Circles, Loops, To-Do Lists & Signs

Keep Going — It’s Meant to Be

Circles

My twins are studying pi. It’s so fascinating watching your kids learn, isn’t it? Seeing them process the world, what they gravitate to, what sticks and what they struggle with is a chance to re-learn it yourself too, and to appreciate the evolution in teaching, science, and especially technology.

Discussing pi made me think about perfect circles, which got me thinking about symmetry, nature, movement, infinity, unity, wisdom circles, the Vitruvian Man, and of course, the circle of life.

From a geometric perspective, the circle is the parent of all shapes; all other patterns and shapes can be drawn within the circle. The circle holds inside it the most area when compared with another shape of the same circumference. A circle is equality; all points are equidistant from a given point.

Universally symbolic, circles have fascinated people throughout the ages, representing the notions of totality, wholeness, perfection, self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, movement, and God.

“God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” — Hermes Trismegistus

Full Circle Moments

On a recent Zoom call with a fellow coach from the UK, she said, “It was meant to be. It came full circle”. Because I was already thinking about this post, I asked her what full circle meant to her, and she explained how people in her life came and went, then reconnected at important times. She talked about coincidences and ebbs and flows that led to synergistic similarities too hard to ignore. She also spoke about drifting away from her zone of genius and coming back to it.

One definition of coming full circle is “a series of changes that lead back to an original position or situation.” I like to think of full circle moments as those that lead you back to yourself, that’s why I appreciated what she said about drifting away and coming back to her genius.

Full circle moments are often the situations, lessons, or people that remind you of your identity, your purpose, and your passions. It’s not linear; it is a return.

A full circle moment is hard to explain though because there’s an element of understanding that goes beyond logic, and it’s so deeply personal, it may not mean anything to anyone but you. It’s that moment when something finally clicks, or you get a revelation, an answered prayer, or something just works itself out.

It’s when something triggers you, almost in a deja vu way, that gives significance to an event, time, or person in your life. Somehow it comes together, and you can connect the dots, where you started, what had to happen, to bring you back around, and you’re better for it.

It’s often a culmination of being on a particular path, although it doesn’t necessarily feel like a big deal; maybe in retrospect. To experience full circle moments, we must be open to them, self-reflective, and mindful. And yet, even then, you still may not be able to see it. But one day, the journey or reason makes sense. You can see an aspect of your life with a fresh perspective and know it was meant to be.

Loops

Positive Feedback Loops

I’ve written before about positive feedback loops in this post, my most popular post, where I shared my takeaways from Yale’s most popular course.

9. Be an active learner.

This is the fundamental way to love your life and find happiness. Learn because it offers perspective, range, and optionality.

Learn because when your appetite for learning is whetted, you’ll never stop learning, and the more you learn, the more you’ll want to learn (it’s like traveling in that way), and everything you learn will help you appreciate everything even more. It becomes a positive feedback loop that enhances and amplifies your life.

You’ll start making connections that you wouldn’t have made. You’ll start relating ideas that others wouldn’t think to relate. You’ll see things that you would have missed. You’ll fall in love with life every day because you’ll get it at a deeper level.

You’ll understand that it was all created for you, a vast and magnificent masterpiece designed just for you, with your joy and gratitude and hope in mind. The more you learn, the more you’ll become co-creator and begin to weave a rich tapestry of awesomeness all around you and as the sun, at the center, it will all make sense to you in a way that goes way beyond joy. It will be life-affirming and infinite.

Open Loops

There’s another type of loop too, an open loop, which is a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik Effect that suggests that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Think about it. How often does something trivial pop into your head — the lyrics to a song you were trying to remember last week? Your grocery item you forgot after you left the store? Whether or not you refilled the dog’s water bowl, closed the garage door, or if you signed off on your child’s homework form after you left home for the day?

Open loops are commitments made to yourself or to another person that haven’t yet been fulfilled. They are low-level unfinished business that pulls us away from our intuition and inner wisdom. They distract us from the Universe’s nudges, block us from noticing the details or signs that point the way, or prevent us from applying the lessons that would lead us on the journey that best serves us.

They’re all the noise hanging around in your brain in limbo disrupting you, draining your energy, preventing you from staying on your A-game. It’s kind of like when you have a zillion tabs open on your computer or a bunch of apps running on your phone — it still works, but not at peak performance.

Sometimes our open loops are in list form; sometimes they are promises or even ideas. When our lists are never-ending, we always feel stressed and overwhelmed. It can be demoralizing and exhausting to face so much unfinished business. Lack of progress often encourages apathy, promotes procrastination, or lowers quality of life.

When we get stuff done and cross it off our list, it feels so good. We are honoring our commitments and closing loops. Closing loops is like clearing clutter. When you start clearing that clutter, you shift your energy and make room for inspiration, flow, opportunities, and renewal in your life.

