Paradigm Shifts

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I first came across the idea of paradigm shifts I believe in Stephen Coveys book, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” , which as I have mentioned on a number of occasions, highly recommend. Since then I have found the topic covered by Anthony Robbins, Wayne Dyer and a number of other authors in the personal development field.


The idea is this, you cannot always change a situation that you find yourself in, however, you can always change the way in which you interpret that situation and apply meaning to it. This change of meaning is the shift. Perspective would be another good word to describe a shift; to change your paradigm is to change your perspective.


To illustrate this Stephen Covey uses a great example of a man on a train with some very noisy and poorly behaved children. A fellow passengers becomes more and more irritated at the parent’s inability to make any attempt to control his children, believing that the parent just doesn’t care, the passenger becomes very upset. Finally the angry passenger snaps at the parent demanding that he controls his children. The parent responds with an apology and an explanation that their mother had just passed away hours earlier and neither he nor his children really knew how to deal with the situation. Immediately the passenger changed his attitude from anger and frustration to one of sympathy and understanding. This change in attitude was the paradigm shift, you could also say he gained a new perspective of the situation and found new meaning.


As you can see, the situation this passenger found himself in did not change at all, what changed was how he viewed and interpreted what was happening in that situation. To quote Wayne Dyer, “change the way you see things, and the things you see will start to change”. The lesson here I think is this: if a situation seems poor, do not immediately judge it at face value! Look for paradigm shifts and look for alternative meanings. Take a second and ask the question “what else could this mean? What else could possibly be happening here?”. Sadly it is very easy and natural to jump to conclusions, often the wrong conclusion. Thus, by asking yourself some good questions it is possible to change your perspective and generally make life easier and more enjoyable.