Your victories are measured and life defined by the everyday decisions you make. But what if I told you that we are unreasonable creatures? We make poor decisions all the time. It's scientifically proven that our brains are hard-wired to make decisions based on emotions. We also make mindless decisions based on our paradigms, every single day. That's why it's important to learn how to make the best decisions that are in front of us, and trust that over time, the odds will be in our favour.
What Are Paradigms?
Paradigm is a model of understanding things based on our experiences throughout life. It allows us to think, perceive and even act without the hassle of processing the information. A good example is traffic lights. When you are driving on the road and come up to a red traffic light, you would press on the brakes. You wouldn't think about it or process any form of thoughts. It would be almost like reflexes, an ingrained habit that just makes sense. Because paradigms are habitual, we tend to think, perceive and act based on them every single day. Paradigms vary depending on context. They can be personal, religious and cultural, and we are all different.
Consider the picture below:
What do you see? A face of a woman? Some people see a man playing the saxophone.
Paradigms are helpful as it allows us to sort and classify information without thinking. Paradigms can also be dangerous because of their habit-like properties and may even blind us from the truth. Let's go back to the example of you driving a car. In the case of you noticing the red traffic lights as 'stop', your ingrained paradigms have worked in your favour. You were able to come to a quick decision and hit the breaks. But let's consider a different example. After living and driving in the U.S for the past 30 years, you decide to move to New Zealand. In New Zealand, you have to drive on the other side of road. First of all, if you ignored the new set of driving rules that applies to you, you would be driving in the wrong side of the lane, putting yourself in grave danger. Another problem is that paradigms are hard to break. Just like learning to drive on the other side of the road, it requires a lot will power and focus to shift the paradigms we have in our minds.
paradigms have consequences
Paradigms are defined as: "frameworks containing basic assumptions, ways of thinking and reflections." Although it's perfectly safe to press on the brakes when our paradigms tell us "red means stop", it's not so safe to let our paradigms to judge people or make important decisions in life. Below is an excerpt from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, where the author shares his experience of a mini-paradigm shift. Pay attention to the shift in his perception and the following changes in his thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. It was difficult no to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt at the moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. Everything changed in an instant. “
be your own master
All paradigms have consequences. They make us feel, perceive and act in certain ways without much thought. The scary truth is that, the way feel and what we do ultimately defines who we are and what we become. To become a true master of your own life, you need to be able to free yourself from the confinement of your paradigms.
Is your relationship in a crisis?
Is your business struggling to take off?
Are you not reaching your goals?
Maybe your paradigms have clouded your vision and you've missed something. Learning to shift gears and see things in a new light is an important tool that we all have to master for our own. So let's be humble and accept the fact that at times, we can be wrong. Let's learn to get uncomfortable and drive on the other side of the road when the world presents to us a new set of rules. Breaking free from your own preconceived judgement and having the flexibility to switch gears may be just enough to save your business, relationship and even your life.