Open loops can serve a purpose though, and that’s to seduce, entice, and influence us to pay attention. They are used heavily in storytelling, especially movie making. It’s by design. Excellent storytellers know how to use open loops and cliffhangers to get you to become captivated by the story. When someone only gives us a glimpse of a story, we’re curious to know how it ends. In a few moments, we’ve already bought into who is the hero and who is the villain, and we are invested in it turning out the way we hoped.

And that’s why we binge-watch too, because it’s not resolved, and we’ve got to see what happens next. How many of you find Game of Thrones plot-lines popping into your head at random times during the week while you wait for next Sunday’s episode? How many of you stuck with it despite waiting two years for the grand finale? We can’t resist knowing how it will turn out. On some level, even if it doesn’t end the way we hope, at least it will be resolved.

Being unresolved is uncomfortable, and often, instead of resolving what we can when we can, we shift our gaze to pay attention to something else, to even more stories, not realizing it’s making it worse. This problem is exacerbated by social media, which sucks us into dozens or more open loops all the time.

We get preoccupied with other people’s stories. We layer their open loops into our real-life open loops and next thing you know, they begin to wreak havoc on our energy too. We lose focus, our attention spans diminish, we obsessively check up on who we follow, we get over-invested in other people’s stories, and most importantly, we lose track of our most valuable resource, the precious moments of our lives.

The only way to transition from continually spending mental energy is to convert it to physical energy, to actually do something — get stuff done. We must close our open loops.

To-Do Lists

Since we know the human mind loves to solve problems, to be intrigued, and to experience curiosity, and that open loops take up space in our thoughts and subconscious whether they are important or trivial, one way we can combat low-level unfinished business is to upgrade our To-Do lists.

Prioritize what you want and itemize the big stuff too. When we focus on the trivial all day, we lose our sense of purpose. So, if you are going to make a list, don’t just put survival stuff on there, like groceries, bills, and self-care. Don’t just put basic stuff on there, like deadlines, appointments, and household management.

Put your Life Goals on your To-Do list. Put your Big Dreams on it. Put the stuff you absolutely want to accomplish, your bucket-list, your ambitions, and your deepest desires.

Yes, it seems counter-intuitive; you’re probably wondering if it will increase your stress and overwhelm to have that stuff hanging over your head too. It might.

However, I’ve found that there are some tangible benefits from co-mingling your day-to-day goals with your life goals.

First, your subconscious takes steps to make progress even if we don’t consciously know how we’ll achieve something, which is especially true for the big BIG stuff.

Second, the Universe honors your commitment and starts paving the way, often in the form of your network, resources, or experiences, even if you can’t see where it’s all leading.

Third, when you cross that sh*t off, the feeling is unreal. Achieving big things demands celebrations, fuels even bigger goals, and creates serious momentum.

Also, on some level, wouldn’t you rather find that you are mentally exhausted from solving big-deal problems, that your emotional capacity was spent on meaningful work?

Think about it this way: Would you rather have a clean house, a refrigerator full of groceries, and a mowed lawn or your dream job, a fantastic marriage, and a trip around the world? If those things are existing together on your list, in priority order, you are improving your odds for all of them, by declaring what you want, taking steps toward achieving them, but also neutralizing their relative magnitude to some degree by making them equally accessible.

Keep yourself in check by regularly reviewing your list, then comparing it to the (imagined) list of someone you admire, say the top dog in your field. How do the lists compare energetically? Is he/she focused on being the best in the world, while you are focused on taking care of the day-to-day basics? No judgment, just bringing it to your awareness so you can shift from low-value to high-value energy and open the door to your best life.

“To travel a circle is to journey over the same ground time and time again. To travel a circle wisely is to journey over the same ground for the first time. In this way, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the circle, a path to where you wish to be. And when you notice at last that the path has circled back into itself, you realize that where you wish to be is where you have already been … and always were.” — Neale Donald Walsch

Signs

It’s Meant To Be

I added this little addendum before I posted because if you are into this stuff, higher purpose, living your best life, achieving your big dreams and life goals, I thought you might also appreciate this.

I woke up the other morning thinking about synchronicity and signs. They are two ways to know if your life is on track, to affirm that the Universe, or a higher power, supports you and you are serving your highest purpose.

For example, this week, while I was working on this post about full circle moments and open loops, I had three signs pop up from three different sources, one in San Diego, one in New York City, and one in Glasgow, UK, in a 24-hour time period.

So, sign #1: I was listening to a podcast that mentioned open loops. Sign #2, on the coaching call mentioned above, we discussed full circle moments. Sign #3, in a video, my instructor also mentioned open loops.

I could take it as a cultural touchpoint, evidence that I’m aligned with my tribe, or a coincidence, but since I had already drafted my article, I think it means something more, that I’m on the right path.

Signs don’t always have to add up to anything, or mean something incredible. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. It’s a whisper that encourages you to keep doing what you’re doing, exploring what you’re exploring, a clue that it’s leading somewhere, to something important for your life.

Pretty cool, right? It’s meant to be.

Written by

Life coach for women. Writer for 29 publications. Happiness, success, productivity, balance, leadership, inspiration. Follow me on Instagram @coachformoms.

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