on our own themes. And while I thought that I’d pretty much had my life under control after my own years of therapy, come to find out, I still have some things to learn.

So, what’s it all about?

If you’re interested in identifying your own patterns, get out a note book and start listing key events in your life in chronological order.  Begin when you began, as early as you can remember. What are the positive and negative events you remember as having some impact? What feelings did they bring up for you?

Take some notes. And don’t do it all in an hour or a day:  take a few weeks to add to your list.

I’m pretty sure you’re going to discover something about your life that you didn’t know before.

A more detailed and involved form of this exercise is part of the program I’m taking and I have to admit that I’ve had more than one AHA!!! moment as I reflected.

I’m a big proponent of therapy and have taken advantage of it more than once in my life.  I was pretty sure that I’d examined all of my life in detail.

Umm, no. Not by a long shot.

Back to the gifts that come with age.  If, at almost 65, I’m still discovering things about myself?  Life can’t be over.  If, at almost 65, I’m looking for ways to grow?  Life isn’t over.

And if, in the process, I discover my soul’s purpose and achieve it? What a way for this life to be over!

Love to hear your thoughts.

55 comments on “How to identify life patterns
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    I’m going to do this exercise. good for the memoir. thanks ! Will keep you posted…as always, you are amazing.

  2. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and looking at my stories over this last year or so. I do this in my morning journaling and it’s been a bit like therapy–fascinating revelations. I’ve also been to therapy at various points in my life but what I’m doing now is having the bigger impact–maybe because it’s a deep self-guided process? Or because I’m seeing what has popped up and taking steps to make some changes.
    Your suggestion is one I’ve been approaching in a way…looking back at my early years to uncover one of my beliefs that doesn’t really serve me well. I think we benefit hugely from looking deeper. And, the timeline idea is a good one–I did that in a workshop years ago but what I’ve also learned is that each time we revisit a new exercise we come at it wth a different knowledge base and we discover something new!

  3. It’s the patterns that are interesting to me and yes, for some reason this one is very illuminating!

  4. It’s true about the unexamined life but as I go forward I don’t find myself reflecting back as much as reflecting on the NOW, about who I am, where I’m headed and which behaviors/thoughts serve me (or don’t serve me) well. That is for now. Perhaps in the next decade that will change. Who knows? All I know is that we are always evolving, always leaving little pieces of ourselves everywhere, always learning and always staying curious.

  5. Lindi Mogale says:

    This would be an interesting exercise to do, proper reflection is something that we should all do in order to keep track and uncover and respond to the changing circumstances and circumstances that impact our lives. I think its great that you are going through this course

  6. Cori says:

    I’ve been doing some reflecting lately on how I want to live my life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do what makes me happy, and not what others (my mother) think I should be doing. Sounds cliche but it is so true. Being pulled in a million different directions isn’t fun.

  7. Sheryl Kraft says:

    Isn’t it so great to have the ability to look back and find ways to do things better? That’s what age is for…I am so grateful for that opportunity each and every day. I truly mean that (and I’m not being woo-woo either, I hope 🙂

  8. Rosemond says:

    I’ve also been the beneficiary of therapy and examining my life. I’m going to try this exercise, I’d love to uncover some patterns in my life to better understand my own personal mission. I think we all crave the knowledge of what our purpose is here on this planet at this time. It’s something I’ve been struggling with so much in the last year as I alter my life’s work. Wonderful post. Sharing!

  9. I definitely see some patterns that have held me back and kept me from unleashing my power or pushing past perceived obstacles. Introspection is is important to our growth. Who among us can say they have truly “arrived”? Thanks for this amazing post, Carol.

  10. Sometimes, well most of the time, I think I do too much reflecting. I love figuring things, people, and situations out. I went to therapy many years ago and it helped, but now I think I have the tools to figure things out 🙂

  11. SuE says:

    This is such a worthwhile exercise which I am going to do. Our lives have so many twists and turns I suppose once you start taking the time to write you learn why you are who you are today. A good way to write your memoirs just for you.

  12. Lee Gaitan says:

    I love this post and your attitude. It most definitely isn’t over because we are not ready to go! Curiosity about ourselves, others, and the life that surrounds us is an elixir.

  13. Sarah Bailey says:

    I don’t think we ever stop learning and growing – life is definitely a journey from start to finish. x

  14. That sounds interesting. I have never considered anything like that. I guess life is full of patterns, and determining your own would indeed help you discover your true purpose.

  15. I’ve been going through a very difficult time personally lately and this is a good suggestion for me to gain some perspective on where I am and why…and whether or not I’ve been at this precipice (in some other form) before? I’ll be taking the time to really consider these things thanks to your post. 🙂

  16. She Joh says:

    This is such an interesting article, I may have to try this sometime! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Tina Ashburn says:

    I, too, am almost 65. Well, 62. And I found in the last couple of months, since I lost my brother, I have indulged (and I use that word because I had never done this before) in self-searching for the answers of life. My dad once told me he had “found his piece of the pie” and I was wondering about mine. I am in the process of making several large life changes, and I am relying on experts to help me. Some are business decisions, some personal. Each one is based on my admitting that I don’t know it all, and frankly there are things I don’t want to learn (like html). Some are experiences that I don’t want to repeat and some are valuable real-life experiences that brought me happiness. It is difficult to open my eyes and see, but I’m finding the future is based on the past journey and it’tain’t so bad!

