On Paradigms…

We are all born with a specific set of rules ingrained in us. Some are genetically written, others are environmentally derived. These rules form the patterns and models we grow to live by, our paradigms.

You might have heard of the expression “paradigm shift”. This is the phenomenon of experiencing a fundamental change in your paradigm. In order to make an impactful change in your life, it is imperative to first recognize, then address, the paradigm you hold. How can you do this?

Let’s take a familiar example. People tend to believe that luck cannot be based on a formula or set of rules; instead, it is whimsical and swings unpredictably. They tell me: “Are you crazy? We can’t generate luck! It’s impossible!” This is a paradigm.

The secret about paradigms is that they are not absolute, although we like to believe they are. The moment you accept that your paradigm may be limiting and false, you begin to untangle the rules that form it, and challenge them. When you discover, often quite easily, that you can prove one long-held belief wrong, the rest will follow in domino effect. At this stage, you can consciously and intentionally shift your paradigm to serve you best.

It comes back to one simple rule that I’ve chosen as part of my intentional paradigm: What you think, you become. Rene Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” Remember, everything begins and ends with a thought. So, how are your thoughts feeding your paradigm? Once you can answer this question, you will know instinctively how to shift your thoughts and, consequently, shift your paradigm.

Yes, this is easier said than done (or is it?) It requires developing a consciousness in thinking that is beyond what we are used to. Thought is such a personal and silent action that we hardly qualify it as an action. It’s almost an involuntary response or reaction to what our senses pick up. Very few people that I’ve spoken with recognize that thinking can and should be intentional. It is something we do, not something that happens to us. Very few people recognize the detriment of letting thoughts run wild and free without intentional direction. When this step is mastered, the rest is easy.

What you think, you become. To begin uncovering the beliefs that make up your paradigm:

Week 1: 

  1. Grab a small notebook and pen that you can keep with you at all times, or open up a notepad on your phone.
  2. During the coming week, every time you feel an emotion, write down one word to describe the feeling, followed by the thought that you have in mind. This doesn’t have to be an essay. For example: “Discouraged. Will I have to do this for another X number of years before I can rest?”
  3. Once a day, preferably in the morning, take 10 minutes to analyze the thoughts you wrote down the day before. What stands out? Do you recognize a pattern or a belief system emerging? Let’s take a look at my example: “Discouraged. Will I have to do this for another X number of years before I can rest?” What stands out? I see four key beliefs: 1) the only way I can live for X years is by doing this kind of task; 2) I must do it to earn retirement; 3) retirement is the goal; and 4) I cannot rest between now and then.
  4. Contemplate the beliefs you’ve uncovered and observe how often they repeat. At the end of the week, reflect on your list. At this stage, you don’t need to know where these beliefs come from, you only need to question if they’re absolutely true. (P.S. They never are).

Week 2:

  1. Pick 3 beliefs to challenge.
  2. During the next week, pay attention to when these 3 beliefs are affirmed by your thoughts, and carefully choose new words to challenge them. For example: “I have to do this for X years until I retire” could become: “I am choosing to do X for now. I have so many other options. New opportunities and rest are on the way“.
  3. Do something to prove that your new consciously designed thought is true. For example, read a book by someone who achieved what you want to achieve by using a different approach.

Repeat this process, and watch how the paradigm shifts. The goal is to make intentional thinking a habit, so you can do this without having to follow a step-by-step process. Repetition is key, and patience is a virtue (those are rules from my original paradigm that I’ve chosen to retain).

The most important thing to keep in mind is to phrase your new thoughts using positive language. If you think: “This is not the only way,” your negative “not” acts as a double-edged sword. Avoid thinking about what is not true, what is not the path you wish to follow, or what you don’t want to happen. Instead, focus on what is true, what is the path you want to follow, and what you do want to happen. What you think, you become; the things you focus on most will manifest in your life, and negatively phrased thoughts will only affirm and empower the negative outcomes you’re avoiding.

If you choose to try this exercise, please share your questions and results below.

And remember… we design our own luck!


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