Life is full of cycles. There are cycles throughout history of feast and famine, peace and war, life and death. There is the cycle of the earth’s travel around the sun, from which we receive our seasons, which continue to cycle year after year, adding to the richness of life. The entire universe is filled with cycles.
While there are many permutations a cycle can take, let’s look at three types of cycles that exist in life. For our purposes, the definition of cycle is “a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order.” You can think of a cycle as a pattern that can be seen or noticed.
The ‘Vicious’ Cycle
We’ll start with what’s called a vicious cycle, because this cycle is well known in the modern world. The perfect example is addiction.
Addictions to things like drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes are all-too-common, so we know how these cycles work. Addictions tend to feed themselves—each time the craving is indulged, it leads to more craving. Addiction can become a continuous downward spiral that ultimately ends in misery or death.
Like most vicious cycles, addictions often start small and grow more destructive with repetition. In a vicious cycle, the results reinforce themselves – to your detriment.
A vicious cycle does not have to be a major addiction, however. It may start as something as simple as a bad attitude. A bad attitude about your work or spouse, for example, can lead to you complaining, which feels momentarily satisfying. But complaint draws more negative energy, and creates more to complain about. A bad attitude addiction can ultimately destroy your career or marriage.
When you look for patterns in your life, be sure to check for vicious cycles and figure out where you can break the cycle, before it hurts you.
The Closed-Ended Loop
Next is a closed-ended or standalone loop, repeated one at a time, each loop independent of the next. In other words, each loop stands on its own, with little or no influence from one loop to the next. Think of it as described in the S.T.A.R. Approach to life:
See – Think – Act – Reap. Completed
When we do not learn or build on the results of a cycle, we tend to achieve a closed end where we receive something once but do not build on it. Television can be like this. We can sit and watch television for pure entertainment day after day, year after year—yet when we walk away from the TV, we are no different than when we sat down. We have learned nothing.
If every time you pay your annual income taxes, you wish you’d paid more attention to saving receipts; and if every time you step on the scale, you wish you’d said no to a few more desserts; but you never actually MAKE these changes—you may be in a Closed-Ended Loop.
The Virtuous Cycle
The third type of cycle has the potential for spiraling upward, ever-expanding with each cycle feeding into the next cycle so that at least a part of the benefit of the previous cycle makes the next cycle better or larger.
The virtuous cycle, which I often refer to as the creating cycle, literally builds on itself, expanding and creating more and more over time. Such things as a growing business or a healthy workout program can be described this way.
To change a do-nothing closed-ended cycle into a virtuous cycle only requires that we examine the cycle more closely, learn, and grow from it.
If you want to improve your business or your relationship with your wife, examine what you are doing and see the patterns in the cycles. If you find a good pattern, build on it. Often, we notice what we should have done just at the moment when it’s too late. Get ahead of that pattern and make changes now.
And if you notice a vicious cycle, stop it immediately—not “next time!”
As I’ve pointed out a number of times, there is nothing more important in life than our relationships. Life is relationship. Let’s look at one key relationship: marriage.
You’ll find many cycles that exist in a marriage, so let’s choose one, such as spending time together. When we can see the value of our time together, reflect on what it means, and take actions to enhance it, we will reap true rewards!
Isn’t this how most romantic relationships begin? You see this lovely person, and all you can think about is her. You take actions to do things for her, and ultimately win her hand in marriage.
For a time, this is such a virtuous cycle. Then, because we see the person so much, we begin taking them for granted and stop the thoughts we had and the actions that made it so great. Neglect sets in.
What’s the result of this neglect? We stop appreciating and reaping. Thus begins the closed-ended loop. This cycle can repeat, sometimes for years, with nothing new or exciting ever happening. Many times, close-ended cycles evolve into vicious, downward cycles where bickering or feeling victimized feed each person’s temporary relief. The ending is divorce for many couples. But you can see how stopping the close-ended cycle before it turned vicious could have turned the marriage around!
Apply this concept of a vicious or virtuous cycle to your business, your job, or any of your relationships and you will see the same pattern. All it takes for the vicious cycle to begin is to stop appreciating what we have. So, for us to truly capitalize on the creating cycle foundation in the S.T.A.R. Approach to life, we must realize that appreciating is part of reaping. If you like what you have created, you have to be grateful for it. That way, you’ll see it, consider it, act on it, and continue the virtuous cycle of life and receiving more.
Following is a visual of a virtuous cycle, starting at the bottom, where you begin with seeing a new thing, deliberating on it, acting, and reaping a result, thus gaining the ability to see more as you go through the cycle. On this you again think, act, and reap, building on the previous cycle.
Each successive loop builds on the preceding loop. How long can this go on? Well, look at your life. Isn’t this similar to how we grow as we build ourselves, our lives, and pretty much everything else? It only stops when we stop, at the end of this conscious life.
Life is full of each of these types of cycles. The thing to notice, however, is that by building on a cycle, you can enhance the next cycle and beyond. That’s why it is important to “see” and understand how you are reaping your results. When you learn from something and incorporate what you have learned into the next cycle and continue to build—wow! The results can become greater and greater, far exceeding anything you ever thought you could reap.
An example of this shows up in many people’s careers. We may start at a lower position and, over time, progress to a more responsible position, from which we often move to an even greater position. “Climbing the corporate ladder” is a prime example of a virtuous cycle.
But if we were to continue doing exactly what we did at the onset of our career—never evolving and merely reaping what we did from the outset, without incorporating what we have learned— we would wind up stuck and never advance.
Let’s face it—the reality is this happens to most of us at some point in our careers.
Yet when we do continue to learn and grow, we often progress from one position to the next, or we learn how to expand the position itself, or we make a lateral move into something even more rewarding and more in alignment with our long-term goals.
With each positive change in a career comes some kind of benefit. Such benefits can include greater earnings and other financial rewards, more respect and prestige in our business and industry, a corner office, or many other things.
Stop and notice what you have earned at this point in your life. Appreciate it. Take all the lessons you can from how you have developed. Continue to create something new, and keep growing into the future. That’s how you can cycle through life with ever-increasing positive results.
Look for some of the more important cycles in your life. As you do this, and you begin to “see” more, you can begin to build your life on purpose, with intention.
To start the process, stop and consider what you have gained from some actions you have taken in your life, whether in your career, your marriage, or your personal or professional life. Stop now and find at least one thing. What do you notice? What does the current result tell you? If the result you have received is not exactly what you want, what can you learn from that information?
Find the lesson from whatever has happened and go after what you DO want! Can it be that simple? Yes it can!
©2019 Bill Abbate
Adapted from the book Uncommon Sense by Bill Abbate www.billabbate.com
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