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Senior Correspondent

The Need for Paradigm Shifts

The Need for Paradigm Shifts

©iStock.com/Сергей Хакимуллин

Do you talk to yourself? Of course you do! More importantly, do you listen to what you tell yourself? Do you ever hear yourself saying things like, "It's just the way things are — not much I can do about it. Things will never change." And then agreeing with yourself? "Ain't that just the truth?"

If you will simply pay attention to what you are telling yourself and strongly agreeing with, it could provide you with a very important piece of information: your paradigm.

The term is defined as "the filter through which we experience the world and every situation we encounter." Ineffective (limiting) paradigms often come from our past, while some may be more current. "The world is flat." "He's such a jerk!" "This generation just doesn't have the work ethic we do."

The actions we take every day are a direct result of our paradigms. Our results are a direct reflection of our actions, which, in turn, support our paradigms. This cause-and-effect chain creates a cycle that allows us to be right and look good rather than be effective.

In his classic book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Dr. Stephen Covey challenges readers: "If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on your behavior. But if you want to make significant, quantum breakthroughs, work on your paradigms."

Some years ago, my friend and her husband brought a beautiful baby boy into the world. He was diagnosed with an unusual type of "syndrome." Mom and Dad were told early on that, among other challenges, learning disabilities were in their child's future. They researched the syndrome and became profoundly discouraged. As you might expect, the parents were processing the research results through a negative filter  or paradigm.

They decided their best education would be to join a support group to see children with this particular syndrome in various stages of development. Each meeting they attended focused on the challenges the parents and children were experiencing. Few success stories were shared. Even more discouraging. 

I vividly recall my friend sharing with me that this would not define their child. He was an individual first and foremost, and the syndrome was not and would not be his identity.

The years flew by, and the young man grew up very normally. Raised in a home with siblings and high expectations, he did not receive any special attention nor was he told of any special challenges he might face. An honor student all the way through school, he earned a master's degree and is following his vocational calling in health care.

My friend experienced a life-changing, powerful paradigm shift early on, and her whole family lived through her more empowering paradigm. The way she and her husband saw their son and his abilities drove their actions. The results supported their paradigms, and the cycle of success continues. She had a vision for her son and her family, and that guided her expectations of him and their other children. After all, she says, "Impossible is just a word! We give it meaning."

I wouldn't want you to think it was a walk in the park for my friend and her family, but is raising children ever easy? She has had numerous opportunities to work one-on-one with other parents who have special children. She doesn't focus so much on the actions she and her husband took years ago as a family. She focuses more on the way they saw their son and his tremendous abilities.

People tend to live up to (or down to) the expectations others have of them. Expectations (paradigms) govern actions. Actions determine outcomes.

Can you identify an area in your life or career where you just feel stuck? Perhaps the way you see the problem just may be the problem. Examine your paradigms — your strongly held beliefs about the situation or circumstance. How might they be limiting you? Consider creating a more empowering paradigm, and experience your quantum breakthrough.

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