What Are Paradigms And How Do They Control Us?
A paradigm is originally a Greek scientific term and there are different definitions of it, and paradigm shift, but I like the 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.

Paradigms are the lens thru which we view ourselves and our world and are a necessary part of our thought process but where the “rub comes in” is that if we’ve got incorrect paradigms we’re going to have incorrect output (thoughts actions results).

Bob Proctor, featured on “The Secret” video, Larry King Live and in many other venues is the best speaker I’ve heard on the power of paradigms and he gives a great illustration of paradigms on the video clip below taken from the Claim Your Power Now Seminar in 2006. I really love his story about “cutting the ends off the ham” to illustrate the power of a paradigm. (Please note this video was used with permission from the owner of –please don’t duplicate and distribute.)

Paradigm Shifts
The World Is Flat—An extreme example of the limiting effect of a wrong paradigm—don’t travel outside your area or you’ll fall off the earth. That generally accepted paradigm was shifted about the 4th Century B.C.—unless you’re a member of the Flat World Society (and if you are please contact me—I’d like to sell you a bridge I own over the entrance to San Francisco Bay).

Prior to May 6, 1954 it was generally accepted that the human body was not capable of running a sub-4 minute mile, in fact the then current 1 mile record of 4 minutes 1.4 seconds had been held for 9 years. But Roger Bannister said “It didn’t seem logical to me, as a physiologist/doctor, that if you could run a mile in four minutes, one and a bit seconds, you couldn’t break four minutes. But it had become a psychological as well as a physical barrier.” He changed the paradigm forever on May 6, 1954 by running 1 mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds—the real significance is that after he created the paradigm shift 16 other runners ran a sub-4 minute mile within the next 3 years.

On May 25th 1961 President John F. Kennedy (JFK) announced to a special joint session of Congress that the USA would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade—a goal actually achieved a little over 8 years later. I’m sure the majority of people throughout the world thought it impossible (and I’m sure there were many jokes surrounding the announcement) but JFK, after consultation with Vice-President Johnson, NASA Administrator James Webb and some other officials, thought it possible. I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall at their meeting and heard who first suggested a man walking on the moon, and seen the facial expressions of the rest of the group. It was an awesome paradigm shift, especially when you consider that Orville and Wilbur Wright had flown the first U.S. “manned, powered, heavier-than-air” flight on the sand dunes of Kittyhawk, N.C. a mere 63 years earlier—at a time when a lot of people were saying, “if God meant for man to fly he would have given us wings”. I guess those people would now need to alter the saying to, “if God meant for man to fly he would have given us rocket thrusters and liquid oxygen tanks.” After the moonwalk in 1969 it became a common expression to say “if we can put a man on the moon then why can’t we….?”—I know I use that cliché a lot, especially when I’m on the phone with a customer service agent who is telling me he, or she, can’t do what I’m requesting. What a difference that paradigm shift has made in so many lives.

One of my favorite stories of someone who recognized his current paradigm and created a paradigm shift to achieve his success is of Legson Kayira. The story comes from the book “Unstoppable” written by Cynthia Kersey (whom I have had the pleasure of meeting) who herself is very Unstoppable and a shining example of someone who created a paradigm shift—she left a successful but stressful job in “corporate America” to become an author and an Internationally known personal development speaker. Legson Kayira had already changed one multi-generational family paradigm (illiteracy) but still had the paradigm of poverty. He decided to create a paradigm shift and travel to America to get an education so he could accomplish great things like two of his American heroes; Abraham Lincoln and Booker T. Washington. He left his tribal village without a penny to his name and on foot for Cairo…..a thousand miles later he arrived in Uganda where he rested from his journey and an illness he incurred while traveling. I don’t want to spoil the reading of the story for you so I’ll encourage you to get a copy of the Unstoppable book (it has lots of great stories of people who not only were unstoppable but who created paradigm shifts for themselves) but I’ll tell you that as of the writing of the Unstoppable book Legson Kayira was a professor of political science at Cambridge University in England. What a paradigm shift! A quote from Legson Kayira that Cynthia put in her book is so appropriate to this article about creating paradigm shift—“I learned I was not, as most Africans believed, the victim of my circumstances but the master of them.”

Albert Einstein rocked the foundation of physics with the introduction of his Special Theory of Relativity when he was a young 26 years of age. Physicists who subscribed to Sir Isaac Newton’s long standing “Law of Gravitation” (published in 1687) were aghast and many had extreme paradigm blindness but Einstein went on to publish his General Theory of Relativity in 1915—which is now the established paradigm of gravitational force. I should note that Sir Isaac Newton’s paradigm was not entirely wrong, in fact since it’s a much simpler formula it’s sometimes still used today in certain gravitational calculations.

While at Yale University Fred Smith wrote a economics paper about “overnight delivery” of packages using a central hub—similar to how banks use a centrally located clearing house. The paper must not have been well received because he thinks he got his “usual C” on the paper. After a tour in the US Marines and still only 27 years of age, using a $4 million inheritance and $91 million of venture capital, he bought a small aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation, which he used as his foundation to form FedEx, creating a tremendous paradigm shift in package delivery.

