My Viewpoint or Yours?

How does one interpret? What influences play a part in what we think about any given situation? Is it possible for numerous people to see the exact same thing, or experience the same situation, but interpret it differently? Not only is it possible, but more than likely the norm.

The way that a group or an individual sees or interprets can be referred to as a paradigm. We all have one. Although many people do not realize that they have their very own paradigm, or view of life’s events. Many think that the way they see something is the way everyone sees the same thing. Hence the quip “You just don’t understand. ” Exactly, they really don’t. For example, my thoughts, viewpoints, etc. of killing a deer mean one thing to me; a freezer full of grilling goods. Some of the best chili, jerky, and steaks that can be made. On the other hand, someone else may think that killing a deer for any reason is absolutely abhorrent.

Why the totally different views of the same incident? Simply put, our paradigm is based on our concepts, assumptions, values, and practices that allow our version of reality to exist. And since everyone’s concepts, assumptions, values, and practices are different, our window to reality is different. Interesting enough, but let’s take it a step further by analyzing 3 questions:

1) Is it possible for our paradigm to change? Little Johnny had a habit of picking up and throwing every rock he walked by, much to Dad’s dismay. Every time Johnny threw a rock, Dad went into his speech. “Johnny, why do you insist on throwing every rock you see? You might break a window. Why must you do the exact opposite of what you’re told? ” The same thing, again and again and again. A few years later, Johnny is the pitcher of the high school baseball team and has college scouts fighting for him to accept their full ride scholarship and be their starting pitcher. Dad and Johnny are taking a walk one night when Dad sees a rock about the size of a baseball. “Son, how fast and far do you think you can throw that rock? Give it all you’ve got.” Paradigm shift? Absolutely.

2) Do we have to focus on changing our paradigm, or can it happen without us knowing? Dad probably didn’t change his paradigm, or even consider changing it. But because his window of reality changed, his thought process and the way he viewed his son throwing rocks changed. Perhaps now he even gained more of an understanding of him.

3) Is it possible to knowingly change another person’s paradigm? Let me start by saying yes, but it can range from easy to very difficult, depending on the person. In order to change someone’s paradigm, or view, you must know and understand them. You must be in tune with their beliefs, values, principles, and their character that is formed from them. A manager or leader with a dynamic personality, ability to lead, and a strong set of personal values can influence change in subordinates and actually alter their viewpoints in areas outside of the job. This is what I refer to as empowerment. Instead of telling someone what and how to do a job, tell them the desired result and let them determine the path to success (under your watchful eye, of course, ready to provide indiscriminate counsel, or you may empower them to fail). You have made them successful not only in their own mind, but now they are viewed as successful in the eyes of their peers. The view in their social mirror has just been changed. People do not normally see themselves as they are, but as others see them. By empowering someone, you can change their view. If this person was one with an attitude that their work, or worth, was for nothing more than a paycheck, by empowering them, you have gained the ability to alter their perspective thus becoming a loyal and productive subordinate ready for the next challenge.

There is something to be said about how we perceive certain things, such as “problems”. We can base our actions on a paradigm that is rooted in solid values and principles instead of what occurs around us. For example, is our anti-deer hunter against hunting because they believe that all animals are children of God with an inherent right to live, or is it because of what he has been exposed to, or actually seen concerning hunting? Consider this: If you think, or perceive that you have a problem, perhaps the problem is that you see it as a problem. What if the “problem” is actually an opportunity that you haven’t realized? Perhaps a paradigm shift could allow us to see it in a different light. I would suggest that this attitude could work wonders with children. Instead of “here we go again with another problem”, it could be viewed as an opportunity to help the child and make a serious investment in the parent-child relationship.

Speaking of investments, here is a unique concept and comparison. The concept? Paradigm Interdependence. No matter how we seen things or how strong we are (or think we are), people need people. The comparison? Bank accounts and emotions. According to Stephen Covey, one’s emotions can be compared to a bank account. Investing in your bank account, making deposits, and seeing that it stays in the green provides for a healthy account. Develop a fat account and you can afford a few withdrawals. Withdrawal too much and the account goes bad. The same principal can be applied to people. Maintain more and bigger deposits. If more withdrawals than deposits are made, you hurt the person. Well, how do we deposit? We can attend to the little things, attempting to first understand someone before attempting to be understood ourselves, keep commitments, ensure expectations of others are known, maintain a strong set of beliefs, values and integrity. The list goes on and on and on.

One final thought. How do we develop beliefs and values that will allow us to have a strong enough set of principals to sustain a healthy paradigm? Simply attend your own funeral. As your family and friends are watching your casket being lowered into the ground, each is thinking about your life. Which instances in your life are they thinking about? What do they remember the most about you? What would they say about you if asked? Now ask yourself what you would like them to think, remember, and say? The answer to this question should be the guide to your principles; your personal mission statement.

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