  18. Stacey W says:

    I used to journal all of the time and go back and reread. I need to get back to it! Great writing!

  19. Amy Jones says:

    Thanks for this post, I love the way you think and see the world. I’m seriously thinking about doing that list to identify my life patterns

  20. I think that each decade is different for all of us. For me my 30s were pretty good, but my 50s is becoming pretty awesome

  21. This is fascinating and I don’t think I’ve ever considered it before. Hmmm … will definitely be thinking about it now!

  22. Cait says:

    I love this post. I think we constantly need to self reflect to discover who we are and who we become over the years. I truly believe in reincarnation of the soul too. I need to do a bit of soul searching myself. Good luck with your journey.

    – Cait |

  23. Leanne says:

    Part of getting older is learning that we don’t know it all – it’s humbling but also liberating because we can go on a journey to discover all that has gone before and apply it to what is yet to come – I love the idea of patterns.

  24. Claire says:

    What a great post! Every day I learn something new about myself and my loved ones and there is still so much to learn 🙂

  25. Barbara says:

    Writing a memoir is about all the reflexion I can take at the moment.

  26. Liz Mays says:

    This is such an interesting idea. I may start doing this to see what I discover!

  27. How wonderful to be able to see those patterns! I have had trouble thus far… maybe it’s because I’m “only” 40. Lol. I will try this method over a few weeks and see what comes up. Thanks!

  28. This is all so true and it is also interesting to look at major events in the life of our parents and grandparents and then see those AHA moments when similar patterns emerge throughout the generation.

  29. Lexie Lane says:

    It is so nice to reflect. Sometimes, I think of the past things that I’ve done and avoid to make those again.

  30. wendy says:

    I think it is good to reflect over ones life to find out where you went wrong or right. To be better then what you were and try to do better in the future. I think you learn as you go and as long as you do not make the same mistakes twice and learn from what you did then you are doing well.

  31. Silly Mummy says:

    Yes, it is interesting to identify & learn from patterns. Great attitude to have,

  32. Taylor says:

    This is interesting! I have never looked at my life like that before, I might try it!

  33. Taylor says:

    This is an interesting post! I have never looked at my life like that before.

  34. WOw you’re in your 60’s? I dont believe it. You look so young. Brilliant and thought provoking post. It really changed my perspective on a few things. Thank you for sharing your wisdom

  35. Wow, what a deep post! Definitely puts things into perspective.

  36. Elizabeth O. says:

    This is such a lovely post, one that would remind you about how far you have come in life. It would be a nice project to list down everything I’ve been through. I’ve learned a lot in my years and I am very much willing to learn more!

  37. Christina Aliperti says:

    I am so curious to see what I will learn about my life by doing this. I think this could,prove to be very important for me.

  38. Amanda Love says:

    What makes growing old beautiful is the experience that comes with it. In the years that we have existed we have learned a lot of things about life and that’s really great when it comes to sharing our wisdom with the younger ones.

  39. Nikki Jenner says:

    Nice post! I look back in my life and see some patterns there.

  40. Nicole Escat says:

    I always take time to meditate and see how things in the past. I make this so I can avoid mistakes in the future.

  41. Rosey says:

    I’m pulling out my notebook. A little introspection discovery couldn’t hurt.

  42. I think we all need to learn to step back and take charge of the things that seem to be similar in our lives. We need to welcome change if we want change things to happen. We need to see the pattern and make the necessary adjustments to welcome new things in our life.

  43. Colette S says:

    I’ve been learning quite a bit too as I look at life and my life in correspondence.

    I really wish more people would take the time to stop and really evaluate these important paths. It would give our lives more effect and living effectively instead of being bounce around by others choices.
    Hope I’m not rambling.

    We do make our own choices, and have to live with the consequences whether we want them or not, but many times, we just flow along with others choices instead of being proactive in choosing.

    Great write up.

  44. I just love your positive outlook. Growing old doesn’t mean life is over and you should stop discovering new things. It’s always nice to reflect and re-assess your life.

  45. I had to laugh because of the comment I left on the last post. Oh, thank you by the way for clearing up the “blog” and”post” issue. That drives me crazy. Back to this, I’m still trying to figure out my beliefs, but I honestly believe that there is something. That’s it not just the end. I also don’t believe in the idea that God created the Earth.

  46. I love your positivity. There is meaning regardless of what age you are and each day that you live is a new day to try something new. Life is full of patterns.

  47. I do my best reflecting at night, while I’m laying in bed before going to sleep. But then I can’t sleep because I’m thinking too much 😉

  48. Nancy Hill says:

    Patterns! I love finding and following patterns! Therapy, journaling, memoir, the legacy project… so important to finding self and community, who you are and of what you are a part at basic, elemental levels. Love this advice, Carol! Timelines are VERY informative, even ENLIGHTENING. Love your perspective, lady.

  49. I love your attitude! I will save this post for later! I need to change my patterns

  50. Lindsay says:

    This offers a very unique perspective! My life has certainly been an adventure but I’m so thankful to be where I’m at today after overcoming obstacles and learning lessons.

  51. Mhaan A says:

    I find this interesting and will definitely try this exercise one of this day. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.