“Where we stand depends on where we sit.” -Nelson Mandela
I was recently reading a book called “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. (If you haven't read it yet, it's one I would definitely recommend. It's well written and one of the best books I've read this year.)
Steven Covey, the author, describes the term paradigm in a way that I had never thought of before. According to Covey, a paradigm is our perception, or frame of reality. A paradigm is the belief structure within which we think and act, but the paradigms we are viewing the world through can produce tunnel vision in not only our relationships but every aspect of life.
Covey writes “remember how your ancestors used to think the world was flat? That was a paradigm. It affected how they saw the world (literally!) and how they behaved. Some people thought Columbus was nuts because he wanted to sail to the edge. They believed he would fall off the edge of the world. But he didn’t. That was their paradigm.”
We see the world not as it is, but as we are. If I was to describe the world, I would, in a way, be describing myself. Projecting my view onto the world. The way you see the problem is, to you, the problem. Someone else might see the situation through a completely different paradigm and therefore the problem would be different for them. We will always project our intentions on others and other's behavior, because no matter how hard we try we will never be completely objective. Your experience is unique and shows what is right for you and how you live your life. My experience has show. What is right for me and predicts how I'm going to live my life.
There isn't a perfect way to live your life or a correct way to view the world. We all have different needs and different histories therefore we all have differing correct answers and opinions. The best way to get along with people in our lives is to realize this fact. You don't have to agree with them, but in order to understand the person emotionally and intellectually, you have to put aside your paradigms and look through their glasses for a minute. Don't try to figure anyone out through your paradigm. It's impossible. Simply affirm them, don't necessarily agree with them, just seek to understand what makes them tick. Seek to understand how their paradigms were shaped and you will understand why they act the way they act.
Once you realize that where you stand (how you're viewing a particular individual or situation) depends on where you sit. (your paradigms, belief structures, and values)