A Philosophy: The Fractaled Nature of Human Behavior

I can’t get away from fractals. They seem to be an integral part of every organization and individual life. Whether its personal decisions or running an organization; there seems to be a pattern that emerges consistently and similarly over time. It has me wondering why nearly everything we experience is Fractaled in nature. The way I handle a sales call to human relations all carry a fractal dimension that can’t be ignored. The purpose of this article is to explore the presence of fractals in human connection and relations, and how our choice are all connected whether they converge or diverge, and how that influences our well-being.

First, let me define what a fractal is for those of you who may not be clear on that term. Merium-Webster defines a fractal as:

“any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size

Here are some visuals of fractals that might help with understanding what a fractal is:

Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

If you really want to dive down the rabbit hole, check out this article by Brian Watt, 2018

When I consider the human body—or any organism for that matter—I have to consider the complexity of the systems that were developed over eons that seem to be very effective at maintaining and sustaining life. While some of the systems are incredibly complex (e.g. the human brain or circulatory system), others are simple and seemingly unnecessary (e.g. the erector pili muscles that control hair standing up on end; the source of goose bumps). Yet, every one of these serves a function no matter how small.

Our man-made world follows a similar pattern to the fractals we see in an organism. Similar to organs in the human body we have organizations (stemming from the Latin word organum, meaning a system or instrument; etymonline, 2019). We have circulatory systems in the form of transportation systems like highways, railways, and river ways that influence the flow of materials from one area to another. Our cities are designed in clusters similar to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or heart; all in different sizes, and all with different specialties.

Just like we can calculate the distance from Denver to LA and the time it would take to get there based on the mode of transportation (About 2 hours by plane, 17 hours by car, 22 hours by train, 112 hours by bike, and 355 hours if you have some time on your hand and want to walk; according to Google Maps), we can calculate the distance and the time it would take for a blood cell to travel from the heart to the brain—An interesting fact here. If spread out, blood vessels in the adult body would stretch out to over 100,000 miles (The Franklin Institute, 2019). And, going a little further here, we can start to predict human behavior because there is a pattern that shows up as we go about our lives and that consistency can be useful in understanding our nature.

If we were to attach sensors to my body and track my physical movement day in and day out, I would imagine there consistent paths that I take on a daily basis. You would see a path from home to work and because of the quantity of use, this path would be strong. You would see a path from work to Maverick and a path from work to different restaurants. Some of those paths would be stronger than others as I like some places better than others. Inside of my work, you would see a path for my daily walks, trips to the restroom, visits to other staff members. Each varying in strength depending on how frequently those behaviors occur. In essence you would see a clear pattern similar to the trails created by humans and animals.

Photo by Weiwei Hsu on Unsplash

You would clearly see my physical behaviors based on the number of times I traveled those paths and it would be Fractaled in nature. Some paths stronger and more pronounced than others.

Now, let’s talk about relationships and the Fractaled nature of relationships. I will use my marriage and my relationship with my soon to be ex-wife, as an example, but this could apply to any human interaction; good or bad. Prior to meeting my wife, I was single-obviously—and I had a set of behaviors that were pretty pronounced. We could say I had my own path. I met her—our paths crossed in a sense—and we were married 17 years ago as of this article. During those 17 years we had a lot of behaviors together. We weaved our lives together, had children, had sex, did all the things married couples did, and had a really strong bond. You could almost imagine it like a tree. Well, something happened in our relationship and that bond was severed. Let’s imagine that our tree fractured. In that fracture, we began to diverge; her going her way and strengthening new behaviors while I went my way and did the same. It’s possible we could have grown back together and mended things, but in our case we didn’t. We ended up separating because of our changes and are now working toward an amicable divorce. While we still have a connection because of the kids, it is weakened between us, and strengthened with the kids. It’s almost as though our behaviors vine out to our kids which still gives us somewhat of a connection with each other. I feel like this image of the tree portrays what I am describing in our behavior and connection with each other even in our divergence.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

In human relationships, bonds are strengthened or weakened by our behaviors. We come together, move apart, cooperate, and mingle in so many ways and each of those connections is strengthened or weakened based on our behavioral patterns. Like a tree, some connections are like the trunk while others are similar to the tiny off shoots on the branches. All important, but in different ways.

In my divergence with my wife, I have to grow in a new way, and imagine this with any new behavior. Initially, there is a large output of energy for me to go from my new life, my old way of being, to a new one. There is a loss of momentum, as what used to flow no longer does. I have to push for awhile until this new way of being becomes my new norm and I reach a state of flow. In essence, with time and practice it will get easier. Then, as I reach flow I can work on making the new behavior more efficient. Here is the cycle I see in that:

Energy ==>Momentum==>Flow==>Efficiency

Whether you are experiencing a life changing event like a divorce or picking up a new behavior, you will likely experience this in the change. You will have to put more energy into the new behavior initially and your momentum will slow. As you do the new behavior it will get easier and you will have to exert less energy to accomplish the same thing. Once you reach that state, you can work on being more efficient. A real world example of something along these lines would be when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. For nearly 100 years, the four minute mile seemed impossible to reach. Large amounts of energy were put into breaking the 4-minute mile. When Roger Bannister accomplished it, he not only showed it was possible for it to be done but gave a process for doing that to others. Over the next 40 years runners shaved seconds off Bannister’s time and now the current record is 17 seconds faster at 3:43. This is efficiency. Flow occurred at 4-minutes and efficiency is what took it from 4:00 to 3:43.

When I was learning how to sell, I wasn’t very effective. It took a lot of energy, I was ineffective and momentum was lost as I went through the learning curve. With time and tons of practice I got better and better and that skill improved until I reached a state of flow. I could sell with my eyes closed. Now I am working on being even more efficient. A skill here, a tactic there, an additional method over here; they all add up to getting better at my skill. Put my feelers out in one direction and test. If its effective, add more energy there. If its ineffective, take energy and effort away. Just like roots or branches on a tree. A Fractaled method for reaching goals.

Here’s where I’m going with all of this. Human behavior seems to be Fractaled in nature. If we know that change will take more energy and cause a loss of momentum initially, we can adjust our energy input. We can put out feelers to see what is effective and what is not. As we get feedback we can push energy in one direction and reduce it in another until the effective methods reach flow, and from there we can work on efficiency.

Change takes energy, and if you remember that fractals seem to be a natural mathematical law of efficiency, you will be more patient in what you create. If you have a fracture in a relationship, work to mend it as quickly as possible before your divergence becomes too great. If you are learning a new behavior, throw more energy at it initially until you reach flow. If you are creating change in your organization, send out testers to find the most effective processes and feed those. Take energy away from the ones that are not working

In short, we all have the ability to branch out in a fractaled manner and learn new things. You may not create giant systems, but your behavior matters; even in the smallest degree. Test new ways, if they work, feed them and if they don’t work, stop feeding them. I really think it’s that simple.

Need help making a change? Reach out to us, we can help you work through the high energy output change requires!

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