by Joel J

A paradigm is originally a Greek scientific term and there are different definitions of it, and of paradigm shift, but I like the following definitions given in the Cambridge University Press Dictionary. Paradigm (pronounced pair-a-dime): a model of something, or a very clear and typical example of something; Paradigm Shift: when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something is changed.

When baby elephants are being trained to stay in one spot they are tethered with a thick rope that is attached to a stake firmly hammered into the ground. The elephant will try for a time to break free but being unable to do so it accepts the fact that the rope and stake is holding it in place (it’s paradigm) and it can’t break free. When the elephant’s trainer sees that the elephant has accepted it’s paradigm he replaces the thick rope with a thin rope and although the elephant is easily capable of breaking free it makes no attempt to do so–even after it is an adult–why not?–the power of paradigms.

A few years ago I read the following story about some research that had been done, I believe in Canada, that clearly showed the limiting belief paradigms can have. Some predatory fish were placed in a large tank filled with water, a clear pane of glass was placed across the center of the tank and other fish which were the predatory fishes’ favorite prey were added to the other side of the tank. Instantly the predatory fish went wild and darted for the prey only to come to an abrupt halt against the pane of glass that they couldn’t see. They continued to go after their prey for a time but after repeated attempts to reach their prey failed they resigned themselves to their paradigm (they couldn’t reach their prey) and stopped trying. Then the researchers removed the pane of glass but the predatory fish made no attempts to attack their prey (which I would imagine were cowering in a corner)–why not?–the power of paradigms.

Bob Proctor, featured on “The Secret” video, Larry King Live and in many other venues tells a great story (click on the audio player below) about how our reality is based on our paradigms--which may be different from someone else’s paradigm/reality. If you want more on paradigms from Bob Proctor you can watch his 8 minute video on the CREATING A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH POSITIVE SELF TALK page.

I’ll close this post with a story from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People where he gives a great example of paradigm blindness. The following story is taken from Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, where Frank Koch writes: “Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light bearing on the starboard bow.” “Is it steady or moving astern?” the caption called out. Lookout replied, “Steady captain,” which meant we were on a collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.” Back came the signal, “advisable for you to change course 20 degrees. The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.” “I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.” By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.” Back came the flashing light, “I’m a light house.” We changed course.” Do you have “paradigm blindness”—is it time to get those paradigms checked?

If you want to read more about paradigms you can go to the CREATING A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH POSITIVE SELF TALK page.

“A man is what he thinks about all day long”.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean August 29, 2009 at 10:25 pm

This was such an interesting article.

It’s strange to think that we literally accept bad habits so deeply that they become more than even a habit but actually ingrained within us as a paradigm.

Growing up I watched most of my family on my Mother’s side gourge themselves, becoming more and more obese. This has always been acceptable and their paradigms became mine and shifting that paradigm has been a struggle I have fought with my entire life.

Joel J August 30, 2009 at 12:03 am

I believe most families have paradigms that need to be changed. I read your recent blog post about diabetes–congratulations on your decision to not only beat it but to triumph over it. One of my nephews recently learned that he has Type 1 diabetes, just weeks before his 21st birthday, and he too went to the emergency room with a blood sugar level close to 600. I wish you success with your goals and will keep a check on your progress.

Sean August 30, 2009 at 12:40 am

I appreciate that and agree with you. I have often said that the world is heading in the direction it is because as we accumulate baggage, or paradigms, we pass them on to our children, our children then pick up their own adding to what was passed down to them and so on and so forth.

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