21 Oct 22
Disclosure: I was asked to review this book and given a free promotional copy from the publisher.
Matt Norman has written a concise set of stories and questions focused on four habits that are shown to help people lead healthy lives. The one thing that sticks out to me with Matt's writing is it feels like a conversation between friends. It feels less like a teacher and student, or coach and player type of conversation. Matt mentions a peer group of men he participates in near the end of the book. Imagine the type of conversations that happen in those groups and how they evolve, and that is how this book feels. It's inclusive and not lecturing. I really appreciate that tone and I don't think it's easy to pull off.
I've read a number of books on similar topics recently, including many that Matt cites in this book. However, I finished with some take aways and learnings. If you've read books like Atomic Habits, I think you'll be interested in this book as well.
The book is organized in four sections:
- Thought Patterns
- Relationship Patterns
- Ego Patterns
- Operating Patterns
Before jumping into the sections, Matt covers the foundation on what exactly is a pattern and where does it come from.
Some of my highlights included:
Often our most powerful work comes out of internalized flaws, mistakes, and wounds that we've had to address
And the author reiterates:
I'm still a work in progress
Similar to a concept in Atomic Habits, Matt notes:
The first step in becoming a healthier person is understanding your patterns.
Matt goes into the psychology and reasons for our patterns as human beings, including responses and stimulus. The obvious thing to point out is that we as humans can recognize our patterns and change. We're mutable.
I like how Matt stated the goal of the book:
My goal is that you will finish this book having picked up practical approachs for understanding your patterns and having grown toward your full emotional and relational potential.
The word potential is used throughout the book. That resonated with me as a reader. Striving for perfect is unrealistic, striving for better (aka reaching our potential) is certainly realistic. As Matt notes, it usually takes a crisis to cause us to consider what we did wrong and how we might avoid repeating our mistakes. The consideration is the first and most important step to getting better in my opinion. Hitting the pause button and considering.
Stopping to consider may surface some uncomfortable thoughts. Matt addresses the truth about our thoughts by exposing his own battle with anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety have debilitating thoughts. The draw you inward. They establish patterns that can be observed.
When recognizing these patterns (aka thinking about your thinking), Matt has a great quote:
I learned that ignoring, replacing, or rationalizing negative thoughts is not effective. Instead, I needed to learn to accept the unproductive thoughts as part of who I am...but then deal with them appropriately.
This should resonate with anyone who meditates. Observe your thoughts and feelings, accept that they exist, but don't control you and aren't who you are. Deal with them appropriately.
Matt then goes into the source of unproductive thoughts. Maybe it's work stress, or personal relations. He then goes into identifying root cause.
After dealing with unproductive thoughts, the book heads into relationship patterns. Including differentiating yourself in relationships. This isn't just about personal relationships, but all relationships including with coworkers. Matt covers avoiding conflict and not being beholden to well-worn patterns in relationships.
Next was a chapter discussing defensiveness and facing criticism. I especially enjoyed the story of Abraham Lincoln:
I don't like that man. I must get to know him better. - Lincoln
I need to remember that quote.
The middle part of the book is dense and deals with Ego, humility and vulnerability. I've recently read Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Book review of that coming soon. Ego is something that plays into so much of our decision making, including how we show up in all relationships of our lives. As Matt notes:
Most people play a role in life that they assume others expect of them. It may or may not be what you want, but you just don't question it, or you don't want to fail expectations.
In the context of ego and factors that play into our decision making and how we show up, Matt says something I feel is brilliantly worded:
the places where you've been hurt probably have healed into scars that define what you most value.
Further discussion of humility leads to some great takeaways:
Humility can be common sense but not common practice because most of life reminds us to focus on ourselves.
After a mention of Atomic Habits, the discussion around healthy relationships makes some great inroads to how those relationship patterns impact the rest of your life. Not treating relationships like a utility for example.
After covering ego patterns, the book concludes by discussing operating patterns. This is a great section that reinforces "having a system" that is mentioned in many other books.
Managing your schedule and establishing a pattern is the key take away for me. It's something I constantly play with. Blocking calendar time. Establishing routines. If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to check out Deep Work by Cal Newport.
As Matt says:
Establish a pattern that reflects your priorities and gives you the energy you need to be your best self.
I like that last part. Your best self. Your potential.
In summary, I'm going to borrow the words from the author:
That's the purpose of this book: to help you lead a more meaningful life, contribute to society in greater ways, and be of more value to others. It all comes down to your patterns.
Lead a more meaningful life might be a little cliche to some, but I think it's what many of us strive for. Maybe we have demons or skeletons in the closet. We want to be better in relationships. Repay the karmic universe for past wrongs we've commited. Whatever the reason, improving to live a more meaningful life is the goal. The purpose of this book is to talk about that goal. As I said in the beginning, it reads more like a conversation with a friend and I really appreciated that during the 2ish hours I spent reading it.