Paradigms of others

Sean Covey shared a classical example of a paradigm shift in the following anecdote taken from the Reader’s Digest and contributed by Dan P. Greyling:

A lady, who was returning to South Africa from a long stay in Europe, had some time to spend at the Heathrow airport. She bought herself a cup of coffee and a small packet of biscuits. Laden with the luggage, she headed for an unoccupied table. While she was reading the morning newspaper, she sensed someone else helping himself to her packet of biscuits.

Fuming she ignored it and took a biscuit herself. The neatly dressed young man, who had joined her at the table, also took the next biscuit and quietly sat munching it. She still didn’t bother scolding him.

When they were down to the very last biscuit in the packet, he broke the biscuit in two, pushed a half across to her, ate the other half and left. Just then the lady’s flight was announced and she got up to catch it. Still bewildered at the audacity of the young man, she opened her purse to retrieve her ticket. Inside her purse, she saw a packet of biscuits. She had actually been eating his biscuits, having forgotten to take out hers from the purse.

Imagine her embarrassment which was just a few seconds earlier, a feeling of anger towards the stranger. What does this tell us? The way we perceive others can actually be inaccurate, incomplete or totally wrong. Don’t we judge others with our limited point of views and even fewer facts? We are simply not interested in looking at the other side of the picture. We can hardly wait before we have formed rigid opinions, labelled others or passed judgements against them.

In contrast, we should be open-minded and have the courage to change our paradigms, once we have discovered the truth. We should always consider new information, ideas and changes. It is just as if we are throwing away an old pair of glasses and replacing them with new spectacles with more accurate lenses.

We consider ourselves to be an expert on what others feel and think. If someone is rude to us, we automatically assume he/she hates us. If someone is trying to avoid us, we feel there is something fishy going on. We are always ready to jump to conclusions.

This is the way we handle all our relationships. We never bother to see the other person’s point of view. We never take our time to understand why a person behaves in a certain manner. Our messed up paradigms never let us give others the benefit of the doubt or an allowance that maybe the other person might just be having a rough day.

Don’t most teenagers think of adults as old-fashioned and out-dated losers? On the contrary, don’t most adults consider teenagers to be pompous, spoilt brats? They both never try to understand each other. They are only looking at things from their perspective. How can we ever be successful and happy with such narrow outlooks towards others?

Paradigms of life

Sean Covey explains that just as we have paradigms about ourselves and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. We can find out what our life revolves around, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. What do I think the most about?
  2. What do I spend my time doing the most?
  3. Who or what is the driving force of my life?

Some of the more popular life-centres for teenagers include: friends, materialistic stuff, school, parents, sports/hobbies, and heroes, enemies, self and work.

They all have certain good points, but they are also incomplete in one way or the other. We will prove this one by one:

1) Friend-centred

Belonging to a great group of friends is simply the best thing that can ever happen to you. Similarly, being an outcast or feeling misfit is the worse imaginable plight one can go through, especially in his/her teenage years.

Friends are important, but do not build your life on them. It is an unstable foundation. Why? Occasionally, they prove to be fickle. They have their own mood swings. They can be fake or sometimes backbite. Old pals can also develop new friendships and forget yours.

Most importantly, at times, one compromises his/her identity just to be accepted as part of a popular or particular gang. It undermines your self-respect and breaks the standards that you have set for yourself. It also means to keep on changing your values to accommodate your friends.

It might seem impossible now, but a day will come when your friends won’t mean the world to you. After school, when you start your practical life with numerous challenges, the same friends will be the last thing on your mind. You will still meet them and associate with them but it will be seldom.

So make as many friends as you would like to but do not make them the centre of your life.

2) Material-centred

Think about this saying: “If who I am is what I have and what I have is lost, then who am I?” (Anonymous)

Sometimes, we see the world through the lens of possessions or material stuff. The materialistic world around us feeds us the message that you are worth anything only if you own the fastest car, the latest stereo system, the coolest mobile phone, the best hairstyle, the trendiest outfits, etc. Sometimes, possessions also come in the form of titles and accomplishments, such as head boy or girl, team captain, class monitor, prefect, lead in the play, etc.

Although it is fine to be ambitious and seek pleasure in enjoying one’s achievements, one should not centre one’s life on things. Why? Mainly because they have no lasting value in this changing world. Our confidence needs to come from within and not from outside.

You might have noticed that some people get confidence from their possessions. If they do not have the latest model of gizmo to flash or had to go in public with unwashed hair, they would lament for weeks upon such failure. They also judge others the same way. Their friends are only those who either believe in materialism as well or keep flattering them for their uncompromising attitude towards things.

Being material-centred can make you unhappy easily. It should never be the focal point of your life if you wish to be a confident and satisfied young adult!

In the upcoming issue we will discuss the remaining paradigms of life in detail and the ways in which they impact us.

What are habits?

They can easily be managed – only, you must be firm with them.

Show them exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons, they will do it automatically.

So form them wisely.