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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paradigm Shift: Move Away From Right-Wrong Contention

A few days ago I reviewed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a masterful work that I'd say should be in everyone's book collection.  This is the book even people that "don't read" should check out.  It'll change your life!  Sounds cliche, I know, but if you read the book and really let it soak in, you'll see!

But I digress...

Stephen R. Covey touches upon so many powerful concepts but the foundation of The 7 Habits resides in understanding paradigm shifts.  Without a proper appreciation of paradigm shifts, no amount of hard work and personal development will help us because we will essentially be running in place..  or at least running in the wrong direction.  As Mr. Covey says, it's a matter of having a map to maintain a deliberate direction in life.

Well, apparently, Michael from must have read my mind because this little piece here speaks to what really is the core of The 7 Habits:

Fish don’t know they’re in water
Jun 20, 2011 12:30 pm | Skim That Writer
"People don’t realize that the values they think are universal are really part of their culture, the same way fish don’t realize what water is because they live in it. Derek Sivers visited Singapore and found that most people aren’t interested in forming startups because failure would be an embarrassment to them and their families. Singaporeans also live with their parents well into their thirties and even after getting married. To leave home is an insult to the families instead of a rite of passage as it is in America. Culture’s aren’t right or wrong, but just different ways of doing things."  [ Original Source: ]

That little snippet contains so much wisdom that I simply had to follow the breadcrumbs.  The trail lead to Derek Sivers, a guy I previously never heard of but I already feel I've known forever, just because his web site is real and personal.  Authenticity scores again!

But this isn't about Derek Sivers.

What is this passage really saying when it says "fish do not know they're in water"?

Here's my take (and I'd really like to hear yours)... 

We are all creatures of habit, some more than others, so it's easy to forget where we are (and how we got there) if we don't step back every now and then to really see that elusive big picture.  It's also all too easy to take for granted what we consider true, familiar, or "right", simply because everything around us conditions us to feel that way.   The more logical or literal we may be, the harder it may be to wrap our heads around things that go completely against our world view, the things etched into our brains. 
Reality Check:  What we hold dearly and call "reality" is just several ideas loosely held together by the delicate fabric that is society, personal experience, and our mental "spin", if you will.

Allow me to illustrate... 

In the Western world, we tend to judge others that don't play by our rules.  We're quick to throw out labels or assume that their behaviors are all connected by some deep-rooted, perhaps subconscious, motivations, insecurities, and other silly psychoanalytical crap.  Imagine meeting someone at age 35 living with their parents (before this economic downward spiral that started as early as the late nineties).  Here are some of the thoughts you may have: 
  • Does this person have a learning disability?
  • They HAVE to be a moocher or loser of some sort!
  • I bet they don't even bathe for days, if not weeks. 
  • Mommy must have babied them all their life.
  • I feel sorry for them. 
You get the idea.  I can speak to these sorts of thoughts because I too fight hard to fend off such thoughts.  I try not subscribe to common assumptions and generalizations.  This line of thought is how we make things more manageable and simple. 
"Let's just place things in little simple boxes so they're not so scary, right?"
Cultural differences are only the beginning of the things that make us each unique, yet so alike.  Singaporeans are not very different from Americans.  A vast majority of Americans stick to the mundane 9-to-5 corporate rat race because that's all they really know.  There's comfort in the familiar but that there's also the matter of security, which is similar but not really.

Comfort makes us complacent because we can rationalize things and always tell ourselves, "Well, it could be worse..  At least we're not like THEM."  Security helps us lie to ourselves further by saying, "This job is safe because this company has smart people running things and they care about me and my goals."  Both are products of a failure to embrace life-long learning, opening up our hearts and minds to embrace the ever-changing rules around us. 
"There are no rules...  Other than respect and accept others so that the same can be done onto you...  Or don't and be lonely, miserable, and dead."
 (The Golden Rule works and still very much applies.)

Before you tackle Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", you need to embrace paradigms which, essentially, are systems that set up the rules of engagement.  He does a much better job of explaining them for you but suffice to say this is square one.  It's the proverbial emptying of your cup so you can be poured something more refreshing and delicious - you won't know until you try it!

When we can accept that there is more to the world than what we have learned or been exposed to, so many doors open up and we find that we're not as limited.  The shackles are broken.  We free our minds and our souls.  That is why that little passage truly moved me: it shows just how much we take for granted in our daily lives.  We get so set in our ways that we sometimes forget to challenge our own thoughts and continue to develop ourselves, as if higher education is the end-all/cure-all solution in life (it's not, BTW.. #justsaying).

