The Power of a Paradigm



By Dr. Lisa Dunne.

“Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems, but because they cannot see their problems.” – John Gardner

When she was four years old, our daughter was overheard explaining her interpretation of the story of creation to her older brother. “Girls are made of wood,” she stated in pedantic fashion, “and boys are made of dirt.”  She paused. “That’s why boys have germs.”

Fortunately, her brother is a good sport.

Paradigms can be humorous or hurtful, but whatever their basic description, one fact remains: they impact our view of every relationship, every organization, and every circumstance. In many ways, paradigms guide our interpretation of reality. As Stephen Covey says in The 8th Habit, “If you want to make minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behavior or attitude. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms.”

Our paradigm is a vital component of our mental and physical well-being. When Paul exhorted the Philippians tothink on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy (4:8-9), he spoke of a conscious decision to focus our minds on what is good. Why? The lens through which we view our world dramatically impacts the trajectory of our lives. There is power in a paradigm. I love Adam Zagajewski’s poem along this line, “Praise the Mutilated World,” which was published on the back page of The New Yorker the day after 9/11 (read it here).

The poem embraces a blend of awareness, faith, and hope. It is not an ignorance of the world’s problems, but a willingness to roll up our sleeves and help where we are able—and a willingness to believe that change is possible. It means being positive yet pragmatic. This is the heart of optimism: not a disconnection from reality, but an unwavering trust in that which is greater (for a Harvard study on the impact of optimism on overall health, read here).

May you be enriched by a positively pragmatic paradigm today.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5