We are now moving into using our senses more to both see patterns what we observe, and also beginning to consider the habit design process.

Our first topic is fixed features versus variable features.

You have to learn to distinguish between what’s always there and what’s never there, and then which aspects of a pattern can be different and which things are stable.

It’s the larger “chunk size” of patterning in that there are fewer things to pay attention to, and it’s easier to error correct at this resolution than if we just dive into a sea of details that we can’t really distinguish properly.

A Fixed Feature (we’ll call it FF from now on) is something that is the same every time a behavior pattern occurs – if that aspect ISN’T there; it’s not the pattern.

I sometimes call FF’s the landscape of the behavior pattern – all the stuff that doesn’t move around and always stays in the same place in a sequence.

A Variable Feature (we’ll call it VF from now on) is something that changes within the behavior (usually depending on context, but always to a pattern).

The VF is like taking out a different chair to sit on the porch, depending on what’s available and not being used-otherwise, to sit on to watch the world go by. Watching the world go by is a FF. What you sit on changes and is a VF.

The VF can be changed – there may a limited set of members in the specific VF (the torn red vinyl kitchen chair, the wicker footstool, the plastic lawn chair but NEVER Grandma’s special chair, etc.) and this set sits within a larger pattern.

Simple? It’s the foundation for more sophisticated change work, and a keystone in designing better prosperity habits.

For today…. choose a sequence of activities, an output-bounded task perhaps or a regular sequence of activities (I just did the exercise on a research task that crops up semi-regularly) and write out the sequence, identifying the Fixed Features, and the Variable Features.

Here’s my example. Yours will be different:

Responding to emails FF
Look up and notice time on the wall clock VF
Internal Dialogue: “Crap! If I don’t get a move on with this correspondence; I’ll be late for my meeting, and I really want to look up that info for Lara.” VF
Finish two email responses, changing criteria from optimize to suffice VF
Formulate search terms FF
Skim search results FF/VF
Copy relevant paragraph FF
Email Lara with relevant data VF
Get jacket, keys, bag, and phone and leave office FF

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