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Patterns in Human Behaviour (And Why We Do the Things We Do)

By Karen Vally on 30 Jan 2023

If you were to observe yourself very closely, you would notice patterns in your behaviour. A pattern is a behaviour that we carry out repeatedly, without giving our action much thought. We only become aware of these patterns, when someone else draws our attention to them, or when we shift our state of being to one of sharp awareness.

What sort of patterns of behaviour, some helpful and others unhelpful, do human beings exhibit? Some examples of unhelpful patterns could be scrolling on your phone, workaholicism, perfectionism, procrastination, worry, fear, anxiety, doubt, a lack of confidence, a lack of purpose, a lack of responsibility, a lack of discipline, a desire for immediate gratification, substance abuse or other forms of addiction. A few helpful questions to ask ourselves are," What emotions are the triggers for these patterns? What could we do differently and who could help us?"

Some examples of helpful patterns could be, asking questions (as we did when we were children), prioritizing our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, setting clear limits and boundaries, managing our time, energy, attention and finances effectively, asking for help, communicating effectively and being committed to a process of lifelong learning.

What if you were to take a few moments to write down at least one pattern that you have noticed in your behaviour? It could be that you're hard on yourself, that you've given yourself a label, or that you find it difficult to acknowledge that you're a worthwhile human being with at least one unique gift, talent or strength? What would it take to substitute your current pattern of behaviour pattern with one that has a more beneficial effect? Who or what would be your greatest source of motivation to initiate this change of direction? 

It is also worth reflecting, at this point, on the role that our beliefs, values, rules and needs play, in our patterns of behaviour. Our  beliefs, values and rules guide our behaviour, but it is our needs that actually drive it. Which one of the six human needs drives your behaviour? Is it the need for certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth or contribution?

Human behaviour is complex and influenced by many factors. What a useful role psychologists play in interpreting it, and what an invaluable contribution scientists make, through their ongoing quantitive and qualitative research. 

How exciting it is for us, as human beings, to know that we can continue to learn and grow by being willing and open to changing our patterns of behaviour, at any time.

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