Fractals as a Model for Personal and Social Transformation

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

One my district early memories of learning something that changed the way I understood the world was when I learned about patterns. Ms. Katie gave us wooden blocks with red, yellow, and green shapes. She would then arrange the shapes in different orders. We would have a chance to notice the repeating shapes and colors and then guess the pattern. For weeks afterward, I would interrupt family members showing off my pattern recognition skills by yelling out when I noticed patterns on billboards, home appliances, and wallpaper. When I later learned about fractals I become obsessed. Fractals were like patterns on steroids! They were even cooler because they appeared in chaotic and organic forms in natural objects as small as snowflakes and as large as Galaxies. If you aren’t with me yet, stare at a head of broccoli.

The Pha That Laung Stupa is an example of an architectural fractal

For thousands of years, nature has been an inspiration for understanding how to design both the built environment and social systems. The Vietnamese Sacred Stupa Pha That Luang is inspired by fractals and has an architectural structure that repeats a basic pattern at multiple scales. Modern design and biomimicry systems have used knowledge of fractals to design antennas for cell phone towers and graphics for video games.

The individual also exists as part of a human social structure that functions like a fractal. Adrienne Marie Brown talks about the role of fractals for social transformational work in her book Emergent Strategy, “In a fractal conception, I am a cell-sized unit of the human organism, and I have to use my life to leverage a shift in the system by how I am, as much as with the things I do. This means actually being in my life, and it means bringing my values into my daily decision making. Each day should be lived on purpose.” Understanding yourself as part of a larger pattern of individuals can transform the way you act and participate in the world.

The dandelion is an example of a fractal design commonly found in nature.

I believe that fractals are a pearl of profound universal wisdom that can teach us how to engage in social transformation. Everything that is practiced on the individual level is repeated on a larger scale. If you see yourself as part of the fractal of the human community you have a role to show up as your best self. I am excited about the world of personal transformation work and coaching because it provides an opportunity for people to develop themselves and change how they act in part of a larger organism. As more and more people personally transform they can bring the patterns they practice on the personal level to their families, friends, and communities.

When I started coaching I saw that one of the things I wanted to transform and change for myself was my relationship to money and how I used and directed it. As I began to set a budget and think more intentionally about how I used my money I shifted from a mindset of overwhelm and confusion to having a plan for using money to support the things I most care about. As I have gotten together with other people who have done work to transform how they relate and show up with money our conversations on using this resource have been heightened to a new level. These conversations will form the fertile ground for group transformation… which can then be applied at even larger scales. Imagine what our economy and world could look like if we did the personal work so that we could show up in empowered spaces for social change together. By following the patterns of nature we can begin to take the first small sweet steps towards this future.

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