I have the tendency to look at things from my point of view. By nature, I think we all do.
Our initial engagement, understanding and perception of issues, ideas, people and events are greatly influenced by our own beliefs and principles formed out of our life-experiences, by our respective trainings and backgrounds and sometimes by our unconsciously cherished values (whether good or bad). It becomes natural to think and act based on our viewpoint because it is what we perceived as real. Out of this perceived reality we begin to form conclusions and ultimately render a personal judgment. We then move to another life encounter, draw our own seemingly reliable point of view and make another conclusion from what we perceived as true and triumphantly proclaim one more judgment about things, issues, people and events.
This kind of thought or habit cycle seems harmless until one starts to ask, “Is there another reality I missed in what I perceived to be true?” An awareness beyond the comfort of our own thinking and the readiness to change our own perspective is an important step to paradigm shift. When one begins to entertain the realities and point of view of others, it opens up new horizon of deeper understanding that leads to a meaningful change in the way we think, feel, decide and act.
The story of Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will illustrate what paradigm shift is all about. Covey wrote, “ 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 not 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 that 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. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”
Will you stick immovably to your point of view? Or are you ready for a paradigm shift today? I can imagine the far-reaching benefits if people (especially those tasked with decision-making powers that affect wide array of social concerns) starts shifting to deeper perspective and realities. It can lead to effective and realistic development options where courses of action are made clear, policy statements become meaningful, the burden of false perception removed, and the high cost of ineffective implementation obviated. Just stop for a while, look and listen intently to the muffled and sometimes silent voices of realities around. Who knows you can be an effective agent for the change we all need. But really its all up to you.