We exist in the paradigm we choose to empower. For most of 2002 and 2003, I lived in a paradigm where I strongly believed that there was nothing more important than my education and my work. Not surprisingly it happened to coincide with the two year period I was working long hours in the software industry and was attending a full time evening business school program.
I saw life through the filters of business school and work. A busy, stress filled, exhausted, single focused time of my life in which I firmly believed everything else could wait. I knew I was overwhelmed, however didn't have the time to examine my paradigms. Relationships, family, exercise, nutrition, even fun were all put on the back burner for those two years. I saw only how important it was to get to the graduation date, and to do so with flying colors.
Three days after graduating from my MBA (it happened to be Christmas Eve), I was diagnosed with leukemia. Talk about a paradigm shift. While nothing really changed for me physically that week I heard the news (indeed my white cell counts were extremely high the day before and the day after the diagnosis), my entire take on the previous two years of my life changed. My paradigm shifted based on information. I was quickly re-rooted in the value of family, relationships, exercise, health and wellness. I saw the world from different eyes.
What's your paradigm?
Dictionary.com does a good job of defining what a paradigm is:
"A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline. "
Its easy to see in my personal life how such a large event could change my paradigm - particularly given the clarity of the definition above. Analyzing our paradigms is extremely valuable not only with respect to huge life events, but even more so with understanding how our own perceptions of the world affect our daily life when we do not have a significant event occur. Let me provide some examples:
- Do you get frustrated when someone races past you on the freeway - driving recklessly? How would your paradigm shift if you knew that they were transporting a dying child?
- Next time you feel that a beggar should ‘get a job’ - what would change if you found out it was an old ‘best friend’ you truly respected?
- What if you were frustrated when your children do not listen? How would it change if you learned that they were hearing impaired the next week?
- How do you feel after a terrible argument with a co-worker you considered a good friend? What would be different if you later learned their husband left them the previous night?
You see - the world as we know it is filtered through our own perceptions, our own experiences, our own knowledge of a situation. We project our thought patterns onto others based on our own personal history and to complicate a situation, our paradigms are defined by a what is often a limited set of information (clearly demonstrated in the examples above).
Its quite phenomenal how our paradigms shift immediately when information, knowledge, or experience provide us with newfound understanding. Not only does our paradigm shift, but so does our attitude, our mind set - even our physical state of being! As you see, the paradigm is a powerful tool. Ask yourself “what are my paradigms? How do I view the world? Is that view empowering for me?"
Anger, Frustration, Stress and Paradigms
Paradigms are neither good nor bad, they are simply our way of viewing and make sense of the world. Whenever I am conscious enough to recognize that I am angry, frustrated, stressed out (or any emotion that I am uncomfortable with), I step back to look at my paradigm. Am I seeing the full picture. How would things change if I were to learn something that completely re-defined the situation? How would it be if I were able to set my ego aside and allow for compassion and understanding rather than the emotion I am feeling? Even if it was difficult for me to view the current situation through any different paradigm, then how does it compare to the day I was diagnosed with leukemia? What a powerful way to shift your perspective, your attitude, your underlying behaviors.
Its important to use your emotions as your personal gauge as to whether or not it is worth considering a paradigm shift. If you are truly happy, sharing love, enjoying the big picture, then its likely that your paradigm is working and there is no need to seek a new one. Regardless, we've all got our moments, and in those moments you can create a shift in attitude, your emotional state and your actions simply by identifying the paradigm you are operating within and choosing to empower a new one. Its a very simple process but its not always easy to do. Making the shift requires sacrificing the ego and being open to possibilities which may be outside your current way of thinking. Ask yourself, “aren't there times that this would be a small price to pay?"
Written by Doug Nau, The Wellness Coach, i-grow.net
Doug Nau received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1996. In 2003, he attained his Masters in Busines Administration from the University of Arizona. Doug has been trained as a life coach at the Academy for Coaching Excellence in Sacramento, CA and in addition to running ‘The Wellness Coach', he also works part time as a Lifestyle Management Coach with the Sutter Health system in Northern California. Doug is a member of the International Coaching Federation and has been successfully in business since early 2006.