What is reality? Some would say it’s the truth. Some would say anything that is a fact is reality. Very often we hear ourselves and our friends using the word reality as if it was the eternal truth. If you really think about it, reality is different for everyone. What might seem real for one person might seem completely unreal for another. As a minimum there are some “universal” facts which we all accept as reality. For example we all believe that day and night alternate, the earth revolves around the sun, the law of gravity works (or does it?) and that the world is not flat. However many of our ideas about “reality” are based on what is known as a “Paradigm”.
What is a Paradigm?
Paradigms are a set of beliefs which have been established over a period of time. Paradigms are an effort to make things explainable and understandable.A paradigm is a certain way of looking at things; it is a point of view. It is how we have come to view the world. In lay man’s terms paradigms are like glasses. When you have incomplete paradigms about yourself or life in general, it’s like wearing glasses with the wrong prescription. That lens affects how you see everything else. As a result, what you see is what you get. Most of our paradigms are so deep rooted that they have become an integral part of us. Infact our personalities are built on the foundations of our paradigms. This is why we often make comments like “That’s just the way I am” or “This is who I am” or “That’s just my nature”. Paradigms establish boundaries and define rules within those boundaries where we work to solve problems. However the moment we are presented with an idea thought or concept outside our boundaries we are confused and very often will dismiss the idea as not being “real”. Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions coined the term “paradigm’ to refer to the beliefs and assumptions from which one operates. We convince ourselves that our paradigm is “correct” because we interpret all evidence according to this particular point of view.
An easy example is the paradigm that the earth was the center of the universe. In the middle ages when the sun was setting, people believed they were witnessing proof positive that the sun was moving below our horizon in the sun’s rotation around the earth. The well-established assumption influenced perception, the interpretation of the sensation. People “saw” of course the sun orbiting around the earth, as it lowered over the horizon at sunset. In the sixteen century, Copernicus proposed the heliocentric paradigm [earth revolving around the sun]. He said the appearance of the setting sun was the illusion caused by the movement of the observer. Being a clergyman, Copernicus knew his theory was against church doctrine. He kept it to himself until his dying days.In 1609 Galileo found convincing evidence of Copernican ideas with his invention, the telescope. After Galileo published his findings, the Pope demanded Galileo retract this “heretical idea.” Realizing the Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake years earlier for supporting Copernicus, Galileo wisely agreed the Pope’s demand. Yet in 1632 Galileo published Dialogue, defending the Copernician theory. He was placed under house arrest to the day he died. Seventy years later, Isaac Newton proved mathematically the model proposed 150 years earlier by Copernicus. The world took this long to come to a paradigm shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism. Today we all know that Galileo was right. We know that this because that’s what we have been taught to believe from the time we were kids. So if someone came to us today and told us that the sun revolved around the earth we would dismiss this person as ignorant. See how paradigms play a role in how we perceive our world? This is just one example of how a paradigm shift took place when new evidence came to light. There are plenty others which you ranging from the invention of the airplane by the Wright Brothers to Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile record.
Each one of us has a set of paradigms which have been established since the time we were born. A lot of these are harmless where as some of them limit our ability to expand ourselves to our true potential. Paradigms are beyond reasoning because they operate at the sub conscious level and most of the times we are unaware that it is our paradigm that is causing us to operate in a particular way. If you ask yourself why you do something, very often you will not have an answer to it. Paradigms make us say or do things which we may not want to say or do, but we still do it. Some of the common paradigms that many of us call reality are
- Anger is natural
- Happiness and sorrow are part of life
- We need schooling to be successful.
- Money is the cause of all evil
- Life is difficult and a constant struggle.
- I’m a morning/night person
If you analyze each one carefully, you will realize that none of them are real. If Anger is natural then everyone would be getting angry. I’m sure you know of at least a few people in your life who never seem to lose their temper. We have plenty examples of people who are school and college dropouts and have gone on to become millionaires. We also know of people who seem to drift effortlessly through their lives while some of us struggle to make it through one day! And of course we all know that money is NOT the cause of all evil, the love of money is. (Another paradigm!)
Now that we know how paradigms can limit our creativity, imagination, growth and development, the next logical question is how you go about shifting your paradigm. A paradigm shift is when belief systems change. A Paradigm Shift as a change from one way of thinking to another. It’s a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change. The good thing with limiting paradigms is that once the paradigm shift takes place then it’s very easy to see beyond. After Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute record, many have gone and achieve the feat since then. They did it because a paradigm shift took place which made them believe that it was Possible!