...And now for a powerful call to action

My Challenge To You:
Identify your strongest feelings and beliefs and figure out why you feel that way.  Think about something you strongly oppose, perhaps something that makes you look down upon others.  Maybe it's something you are afraid of or embarrassed of... 
  • What is the root of these thoughts?
  • Are these things REALLY that bad?
  • Do you spend too much time lingering on these thoughts?
  • Have these thoughts become toxic or made you close-minded?
Give these questions some real thought because what I've found is that I've let too many bad ideas live rent-free in my head.  I still have a few but most have been kicked to the curb.  Let's free our hearts, minds, and souls for things that truly enrich our lives and the lives of others.

We can all play nice together, even if we don't agree with each other


Pioneer Outfitters said...

Really my friend, what can I add? I guess I am going to have to get and read that one too!
You are right, about how we tend to look down on or rant (at least to ourselves) at them / their behavior / their clothes / transportation...ect. That makes us equally as low as our thoughts.
I am not suggesting unicorns and rainbows, I, personally, have a real problem with individuals that don't stand for ANYTHING. Someone who is who's ever supporter / follower / friend they are with. Bla bla bla.
I really feel strongly, Yomar, that this world, this on line existence we have at our figertips, this is the way. The way folks like yourself and others can truly make a difference. There are so many so-smart, compassionate people all over the world that can make a huge difference. I may not count to many people, but you all made a huge difference in my life. I know, as well, I mean something to you and them.
Thank you for putting into words what seemed to be a feeling, but sometimes, we need the actual thought written down and you have the words. ~Amber-Lee

Yomar said...

I agree with you COMPLETELY (which scares me because eventually we'll disagree on something and it'll be BIG.. agreeing all the time can spoil us LOL)!

Individuals that don't stand for ANYTHING worry me.. They're often hard to interact with, at least in more meaningful ways. FAITH is important, and I don't merely mean religion.. I mean believing in things bigger than us, things beyond our human comprehension.

In some ways, this piece speaks to that because we're so used to using rationale and science to "figure things out" yet we miss so much in the process. Sometimes, it's perfectly all right to just accept things as they are. We don't have to figure out everything.

That's why I appreciate what you do. It's more about losing yourself in the moment and not worrying about what everything means.. Embrace everything around you and be humbled by how little we are in the grand scheme of things.

I'm in the same boat with you: there's not many people I can count on but, the few that prove themselves time and again, I feel truly blessed to have in my life! The social web certainly facilitates meeting great people and enriching lives in ways that weren't really possible before, or just took lots of time. It's a very empowering experience indeed!

Definitely pick up the book. It's the ONE book I'd recommend to anyone. I mean, there are lots of great books out here but "The 7 Habits" focuses on those things that really matter. It's a beefy book yet you can go through it so quickly because of how compelling and insightful it is.

I'm glad I could put into words what you have often thought yourself. I feel it's something we all are aware of, yet we may tune it out. Stephen R Covey definitely conveys it all better than I.. and I'm all right with that! 8)

Christian said...

I love Covey and his book. Advice in there that I'll always carry with me and remember. What I remember most about 7 Habits (it's been two years since I've read it, so I need to pick it up again!) is the diagram of accomplishing tasks.

Is it important and is it crucial? Always remembering these two definers - and then working on accomplishing tasks that meet the criteria.

Your thoughts above also remind me of a really good talk called the Belief Window by motivational speaker Hyrum Smith. He says that we look at things through beliefs written on our minds "windows" and that we must seek to identify whether those "beliefs" are true and correct. For example, when speaking to a bunch of kids in the 60's and 70's he found that they didn't care about how well they did in school; but he also learned through some prodding that they honestly believed the world was ending soon. Thus, they had a falty belief that caused faulty actions.

Just some thoughts.

Yomar said...

LOVE that example!

It speaks volumes regarding the short-sightedness we all experience at some time. It's the 'ol seeing the trees but not the forest phenomenon at work, really. Really makes you shift your perspective and question everything, right?

The crucial assessment reminds me of the Rule of 5. You look at the immediate picture, the near future, and the long-term returns. What value does everything really drive? Are we wasting time on silly thoughts and mere busy work?

Certainly, it's a theme that I keep revisiting because it's something I still wrestle with to this day, quite honestly. BTW, I love the diagram Covey offers because I'm a very visual person. For major projects, I like to use index cards on my big bulletin board and show a flow of interdependencies and prerequisites.. If I can tie everything together and build up to greater goals, AWESOME!

I reviewed "The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People" last week. Check it out when you get a chance. I'd love to have your thoughts! Certainly, it's a great book to use as a sort of field manual, except it focuses more on the behaviors that shape success and joy in life, rather than the technical stuff we tend to get caught up with. 8)

As always, love your thoughts, Christian!

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