Change your perception. Change your world (Part 1 – Paradigm Shift)

Summary

When trying to change a certain behaviour that is attributable to achieving your goals. It is not enough just look at the behaviour in isolation. One must tackle the root cause of the problem. The individual’s belief system or their “paradigm” is often what drives behaviour. We must first review our belief systems and make a “paradigm shift” before we can hope to change our behaviour. This is what Stephen R. Covey described as an “inside out” approach to personal development.

Everyone perceives the world in a different way. Everyone has their own beliefs about certain aspects of their life. Yet due to social conditioning and reinforcement over time we start to believe that our perception is 100% accurate and we stop questioning it. In order to get rid of your limiting beliefs we must first change our perception. Only then will our world start to change.

Introduction

This will be part of a series of posts where I want to explore a topic that is often overlooked in the fitness industry. It’s the mindset/psychological aspects of people and ultimately human behaviour. This is something that has always really interested me and it definitely applies to everything outside of the fitness world – be it family, relationship and business.

I am a huge advocate of personal development. Striving to be the best possible version of myself has always been a very rewarding endeavour. However, I realise that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Why do people fail?

When setting a goal for yourself like losing fat. There is so much information out there detailing the best way to go about it. Things to eat, things not to eat. Things to do, things not to do.

Yet, we see about two-thirds of the population becoming obese. Why is that? The information is out there, granted some of it might not be scientifically sound but the cold hard truth is that if you did anything to your current routine. ANYTHING. You would see some form of change.

You don’t need to find the most optimal training program. The perfect foods that make you lose weight while you’re sleeping. You just need to take action. Take a walk around the block each day. Go for a run. Eat a smaller portion of your usual meal.

There are literally a million things you can do, and that you know you can do to change your weight for the better. Yet many people fail to take action towards their goals.

The problem with failed fitness goals isn’t the lack of information. The most common problem I see is that people fail to change their behaviour.  

How do we change our behaviour?

I personally think that changing behaviour can only be achieved through finding the root cause of that behaviour.

A good example is wanting to exercise in the morning. The behaviour we wish to change is to “wake up in the morning and exercise”. We might find that we just cannot get out of bed most days and postpone our diet until “tomorrow”. What is the reason for this behaviour?

Let’s try and trace it back to its source.  Try to continuously ask yourself why you are behaving this way:

  1. Why can’t I get up to exercise in the morning?
  2. Because I am always too tired in the morning -> why?
  3. Because I always stay up late -> why?
  4. Because I always go out to drink and party until late -> why?
  5. Because I have trouble saying ‘no’ to friends

You see? This is one of the reasons that is driving your behaviour. You need to work on being able to say ‘no’ to people. Can we dig even further? Why can you not say ‘no’ to friends?

  1. Because I feel as if I say ‘no’ to people I might lose them -> why?
  2. Because I am scared of being alone -> why?
  3. Because I don’t like myself and I have a limiting belief system that I can’t be happy on my own

This is simply an example for illustrative purposes. Notice that as you go down the list, if you changed any of the things on that list, it’s effectiveness would increase as you go further down the list. If you worked on number 5 – it would make a huge impact on numbers 1-4. If you worked on number 7, it would have an even bigger impact on 1-6. In this case, the belief system is what is driving all of these behaviours.

root-cause-behaviour

In the above example, can you trace the ‘whys’ even further? If you asked yourself why you have a certain belief system, they usually stem from wounds and experiences from the past.

You cannot change these events. The only thing you can change is how you let them affect you. You can change how you let these experiences dictate your future in the form of a belief system.

Note: Even though our belief systems are the root cause of our behaviour, there are definitely other factors which play a part. One of these is the formation of habits which is another topic of behavioural change which I will cover in a later post.

Changing your Paradigm

As you can see, the problem isn’t necessarily our behaviour. The problem is our belief system which drives this behaviour. This is what Stephen R. Covey referred to as our “paradigms”. In order to change our behaviour, we need to look at the root cause and make a “paradigm shift”.

Paradigm is commonly used to mean theory or a model. It’s how we see and interpret the world through our eyes. For simplicity’s sake Stephen R. Covey referred to them as our maps. We all know that saying “the map is not the territory”. The map is simply an explanation certain characteristics of the territory.

Do you have the right Map?

