A Candy Cane Paradigm
I recently put over 75 large candy canes in my yard for Christmas. I homemade them out of PVC pipe and red duct tape. I believe good Christmas decorating has a theme, and mine is “Candy Cane Lane.”
I was talking with my neighbor who lives across the street and two houses down. He said my candy canes look like they are scattered across my lawn randomly, but that’s just his perspective. I told him if he walked directly in front of my house, he can see the magical Candy Cane Lane.
How often is that true in our lives? If you change your perspective, a path becomes clear.
I have always felt that perspective is the answer to everything. Our perspective is just our thoughts, our paradigm about the world. Steven R. Covey said we all have paradigm maps that we build first, then follow. We make maps of how we view and treat our loved ones, how they should treat us, how to best navigate our job, and how we feel we should interact with the world and vice versa.
Sometimes, a part of our mind map has been constructed in such a way where it makes it more difficult than it needs to be to navigate.
The best example of what I mean can be found in Christmas movies.
Often, in movies the main character has a huge problem and the big solution is just a huge thought change. A paradigm shift. A mind map edit.
The Grinch hates Christmas with a passion and wants to ruin it until he hears the Whos singing and has the thought “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store?” Then everything changes.
Buddy the Elf doesn’t feel like he belongs until he helps Santa with his broken sleigh and has the thought “maybe I am needed.” Then everything changes.
George Bailey feels like he should have never been born until Clarence the angel shows him a world without George Bailey and he has the thought “maybe me existing was a good thing.” Then everything changes.
With the new perspective in mind, the main character can navigate through their problem and do whatever action is needed to be done to save the day.
The same is true for us.
The funny thing is, these paradigm shifting realizations usually aren’t something new, something we haven’t heard before. The new thoughts that “saved the day” have probably been offered to our main characters before, it just didn’t take root.
So, the million dollar question is, what makes paradigm shifts stick?
In movies there are a series of events the writers create that lead to the climax-building paradigm shift. But what if the main character had the power to shift their paradigm without all the drama? The movie might be a little boring, but a lot of time and energy would be saved. That’s not good for movies, but it’s very good for real life.
You have the power to shift your paradigm whenever you want, to flip your map rightside up to see the clear path and to feel the way you want to feel.
The first step is realizing that what makes you feel anything is not the things outside of you, but the thoughts inside your head.
Maybe you’re like the Grinch and you feel Christmas has lost its meaning. Realize that it’s not anything about Christmas that is causing you to feel that way. It’s the thoughts you’re choosing to hold on to about Christmas.
Maybe you’re like Buddy the Elf and you feel like you have been rejected by someone you love. Realize that it’s not what the person has said to you that is causing you to feel that way. It’s what you are choosing to think about what they said.
Maybe you’re like George Bailey and you’re doubting whether or not you existing is a good thing. Realize it’s not your struggles or perceived failures in your life that is causing you to feel that way. It’s your thoughts about your struggles or perceived failures.
Recognizing that things outside of you don’t cause you to feel emotions, but it’s the thoughts you focus on that do, is the first step toward shifting your own paradigm without a dramatic Hollywood plot line.
Because here is the kicker, you may think that in each one of those movies it was the events, or the circumstances outside the main character that caused them to shift their paradigm and choose a new thought in the end. “It’s easy for them to change, they got help from the writers!”
But there is a version of the story where the the Grinch hears the Whos singing and he still throws the sleigh full of presents over Mount Crumpit; where Buddy fixes Santa’s sleigh, saves Christmas, and he still walks forlornly out of New York; where George Bailey sees a version of the world without him and he still jumps off the bridge.
If that happened, the audience would be screaming at the screen, “why would you still do that to yourself??” But how often can a hypothetical audience watching our life’s movie yell that at us? By the way, I love to picture my hypothetical audience as future, successful me watching “now me.” Future Me knows how great things turn out and really wants Now Me to push through the trial.
For example, I had a client who was thinking that he wasn’t good enough to get a job. He was just finishing college, his grades didn’t put him at the top of his class, and he sometimes stuttered or stammered during interviews. His mind map told him these things meant he wasn’t good enough to get a job and it was making him feel hopeless.
As we talked, I helped him see that his feeling of hopelessness wasn’t coming from his average grades or trouble communicating. It was coming from the thought he was holding on to, “I’m not good enough to get a job,” which wasn’t even true. Lots of people with straight C report cards get jobs, a C says you have mastered 75% of the material and that’s a lot, and there are all kinds of companies out there looking for workers of all skill levels.
His big climax-inducing paradigm shift came in choosing the new thought, “There’s a job out there that is right for me.”
Now, he still has the choice to think “I’m not good enough to get a job” and go on feeling hopeless, but if he did that Future Him, who has landed a job and is supporting his family, would be throwing popcorn at the screen and yelling “why would you still do that to yourself!”
It’s not our circumstances that can change our paradigms, it’s us deciding to change our paradigms that changes our paradigms.
Like my neighbor, we can walk two houses down to see the magical Candy Cane Lane whenever we choose to.
And trust me, choosing to shift a problem paradigm in your life truly has magical results.