Stephen Covey describes paradigm as the mental glasses through which you see the world. It is you perception of the world based on your beliefs. If your glasses are smudged or have the wrong prescription, what you are looking at will not be accurate. The same goes for your paradigm. When we are lacking information about something in our lives, then our perception of the event will be smudged as well. It is only through becoming more informed that we can clean our mental glasses and see more accurately.
When my son Michael was in Pre-K, I would walk him to his classroom door, give him a hug, wish him a good day and then go to the university where I was teaching Psychology. After a couple of months of this routine, a boy in his class named Randy started waiting for us at the classroom door. Randy had bleach blond, bed head hair and a purple ring outlining his lips. Apparently, Randy would get to school real early, have a jelly biscuit in the cafeteria for breakfast and then proceed to his classroom.
At first, Randy meeting us at the door wasn’t a big deal. He was polite and always smiling. One day Randy decided that he wanted to give me a hug around the leg. His hug not have been such a big deal if it wasn’t for his grape jelly lips. I had to work had to avoid my Khaki pants from becoming a napkin for his breakfast. Day after day I would drop Michael off, and Randy became more and more attached to my leg. This routine became so consistent that I started to become a little gun shy of his hugs. It’s not that I’m against giving hugs, it is just that I was trying to protect my pants. His embrace became so routine that Michael even asked me one day why he hugged me so much.
One night Michael and I went to have dinner with my wife, Shelley. Shelley worked at a local pizza parlor as a waitress and was scheduled to have a break around eight that evening. We arrived, found a booth and proceeded to wait for her join us. As soon as we sat down, I looked to my right, and there was Randy. He flew across the restaurant and flopped down in the booth next to Michael.
Excited to see us he began talking all about his day. After a few minutes, he paused, and I finally managed to get a word into the conversation. The couple he was with looked to be in their late 40’s and were at the register paying for their meal. Not being sure if it was a young grandpa or an older dad, I asked him if that was his dad.
Immediately his demeanor changed, his shoulders shrunk and he sadly replied, “No, that’s my grandpa. My daddy ran away, and we don’t know where he is.” He then slid out of the booth, walked slowly over to his grandpa and tightly grabbed his grandfather’s hand.
How do you think I responded to this new information? Do you think I tried to avoid Randy anymore? Did I care about getting a little jelly on my pants? No. This new information changed my paradigm. The way I saw him, my attitude and my behavior toward him immediately changed. I didn’t have to spend weeks working on my attitude with positive affirmations or learning to put on a fake smile. All I needed was to fill in the gap between my assumption and why he really wanted to give me hugs.
Thomas Kuhn described this as a paradigm shift. When we get new, more accurate information, then our paradigm shifts or expands. When this happens, we get what psychologists call insight or an a-ha moment.
Paradigm shifts occur when the meaning we are attributing to what is happening changes. This new information then naturally leads to an instantaneous shift in our attitude. Our new attitude then automatically causes us to behave differently. The truth is that nothing on the outside of us changed, things are still the same as they had been in the moments before we gained new insight. What did change, however, was us. Because we began to see things differently, we developed a new and more accurate perception of the situation, which in turn shifted our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Creating a Life by Intention means that you will have to experience many paradigm shifts. You can also describe a paradigm shift as a “breakthrough” or better yet, a “breakwith.” To change you have to break with old ways of thinking. As Einstein said, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that we used when we created them.”
Question: Is there are area of your life where you need to break with old ways of thinking? You can leave a comment by clicking here.