Exploring virtuous and vicious cycles

Life is marked by cycles. We have day and night chasing each other in perpetuity. We have our Earth revolving around the sun year after year. Our days are marked with the seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring. A lot of our experience is cyclical.

In our particular and specific lives, we also experience cycles. Habits and patterns of behaviour that we are pulled to and remain locked in. Seemingly intractable, they either take us up or they take us down.

In my post about morning routines, I mentioned that the path to success lies i putting the right things on autopilot. This post is about understanding which things are already on autopilot in our lives, what they are and how to change them.

We have our cycles, whether we like it or not. We all have patterns we are running, patterns of thought, patterns of behaviour. We are usually not conscious about them, but they exist, running constantly in the background influencing every area of our lives.

We are also never static. The nature of life is such that if we are not constantly growing, we are getting left behind because time itself moves us relentlessly forward. Life is entropy, anything left alone will fall into chaos and disrepair. In resistance to this reality, and as a necessity, we have to grow. We are either moving forward or falling behind. We are either in virtuous cycles or vicious ones.

We all know vicious cycles, an everescalating set of events that keep getting worse, and provide the conditions for even worse results ad infinitum. We see a small example of that on our worst days. Something bad and seemingly random happens at the beginning – a broken shoe, a stained shirt, a small accident, someone cuts us off, and before we know it, we are livid and things spiral out of control and we end up with a terrible day. For many of us, this is not the story of a bad day, but the story of our lives. A life of bad luck and experiences keep us down, depressed and stuck. We are trapped in vicious cycles. We have no money, we cannot even muster up the strength and resources to make a change. We seem doomed.

And then there are virtuous cycles. Fewer of us enjoy this experience. Things escalate for us in an upward trajectory. We enjoy good health, good food and good exercise. We have a series of productive days, weeks and months. Our projects go off well, with hard work and struggle of course, but they go well, and they open more doors. We are awash with opportunities and sought after for our expertise. We find it easy to make money. We learn skills and they improve our lives and make things even easier for us. We make money, we invest, we make even more money. The future is bright.

Of course, there are numerous nuances and levels in between. Maybe we even get stuck oscillating between virtuous and vicious cycles. But understanding this concept can help us halt the one and fan the flames of the other.

See, we have to understand all the different factors that affect and make up the cycles of our lives. They generally boil down to a couple of elements – our thoughts and mentality, our environment, our friends and peers, our productivity, our diet and lifestyle, our choices. All these things either work to move us forward or move us back.

What you want to do is make empowering choices and strategic investments in all those points to create virtuous cycles that move us up and forward. Not everything will pay off immediately, there is a lag time and you have to allow the results to compound and really change the game, but there will definitely be an improvement in your life if you keep these things in mind.

You basically want to put yourself in the best position to succeed. You want to increase the odds that good things will happen to you, that opportunities, resources and the like will be available to you. And you have to generally ask yourself that question. What can I do to improve the chances of my success?

It can be very hard at first, we might be right at the bottom of our vicious cycle with no way out. How do we claw our way back and move upward? Let’s explore these areas that have big effects on your cycles.

The Inner World

This is the place you have the most power over, and it is from here that everything else springs from. What happens in this domain is what ultimately determines what you see and have on the outside.

What kind of thoughts do you have on a daily basis? What is your personal story? Are you stuck in the past, or pulled by your vision of a compelling future? How do you see yourself? What do you think is possible for you? Do you have unresolved trauma? Do you experience selfloathing? Do you believe in yourself? Do you think the world is out to get you or out to help you?

This is the place where the battle is won or lost first.

If your thoughts work against you, it doesn’t matter what happens around you, you will always end up in the vicious cycle.

The Environment

Your environment has a massive effect on you. It is environment that turns the limitless potential of stem cells into specialised biological equipment. It is your environment that forges you and makes you who you are. You cannot afford to take it lightly. Sometimes the biggest thing you can do to change your life is to move. If the place around you is depressing and pulls you down, leave. Even if that place is home.

The people around you, the energies, the way a place looks, how clean or dirty or designed it is all has an impact on your subconscious mind, the way you think, the way you view yourself and what you expect. It is always worth the investment to make sure that your environment supports you and doesn’t drag you down.

Your environment can lift your spirits, inspire your creativity and empower you to be the best you can be, or it can absolutely crush you and keep you stuck. Curate and choose it wisely.

The People

Your friends and the people you interact with are a huge part of that cycle. We are social creatures, we learn and exist together, and our ‘scene’ will play a huge role in who we become. Your friends either invite you to low- value activities, or they invite you to high value activities, deals, opportunities, and collaboration. Our relationships invariably shape us. We must shape them intentionally to move forward.

We learn by mimicry. We see our friends achieve great heights and it inspires us too, it forces us to work harder and push farther. Or we see our friends loaf around and it dampens our enthusiasm, seducing us to comfort and mediocrity.


Opportunities surround us all the time. It is just that half the time they are dressed in overalls and look like a lot of work.

We can change our lives by tapping into the opportunities present around us, or we can ignore them and taking on the wrong opportunities. Some opportunities create virtuous cycles and others create vicious ones? Here, we apply discernment. A high paying job with terrible worklife balance and a toxic workplace can spell doom for your life in the long run. A seemingly low paying gig could be the one that opens the door to massive value and opportunities for growth and wealth building down the line. The right opportunities are the ones that move us forward.

You must also put yourself where the opportunities are. Place yourself in the hub of activity. Be where the important things are happening and make your contribution. The more opportunities you expose yourself to, the more the chances of your success, the more you aid your virtuous cycle.

Our Productivity

What do you produce in your life? What do you make? What is your gift to the world? Life by virtue of its nature demands consumption. We must eat, we must drink, we must survive. We must also choose to be producers in our lives. The more prolific and productive you are, the more you feed your cycle. If you produce good things, your cycle is virtuous. If you produce bad things, your cycle is vicious. This is where many small businesses and freelancers get trapped in their businesses. You get very busy working, but it is the wrong kind of work, it takes too long and doesn’t pay enough. It keeps you stuck. The productivity point is very nuanced, but in essence, it is about being productive, and being productive in the right thing. The more you execute, the more you can execute. One product or service or creation can change the course of your life forever.

Our diet and lifestyle

This is a huge core one. What you eat will literally make or break you. If your lifestyle is healthy, if you are eating right and exercising well, you feel good. You are full of energy, you can get more done during the day. You can go longer, and further. Your productivity skyrockets. But if you fail at this. You get tired, you get sluggish, you get worse, you enter a vicious cycle. A lot of your life and career problems can really just be solved by eating better. Our bodies are biological machines, the better we take care of them, the better our life experience.

These are just some of the points that influence and affect the trajectory of our lives. Life is chaos, and we never know what is around the corner from us. But by taking the time and care to maintain and manage these factors well, we can create the conditions in our lives for amazing things to happen. We place ourselves in the best position to succeed.

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