Have you ever discovered that your version of the “truth” wasn’t so true or complete after all?
We view not only ourselves, but those around us, through a set of lenses. And like any lens, they either sharpen or distort reality. As philosopher and author Thomas Kuhn wrote, “all significant breakthroughs are break-“withs” old ways of thinking”. As it turns out, what we see informs how we think and feel, which influences what we do, and the results we ultimately get.
A number of years ago, my friend made the decision to get in shape. He decided that he wanted to start running, which was an important decision for him, as he had the desire to live a healthier life and to have increased energy to spend with his family. For the first couple of days, he did well, but on the third day, he tripped on a crack in the pavement, spraining his ankle. Unfortunately, the injury would require several months for his ankle to heal, which curtailed his running.
It took time for his ankle to heal, and when it was time for him to set aside his crutches and put on his running shoes, he didn’t do it. In fact, he made the decision to give up running completely, regardless of his former goal of creating a healthier lifestyle to have more energy to spend with his family. My good friend put on a set of glasses where he saw himself as not athletic and he saw the world as full of pitfalls. This view of himself influenced his thinking and he thought he had made a mistake in trying to run. These thoughts then influenced his feelings, as he had lost his motivation and he was fearful of having another accident. And, those feelings drove his behavior. He ended up back on the couch and the goals that were so important to him were set aside and forgotten.
The way we view ourselves and the world around us is called a paradigm. To quote Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on your behavior. If you want significant, quantum breakthroughs, work on your paradigms.”
My friend’s ankle was healed. He wasn’t in great health, but was in shape enough to run. And, his doctor told him that he could take up running again, and probably should, to improve his health. He told him that the while the world is full of cracks in the pavement, he could look ahead and learn to run around the cracks. If my friend had been able to change the limiting lenses for new lenses, his paradigm might have been:
- Seeing: I am physically able to run and navigate the obstacles that are in my way
- Thinking: I can and probably should begin running again
- Feeling: I am positive about my goals, which are so important to me
- Doing: I will get those shoes out and go for a run now!
Simply choosing how we see ourselves and others has a cascading effect on what we think, feel, and do. This concept is a foundational principle for making significant changes in our lives. Consider some of the common ways we may inaccurately view ourselves and others:
• I don’t belong
• I’m too lazy.
• I’m impatient.
• I’ll never be good enough.
• I can’t change—I am what I am.
We also have some common ways in which we may inaccurately view the world or others:
• Everything is against me.
• Things usually turn out bad.
• My friend is thoughtless.
• My colleague doesn’t know what he’s doing.
• People can’t be trusted.
• My team will never change.
We do a great disservice to ourselves when we wear the limiting lenses that are so often a part of human nature. But the good news is that changing one’s glasses is a choice, and we all have the power to do so.