While writing this article I had an inspiration for a new website name (sorry I can’t divulge that name right now) so I went to to check it out and to my surprise it was available so I snatched it up but what’s interesting is that while at the GoDaddy site I came across a very current example of someone who has clear vision of new paradigms and how to create paradigm shift—Bob Parsons (Founder & CEO of I didn’t know Bob Parson’s history but I saw a link to his blog called Bob’s Video Blog and thinking that it was a “website of the month blog” I clicked on it and discovered it was actually Bob Parson’s video blog. Although there seems to be a lot of self-promotion in the video (and you might not like his choice of “props”—if you’re a woman) I believe you would agree his ability to see new paradigms (what I believe is his “edge”) is very amazing. I won’t retell his story here but you can watch his video by clicking on the link above. As a side note to this article if you want an excuse killer check out his history at Wikipedia—not only did he start life in a financially challenged family living in inner city Baltimore he did very poorly in school but still achieved tremendous success with an accounting software company he started in his basement and sold to Intuit for $64 million. But, he didn’t rest on his “laurels”, or his $64 million he went on to found just 3 years later at age 47.

Paradigm Blindness
Sometimes we can be blind to new paradigms—sometimes with devastating results. Here is a short list of some people who had paradigm blindness (please don’t think I’m showing disrespect to anyone—I believe most of the people below were very successful, well respected and brilliant, they just happened to have had paradigm blindness in some areas):

• “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” (Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895)
• “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” (Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943)
• “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” (Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977)
• “The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” (Western Union internal memo, 1876)
• “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” (Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French commander of Allied forces during the closing months of World War I, 1918)
• “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” (David Sarnoff’s associates, in response to his urgings for investment in radio in the 1920′s)
• “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927)
• “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” (Charles H. Duell, commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899)

The ultimate paradigm blindness—NASA Mooned America. While I was writing the earlier section about the paradigm shift that JFK and NASA helped create I remembered knowing some people back in 1969 that thought Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was a hoax and actually filmed out in the desert but I was astounded to find that there are still people who believe that the moonwalk was a hoax—in fact there are at least a half a dozen books about the “moonwalk hoax”—my personal favorite title is NASA Mooned America—the book’s content might be dull but the title is certainly clever. So let’s analyze this hoax theory for a moment: Wayne Dyer (and some others) say “I’ll see it when I believe it”, many—if not most, people say “I’ll believe it when I see it”, but these moonwalk hoax theory authors say “I won’t even believe it when I do see it”—now if that’s not paradigm blindness what is it?

Up Close And Personal Paradigms
We’ve talked about some larger paradigms but what about some more personal paradigms that we may want to change? Here are a few common ones:

You have to have money to make money. (There are far to many examples of self-made women and men to list here, but Bob Parsons would be a pretty good example)

I can’t lose weight no matter what I do. (Not true—unless you have some unusual medical condition)

This is not a good time because the economy is bad. (Many fortunes have been made during recessions, and even depressions)

I ______ (Fill in your own)

Creating Your Own Paradigm Shifts
Now that we know what paradigms are and that we want to create paradigm shifts that aligns with our ideals what do we do now?

(1) Think about what you think about (metacognition)—identify what your thoughts are when you respond negatively to a circumstance or what someone says to you.

(2) Make a decision to change any paradigm that doesn’t align with your ideals.

(3) Use the STOP technique. For example: You have the paradigm that you’re a “big eater” (like me in my past life) so you’re filling your dinner plate up as high and as close to the edge as you can—you recognize that your “I’m a big eater” paradigm is working so tell yourself STOP and remove some of the food.

(4) Use Positive Affirmations to change your paradigm by creating an affirmation that is the opposite of your current paradigm, or at least consistent with the results you would like to have. It should be stated in the present tense and as a positive statement. Using the “big eater” paradigm above a good positive affirmation would be; “I am a light eater. I eat small meals and if I am tempted to overfill my plate or get a second helping I tell myself STOP and remember how much I enjoy my good health and feeling good–and I am healthy and I do feel good and I have extra energy to do the things I want to do.”

Positive Affirmations + Repetition = Positive Self-Talk + Time = Paradigm Shift

I’ll close this article with a quote from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Marsden August 8, 2013 at 10:23 am

Dear Joel,

Awesome article, and resonates so strongly with a lot of work I do in organisations trying to bring about change. I make many connections to achieving organisational paradigm shifts and how those organisational paradigm shifts can only truly be achieved by helping individuals challenge their own personal paradigms that are blocking them from seeing the change as positive or helpful.

I am about to run such a programme with one of my clients, and I would like to ask your permission if I could use your article as a handout…obviously it will be completely attributed to you.

Your sincerely
Paul Marsden

Joel J August 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your kind words about the article and I would be pleased and honored to have you give a copy of the article to your clients.

I applaud your work and wish you success with your upcoming programme.

Thanks again for your kind words about the article.

Best regards,


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