All through my childhood and a good part of adulthood, I was tutored into being predictable – in outcomes, actions, words, relationships, emotions etc., Anything that I did outside of this expectation was considered blasphemy. It was one the cardinal rules of my upbringing.
As years passed, I applied this rule diligently across in my personal and professional lives alike. I observed a pattern – Predictability did not apply universally in all aspects of life and also that there were nuances of what people liked and disliked about predictability. Often times, I also was confused about the expectation around consistency and predictability – well, they are different; yet intertwined in some ways.
In recent years, my experiences around being predictable has raised more questions than answers, and here’s why. The more I observe human relationships, there is a pattern that develops around people when applied consistently. For example:
- I send a “Good morning” message to someone I know
- The person replies to my message each time
Well, what is wrong with that, you might ask. Well, nothing until the following happens:
This pattern keeps repeating itself for many days and suddenly one day, I send the message and do not receive a response! The pattern is broken. This suddenly leads to many ideas forming in my head – “Is there something wrong?”, “Don’t I carry the same relevance to the other person as before?”, “Am I being ignored?”, “Am I being taken for granted?” etcetera etcetera.
The reality is that the other person has now come to expect these messages from me each day and it does not carry novelty anymore. This does not mean that any of the questions I asked above are well-founded either.
Well, you see a little dance of emotions going on with a single predictable act of sending a “Good morning” message. The case here is simple but the effect is profound. The message no longer is a simple message, it carries emotions, expectations and in some cases validation of our existence by the way the other person responds.
Have you ever checked your phone multiple times in anxiety for a response to your message from a certain someone? What have your thoughts been? What emotional reactions have you had toward that person when you did not receive a response in due course?
Is this to say that Predictability is bad – far from it; all I want to do is draw your attention to the fact of being aware of the extent of rituals and emotions that you may connecting to simple predictable actions. Don’t let predictability hijack your thoughts and emotions. Take a step back to identify such predictable patterns in your life and prepare to break them.