Paradigms control every aspect of your life and determine the results you will get in your life. Here are 5 things you can do to help you make a paradigm shift in your lives
Have an open mind
The first thing you need to do is to have an open mind to new ideas, concepts or points of view. Try and avoid dismissing an idea because you do not agree with it. Try and listen to the idea with an unbiased view. You don’t have to agree or disagree to something when someone presents a new idea. For example if your colleague comes up with an approach to a problem which you may have tried before, don’t dismiss it without giving the person a hearing. For all you know while his approach may sound the same there will most likely be something different in it which may work this time. At first this is not easy to do because as humans our intellect comes into play as soon as we hear something which goes against our paradigms. You will have to consciously do it in the beginning and slowly but surely it will become more natural. Napoleon Hill in his famous book Think and Grow Rich mentions this as one of the laws of success. “An Open Mind towards everyone and all subjects”
Increase your level of awareness
As we saw paradigm shifts take place when new knowledge emerges. Increase your awareness of things which are holding you back. Reality is not static. It changes with your level of awareness. As we become more knowledgeable and aware our reality changes. Ask yourself what your beliefs are and why you believe them. If there are beliefs which are limiting you, make an attempt to learn more about the area. Find out people who have been successful in the area which you find challenging and learn from them. Spend time reading through biographies and stories of successful people in the area of your interest. If you are a parent you know how relevant this is. Your kids have their own sense of reality. As a toddler your toddler starts crying if you are out of his sight because he believes you may never come back. When they are slightly older they are still trying to grasp the concept of time and everything has to be done “Now”. In life there is a natural progression that we go through from birth till we are about 18 by when our paradigms are established in our sub conscious mind. Beyond this stage unless we make a conscious attempt it becomes very difficult and slow to change our belief systems and paradigms. In fact most of the times we are not even aware that our lives are being guided by our paradigms. So a critical step is to keep learning on different subjects and develop a broad understanding about things. Your results are an expression of your level of awareness.
Re-Program your mind
Spirituality teaches us that we are a spiritual being going through a human experience. As such we are all souls who are living in a body. Our thoughts, beliefs and ideas originate from our mind. It is now widely accepted that you are what you think. So if you are going to bring about a fundamental shift in your belief system you are going to have to re-program your mind. The mind can be equated to a computer and we as the soul or the spirit the programmer. Over the years we have been led to believe that circumstances and environment have shaped who we are and what we are (Yet another paradigm!). The truth is that while the circumstances and environment have been there, what has shaped our lives is our minds which responded to these situations. As the programmer, you can reprogram your mind. While this is not a quick fix solution, it is definitely possible. How do you go about re-programming your mind? Here are few simple things to do
- Read books which inspire and motivate
- Spend minimal time watching/reading the news. Trust me you won’t miss out on anything if you are not up to date on the news. Of course if your profession requires you to stay tuned, then by all means do it. Even then limit it to what you “should” be watching.
- Spend time with friends and relatives who nourish you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Stay away from people who are always complaining about life.
- Try auto suggestion and affirmations. May feel very stupid in the beginning but trust me the results start showing in a matter of weeks!
Try and be creative in your everyday life. Creativity does not necessarily mean doing something artistic. Creativity simply means doing things differently in you daily life. For example if you have a problem with your ego and believe that your partner should be the one coming up to you to patch up, be creative one day and surprise him/her by taking the initiative. You will be happy to see the joy on their faces! Believe me it’s worth it and the love will only grow. Constantly ask yourself if you can respond to a situation differently to how you would have done normally and then go ahead and do it differently.
Change your Habits
Lastly nothing will change unless you take action. Identify the beliefs and habits which are limiting you and decide to make a change. The thing about habits is that it’s difficult to get rid of them. You need to replace them with good habits. To learn something new you need to give your mind clear instructions. You have to instill a pattern to change the conditioning of the mind. This pattern is established by forming habits which will lead you to success and the results you want. Once your mind is being programmed differently the process becomes more and more natural and effortless. You do not have to make an effort to “Think Positive”, you will naturally become more positive. You will not have to use “will power and Gut” to achieve something. Your mind will automatically give you the direction to start achieving your goals.