Imagine that you are trying to drive from Sydney to Melbourne Australia. You have been given a map of America. No matter which way you turn or use the map, it will NOT get you to your destination. You will be hopelessly lost. How frustrating would it be? To drive aimlessly and possibly never reach your goal?

This is similar to working on your goals with the wrong map or belief system. You could work on:

  • Your behaviour – you could increase your productivity. Work hard and diligently each day. It would not necessarily help you reach your goals faster
  • Your attitude – you could work on your positivity and mental resilience. This would make the journey more bearable but it still wouldn’t let you reach your goal

The problem isn’t your behaviour, your attitude or physical resources. The problem is you have the wrong map or belief system! Once you have a map of Australia, only then does everything else start becoming more relevant. You need to work hard. You need to be diligent. You need to have the right attitude. These qualities will make a huge difference to your journey but first and foremost you need to have the right map to follow.

Your Map affects your World

Each of us have a number of different maps. The two main categories are:

  • Maps of the way things are
  • Maps of the way things should be

Everything we experience is seen through the lens of these two maps. We don’t question their accuracy because we often assume that they are correct and that everything we see is an actual “fact”.

From these maps stem our behaviours and attitudes. The way we think and act are a direct source of how we see and interpret things in our lives.

Optical Illusions and Conditioning

Do you remember seeing all those cool optical illusions floating around on social media? They are trippy as hell, aren’t they? That’s because you are literally seeing something visually that is different from objective reality. Your brain is tripping out because it perceives what it sees as “true and correct” even if you have been told that it’s an optical illusion. It’s often really hard to see the real object until you have been told how the illusion works. Once you have been told the truth about the illusion, what you see literally changes!

In the above example, your perception changed after a few seconds of being told the truth about the optical illusion. This is probably because you haven’t been staring at the optical illusion for a long time.

Imagine if you were exposed to that optical illusion without being told the truth behind it. Imagine that it’s always been part of your life and you have just accepted it as a fact. This is what our paradigms are like after years of social conditioning and reinforcement of the same idea.

The “Aha” Moment

These changes in your paradigm or “paradigm shifts” are analogous to the “aha” moment that people have. The stronger the belief of the old paradigm is, the bigger impact the “aha” moment will have.

The term “paradigm shift” was identified by Thomas Kuhn who noted that it was a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. What this means is that every new discovery or breakthrough in science literally involved “breaking” the old traditions and theories that were thought of as being correct.

This is also true in fields outside of science. The earth being round is a good example. Thousands of years ago, it was thought that the earth was a flat surface. This was not only perceived but ‘known’ to be true. Until they discovered that the earth was round and it literally blew their minds and shifted their paradigms upside down!

When Henry Ford envisioned the V-8 engine, he was repeatedly told by the engineers that it was impossible. Ford wanted a single casting V-8 engine. All V-8 powered cars during that time were cast in two or three pieces that were bolted together. These were the rules that were assumed to be true. Henry Ford broke them all in 1932!

The four-minute mile which was thought to be impossible until Roger Bannister broke it in 1954. Since then there have been many other athletes who also achieved it. What changed? Did everyone around the world suddenly become better distance runners over night?

No. Their paradigm shifted. Their belief systems changed from “It cannot be done” to “How can I do this?”.

If you want to make a change in your life, whether it be positive or negative. You first need to change your belief systems and perceptions.

Changing your world, one small paradigm shift at a time

Paradigm shifts can happen in an instant or can happen slowly over time without the individual noticing. It does not even have to be super dramatic. I want to conclude this post with an excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in which Stephen R. Covey shared one of his paradigm shifts:

“I remember a mini-Paradigm Shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.

Many people experience a similar fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life-threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.

It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.

In the words of Thoreau, ‘For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.’ We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.”

Stephen R. Covey - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Note: After reading this, the obvious question is: “How exactly do I do it?”, “How can I change my paradigm?”. Everyone is different. Everyone resonates with different things. Everyone experiences different emotions to the identical stimuli. In that sense, it would be conceited of me to give a generalisation of how to change your paradigm. All I can do is explain the concepts to you and give you some ideas. What you decide to do with those ideas is up to you. Whether you find the change you are after in these pages or somewhere else. Whether it happens instantaneously or over time. Just remember:

Change your perception and it will change your world.
Toni

Toni is management consultant by day and an amateur powerlifter also by day.. he sleeps at night. He loves to strive for personal development and he achieves this through training, reading and maybe even writing.

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