Unlocking the Paradigm Shift

Get This One Thing RightSo many of Steve Covey’s ideas from the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ became axioms that you probably heard some even if you have never heard of him. Do ‘seek a win-win in every situation’ or ‘begin with the end in mind’ ring a bell’?

One of the book’s key concepts is a ‘paradigm shift’ – an instant, powerful change due to a change in your perspective of the situation.

Stephen Covey shared a mini-paradigm shift he experienced on the way to work. As he and other passengers in the subway car were quietly reading newspapers, a couple of kids started harassing the passengers. Stephen Cove was irritated enough to ask his father to intervene to control his kids. The father said: ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from a 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’. In a split second, Mr. Covey saw his whole paradigm shift as he became more understanding, accepting, and keen to help.

Who hasn’t experienced such a profound shift in their life?

Early last year, I unsuccessfully tried to negotiate working from home once a week, only to get a fully funded working-from-home set up full time due to Melbourne’s lockdown by September. The COVID-enabled Paradigm Shift might be trickling down for many more years, but even smaller, more personal paradigm shifts happen to us often. Have you ever sulked about a petty argument when a piece of serious news wiped it out of your memory?

The Paradigm Shift concept has such an allure that it has seeped from the scientific realm where it originated to other domains.

It promises a quick and instant change – and who doesn’t want that, in a hyper-connected, fast-moving world where our successes and failures are so global and visible that we never seem to get ahead?

There is something dramatic, radical, and powerful about Paradigm Shift. In a scientific world, it is the change that unlocks the whole new world of discoveries, replacing the old, deficient paradigm. In the personal growth world, it is the whole new way of thinking that makes you different, ditching the old, ordinary part of you.

But Paradigm Shift as a ‘lens to view the world’ that unlocks the change can be misleading.

Changes in our thinking are rarely so radical that it changes our behaviors. Thinking that we are different, rarely makes us different. Thinking about needing to change, we rarely change.

While looking at an issue from a different angle can be very helpful and even creative, it is rarely enough in itself.

Stephen Covey’s situation wasn’t improved by knowing that the children were dealing with their mother’s loss. They were still disruptive, and their father was still not dealing with it.

It is not the different lenses of the situation that enabled the shift, but the emotion that it unlocked.

It is the compassion he felt to his family that removed his irritation, resentment, and even activated his willingness to help.

This story brilliantly shows how the synergy between our thoughts and emotions ensures the best decisions in any situation.

Viewing things from a different lens is a vehicle that can bring you to unchartered territories, new ideas, growth, and self-actualization. But it is the emotions that are the fuel that moves that vehicle and gets you there.

We move towards our goals based on values, not just because we know they are right for us. We move because of the JOY of achievement them, EXCITEMENT about new opportunities, PRIDE when we slim down or eat healthier. Negative emotion can power us up even quicker! FEAR about getting a heart attack can help quit smoking much faster than our PRIDE of the healthier body (although it can backfire easily).


…If you want to unlock a paradigm shift in a healthier lifestyle, remember to imagine the JOY of not having a sugar coma that crashes your energy in the afternoon or PRIDE in the body changes it will bring..

…If you want to unlock the ‘millionaire mindset’, remember to feel PRIDE of a successful endeavor or JOY for all the things it will enable in your life…

…If you are trying dry January because of by-default-gluttony during Christmas, cultivate your PRIDE, not just think ‘I need to drink less’…

Thought enables, but emotion energizes. Together, they can unlock YOUR Paradigm Shift.