The Examined Life Gets Results

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”~Socrates.

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get what you look for in life.  We have all heard these statements before and I believe they are general truths. While none of us are omnipotent (or if you are give me a call there are a couple of things I’d like to talk with you about) with absolute control over every aspect, and influencing factor in our lives we are ultimately responsible for our lives, including the paradigms we hold.  By extension we are also responsible for the ways in which these paradigms influence our choices and actions, and the resulting outcomes.

Paradigm is one of those words that becomes “buzzy”, is tossed around and its’ meaning muddled. So what is a paradigm?  It is a pattern or relationship of ideas to one another that creates a model forming that basis of something.  These ideas are deeply rooted and below the surface of our general awareness, and shape our actions accordingly. A paradigm could be empowering or limiting. All to often paradigms are limiting for most people. I like to think of these as the self-saboteur’s rallying cry.  (Self-saboteurs, or “Gremlins” are the unconscious thoughts  that whisper, shout and repeat negative stories about you and me. “Gremlins” manifest from our insecurities and self doubts. Slanderous ratfinks that can just mess with your mind and focus.) Or they have served you well at one point in your life, but are no longer useful.

Jinny Diztler* presents an elegant thought-provoking model for closely examining paradigms, using four questions coupled with task of creating a new paradigm. The four questions are designed to peel back your limiting beliefs and your corresponding behaviors. Consciously or not we act in line with our beliefs. A positive attitude or belief is a fine foundation, but nothing will become of it without purposeful action.  The right attitude and mindset is exponentially more likely to lead to strategic actions that lead to desirable outcomes.

Simply thinking about weighing 15 pounds less alone has yet to result in weight-loss.  While a paradigm of “I embrace the values and habit of a healthy person” sets a different tone, creating a platform to act accordingly. Such as building in time to exercise at least 3 days a week, noting these in your calendar with the same level of importance as doctor’s appointments. Developing a weekly shopping list that includes wise snacks and the makings for nutritious lunches to take to work. That in turns leads to improved eating habits and making exercise priority, both reflecting the values and habits of a healthy person.

Using Ms. Ditzler’s approach offers a clear lens to examine your life, uncovering important, sometimes surprising patterns of thoughts and actions.  Once these are laid bare you can decide to think and act differently, putting the power and responsibility for your life squarely in your sphere of influence. Ask yourself these four questions, answering without thinking too much, allowing your intuitive answers to bubble up.

1. How do I limit myself?

Sample answers:

  • I don’t stand up for myself at work.
  • I am let myself get away with the minimum.
  • I believe my opinions don’t’ matter.

2. What has this cost me?

Sample answers:

  • A promotion.
  • My self-respect.
  • New skills.

3. How have I benefited?

Sample answers:

  • My life is “comfortable.”
  • Making sure people like me.
  • I don’t get disappointed.

4. Am I ready to stop? Yes  or  No

Why bother with the four previous questions, knowledge.  Facts do not correct limiting paradigms; these are our personal truths we hold to be self-evident. The more information you have about your negative beliefs, the more you have to work with in order to make a deep-rooted lasting change. You will have a clear picture about what you have been focusing on and now can answer this question: What you would prefer to focus on? The answer to this question will lead to your new paradigm.

The simplest way I know to create a new empowering paradigm is to flip the old paradigm on its head.  Five criteria that ensure your new paradigm is empowering are make it: 1) personal, 2) positive, 3) powerful and simply stated, 4) present tense and 5) pointing to a compelling future that is grounded in an existing truth. Getting the wording for your new paradigm just right may take several tries. The extra time and attention is worth it. This is your new operating framework, you need it to be as finely tuned, and vigorous as possible.

Limiting Paradigm Results Empowering Paradigm Results
I’ll never be loved.  No dates and no  friends. I give and receive love freely. Warm circle of friends. 
Only greedy people want to make money, but I deserve to make more. I spend more than I earn. Money comes to me in abundance, because I earned it. I am financially able to care for myself, family and community. 
I can’t do what I truly wish to do. I stay dissatisfied with my life. I have what I want because I work for it. Learning a new skill to help me shift into a satisfying career. 
No one is going to be interested in developing soft skills in this market. Limited marketing efforts. Creative, practical and generous I confidently offer my service to others. Consistent marking efforts resulting in new contracts.

Your new paradigm will take time to coalesce. Creating a new way of thing or doing -a new habit- requires practice and reminders. Writing out and posting your paradigm where you will see it every day will help to reinforce it. Here are some creative ways to do this, courtesy of my clients. Using it as a screen saver on your computer. Post it on the inside cabinet door so you can see it each morning when you get the cereal out. Carry it in your wallet.

Check your actions and decisions against your new paradigm to help it become your new operating framework. “How well do these align with my new paradigm?”

*Read Your Best Year Yet for her full discussion.

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