Every person on this planet wears a sort of pair of glasses through which they see the world. A set of lenses through which we filter and perceive life. These glasses are called paradigms. Paradigms are a sort of personally prescribed focus that are formed from things we’ve been taught, experiences, prejudices, opinions – everything through which we perceive the world.
As much as we would like to think that our paradigms are accurate or ideal or fail-proof, they are far from it. This is the problem with paradigms. The glasses we create for ourselves sometimes have blinders that prevent us from seeing the larger picture.
How can they be accurate if our field of vision is limited by personal comfort and happiness? How can they be ideal if our focus is biased to personal power and success? How can they be fail-proof if our peripheral vision only sees our own education, goals and dreams?
We need to shift our paradigms. We need to change how we perceive this world.
How do we do this?
The process of is really quite simple. It starts with thought.
“A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let a man think of something long enough, and he will become different. Thoughts turn into words, words turn to actions, actions to habits. It’s an interconnected sequence that begins with thought.
This is not only an intellectual and spiritual truth, it’s a physiological phenomenon.
In his book, Destructive Emotions, Daniel Goleman cites a recent study involving Buddhist monks. The scientists hooked the monks up to electrodes and told the monks to pray and meditate about loving and serving others (something the monks did on a daily basis) as the scientists monitored their brain activity. “Remove all thoughts of self” was the experiment, “and concentrate only on others.”
And the results were quite astonishing.
Scientists saw a dramatic increase in gamma energy – sparked in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with positive emotions.
What does the gamma energy do? According to April Benasich, professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark, “Research into the adult brain has shown that gamma activity is the ‘glue’ that binds together perceptions, thoughts and memories.”
Isn’t “perceptions, thoughts, and memories” the paradigm lenses through which we view the world? Yes!
Therefore, as seen in the study with the Buddhist monks, concern for others creates measurably greater gamma activity in the brain, a physical change, which brings greater cognitive and emotional well-being.
But scientists said this ability to create the positive energy that creates greater well-being requires ongoing practice.
The article said,
“As [we]…kick-start our gamma [energy by showing compassion to others], we find ourselves in an ongoing struggle with our own anger, greed, and fear. We lose sight of the fact that we’re all interrelated, and that connection is central to tapping into a spiritual wellspring… This is our daily dilemma… [But], those who counteract the tendency through practice [of good deeds and good thoughts] deepen their sense of belonging and free this latent energy.”
Ongoing practice of selfless thinking and doing good to others literally changes the physical structure and chemistry of our brains, giving us better cognitive health.
Just imagine: If all of us spent time simply thinking about others, envision what this world would become! We would be smarter. We’d be happier. Our needs and wants would rapidly diminish because we would all be meeting each other’s needs. What a shift! I want to live in a world like that, don’t you?
Let me give you an example of how one high school football team shifted their paradigms and how it changed their world for the better.
Joey is a Westmont High School football player. He’s the shortest and most un-athletic of the team. Even though he’s attended every practice and every game, Joey has spent the whole season on the bench. That is, until the final game of the season last semester. My brothers attended this game.
Westmont was killing the other team. At half-time the score was 33-0, so most of the crowds went home. My brothers stayed and said that the most exciting part of the game was in the final play. In the final quarter of the game, the coach put Joey in to play. And without Joey knowing, Westmont and the opposing team worked out a play that would change his life.
The quarterback threw the ball to Joey. He caught it and he ran toward the goal. My brother said the crowd stood and went wild. All of the Westmont players blocked, and the other team moved from Joey’s path and Joey ended up scoring the final goal for Westmont. When Joey realized what had happened – that he had scored the final goal of the game – he dropped to his knees in the end zone and cried. Then the team ran over, piled on him and hugged him. My brothers said it was the greatest football moment of the year.
Here is a news clip of the event:
Both football teams shifted their paradigms. They could have spent the last play of the game duking it out for the final points. They could have just let Joey fall to the side, unnoticed as he had been the entire season. After all, it was the seniors’ last game too, they would want their moment to shine, one last chance to score.
But that’s not what happened. They had enough sense to shift their focus to the boy who so desperately wanted to play for the team, and for one brief moment, they changed Joey’s life, their own lives, and everyone’s lives in that stadium. For one brief moment, they changed the world in which they lived.
The process of making a paradigm shift starts with thought – simple, thoughts. Thoughts turn into words, words to actions, actions to habits.
Here is my challenge to you: spend 5 minutes today, and every day for the rest of this week, thinking about someone else. Not you, not your homework, not your problems – I want you to shift your paradigm and think solely about someone else. Then, go do something for that person. That’s it. Five minutes/day every day, followed up by service.
Then, see what it does to your life. I can guarantee that your very brain chemistry will change. You will sense more happiness. You will feel more at peace. You will experience a brightness to your day. You will notice positive perceptions filtering your view of the world.
All because of a paradigm shift. Ironic how a change of focus can end up changing you.
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