THE POWER OF PARADIGMS
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote that we should learn to view the work through the lens of a camera. On a recent trip to Florida, I was on the beach one morning at sunrise. Just before the sun topped the horizon, I was shooting some photos of the rolling waves and pelicans flying just above the water looking for a morning meal. I was focused on the flight of the pelicans and their relationship to the waves. I wanted a great photo that would tell a story of the relationship of that spot in time and the pelican's flight in that early morning search. Later, as I viewed the the photos that I had taken, I noticed something that I had not seen during the shoot. In one of the photos, there was the pelican, the waves, and something that I had not seen at the time - a fishing boat in the far distance that I missed. Why? My focus was on the single point of focus - the waves and the pelican.
We see the world around us and interpret its events based on our paradigms. This interpretation of events leads us to act in certain ways in a particular situation or as a result to a particular stimuli. These paradigms are powerful and difficult to recognize and change. Merriam-Webster defines a paradigm as a theory or a group of ideas about how something should be done, make, or thought about. These theories or ideas are learned throughout our lifetime beginning with our parents, family, schools, church, friends, peers, and social institutions. Our culture or geographic location also has a tremendous impact on how we interpret information. Our lingo is effected by such paradigms.
As a leader, you must examine your paradigms and how they affect your response and behavior in certain situations, your prejudices, your emotional intelligence. Just because you think you are right, does not mean you are. Have you ever talked with someone and walked away thinking, man they are stuck in their ways?
Here are 4 reasons you should question you paradigms:
Paradigms control how you interpret the world around you. Therefore, they control how you think and, therefore, how you act. Your thinking controls your behavior, not the other way around. If you want to change your behavior, you may try many behavior management techniques, but until you change the way you think, you cannot consistently change your behavior.
As Covey proposed, recognizing how your paradigms restrict your vision of the world around you, understanding the power of paradigms can help open up new ideas and experiences. You will see details of the world around you that you have never seen. Because your thinking has been effected, you will be more willing to get involved in new experiences that will allow you to expand your inventory of skills.
Embracing new paradigms will allow you to furbish a new respect for other individuals' perspectives. You will expand your level of diversity and understand the world through the eyes of others. New paradigms will bring a new level of empathy for others and their view of the world. It is at this point that you will recognize the problems with your old paradigms and how restrictive they were.
As you learn to recognize the problem with old or stale paradigms, you will increase your adaptive capacity. You will increase your ability to accept and participate in change. As the lens reveals things that could not be seen before with the naked eye, recognizing new paradigms, or questioning your old ones, will unleash a new potential within you with new creativity and innovation.
Ask yourself the question:
Am I trying the solve the problems I face each day with the same repertoire of skills and methods that I've always used? Is my thinking so narrow that I can't see another perspective? Can I embrace diversity in my thinking and in others'?
Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life
photo credit: N00/3399778003">Day 87: Broken Lens via photopin (license)