You are free to create your own paradigms instead of simply accepting those presented to you by others.
Russell Eric Dobda
The way I look at the concept of a Paradigm Shift is a shift in thinking that is totally fundamental.
As an example, I remember a story that illustrates this, though I cannot remember where I heard it first. The gist of it is suppose you are on the subway, and there is a man with his children are on board. The kids are young, loud and running around and disturbing the other passengers. All the while the man just sits there staring, doing nothing. Another man see’s this and gets angrier and angrier at the scene and the father’s lack of control over the children.
Finally the man speaks up and says to the father “why don’t you do something about your children?”
The father shakes his head, as if noticing for the first time and says, “we just came from the hospital where their mother just died of cancer. I don’t know how to handle it, and I guess they don’t either.”
Bam! The other man just experiences a Paradigm Shift. He goes from being angry, having interpreted the situation one way, then totally shifts to feeling sorry for the father and the children.
This may be a fictional story, but I’ve had these shifts in thinking from time to time. Usually it is when I gain a new perspective.
Much of my experience in mid-life has been a slowly developing Paradigm Shift.
My expectations of my life when I was young were idealistic. Somewhere along the lines of: go to school, go to college, get a job, move out of the parent’s house, find a girl and from there it gets more conceptual. This was the programming I had, and in my mind, life would be good. Partying with friends on the weekend, making love on the kitchen floor, travelling the world, having my own pad, doing whatever I wanted.
This isn’t exactly how the script went. Yes, I did get an education, got a job, got a wife, had kids, got the home etc. But it wasn’t the conceptual utopia I thought it would be. The jobs were lousy to start, I ran up a lot of debt, both student and consumer, money was tight, raising kids is hard, navigating a marriage ultimately beyond my ability.
Holy shit, what happened! This was a Paradigm Shift gone askew!
Paradigm Shift Revisited
What I have come to realize, is that in my case, I was simply following my programming, what I thought I was supposed to do. I was naive and oblivious. I was thrown into the proverbial abyss (god I love being melodramatic).
It was, and still often is, a disconcerting place. Life is not always easy, especially as an introvert and prone to psychological issues such as anxiety.
Where I’m at now in terms of my interpretation of this is that I need to keep focus on my Purpose. Nothing fancy here, just a theme for my life of what my true values are and how I live and express those values. These help keep me making good decisions that move me in a positive direction, rather than flail about haplessly.
My more philosophical self realizes that there are other heavy factors at play. Things like becoming aware of my mortality, experiencing my body aging, dealing with diabetes, facing the death of loved ones, managing relationships and work etc.
Those are huge topics. On top of that, I wonder as a man whether I have good role models for navigating this. In my case, my parents are loving and supportive and I never really struggled growing up with money or security.
However, society is changing fast, women are in the workforce fully now. The image of the 50’s household is gone. We don’t stay with one employer for our entire career. I really feel in many ways, the modern man has to try to discover and forge what it means to be a man in modern society. Women are now equal partners, for example, but we are still sold the masculine, patriarchal model for how to be.
This isn’t a cop-out, I’m just puking out some thoughts that run through my overactive mind.
Navigating the Journey
Navigating middle age is an ongoing process. For me it is keeping my sights on my values, opening my mind to new ways of thinking, and making decisions consistent with my values. I may not have an exact model to guide me, but I have to create that myself.
I have experienced disillusionment, maybe even a mid-life crisis. Who knows? I see this in so many others as well, especially young folks that also had bought into the school, career, live happily-ever-after model of life.
I think it would be good to help teach our younger generations to think more about values and Purpose, rather than milestones. Maybe then as life unfolded, they wouldn’t suffer the negative Paradigm Shift and avoid what I experienced!
What are your thoughts?
Image Courtesy of Julien Belli