What is a "Paradigm"?

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, a paradigm is "a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly: a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind."

So much for dictionary definitions. Can it be put simpler?

In a sense, we each have our own set of paradigms or glasses through which we view the world. These personal viewpoints of the "way things are" may cloud our ability to perceive or consider new or different ideas, especially if they seem to be in conflict with our perception of what is reality or "truth."

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution in which he developed the concept of a "paradigm shift". Kuhn argues that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions", and in those revolutions "one conceptual world view is replaced by another".

In recent years, the terms "paradigm" and "paradigm shift" have spilled over into general usage and have been applied to areas outside the strictly "scientific" arena, although Kuhn himself considered the concept of paradigm as appropriate only for the natural sciences.

A "paradigm shift" may be thought of as a change from one way of thinking to another. It does not just happen, but rather it is usually driven by agents of change.

It can be described as a popular, or perhaps, not so popular shift or transformation of the way we humans perceive events, people, environment, as well as life itself. It can happen on an individual, national or international scale, and can have a dramatic effect (positive or negative) on the way we live our lives in the present and in the future.

This section contains quotes and examples on the subject of paradigms with particular emphasis on how one can expand one's perceptions to think "outside the box."

If all of this seems somewhat confusing, reading the following quotes may prove to be enlightening.

- Grant M. Bright, Editor

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.
- Thomas Huxley

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
- Marcel Proust

The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.
- Julia Cameron

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
- Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.E.)

One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.
- Marie Curie

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
- Anais Niin

Without the aid of prejudice and custom I should not be able to find my way across the room.
- William Hazlitt

We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us.
- George Eliot

How hard it is, sometimes, to trust the evidence of one's senses! How reluctantly the mind consents to reality.
- Norman Douglas

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.
- John Kenneth Galbraith

The Wright brothers first flight was not reported in a single newspaper because every rookie reporter knew what could and couldn't be done.
- Edward R. Murrow

If you don't get out of the box you were raised in, you won't understand how much bigger the world is.
- Angelina Jolie

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
- Rene Descartes

If you never climb a hill, you will never know it is different from a plain.
- Texas Bix Bender

Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.
- Jules Renard

Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.
- EH Gombrich

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
- Bertrand Russell

Before I built a wall, I'd ask to know what I was walling in or out.

The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.

With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
- Aldous Huxley

First umpire: "There are balls and there are strikes, and we call them as they are."
Second umpire: "There are balls and there are strikes, but we call them as we see them."
Third umpire: "There are balls and there are strikes, but they ain't nothing until we call them!"

Whenever I dwell for any length of time on my own shortcomings, they gradually begin to seem mild, harmless, rather engaging little things, not at all like the staring defects in other people's characters.
- Margaret Halsey

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.
- Leonardo da Vinci

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
- John Locke

The body travels more easily than the mind, and until we have limbered up our imagination we continue to think as though we had stayed home. We have not really budged a step until we take residence in someone else's point of view.
- John Erskine The Complete Life, Chapter 8, Foreigners

When a large American steel company began closing plants in the early 1980's, it offered to train the displaced steelworkers for new jobs. But the training never "took"; the workers drifted into unemployment and odd jobs instead. Psychologists came in to find out why, and found the steelworkers suffering from acute identity crisis. "How could I do anything else?" asked the workers.
- Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

I wear my wife's eyeglasses because she wants me to see things her way.
- Jayson Feinburg

We do not really see ourselves. All mirrors are in fact quite useless except the living, human mirrors who reflect us: They do not lie.
- Francois Mauriac

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
- Albert Einstein

What you see depends on what you thought before you looked.
- Eugene Taurman

Every person is really three people:
The person they think they are.
The person others think they are.
The person they really are.
We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.
- Max DePree, Leadership is an Art

You see but you do not observe.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Bird to fish: "How's the water?" Fish to bird: "What water?"

We don't know who discovered water, but we are certain it wasn't a fish.
- John Culkin

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

Two men were walking down a busy city street. "Listen," exclaimed one. "What a lovely sound of a cricket." The other looked at him in puzzlement. "How can you hear a cricket amid this din?" he asked. The first man replied, "Iím a zoologist." He took a coin from his pocket and dropped it on the crowed sidewalk. Immediately, the people around stopped and began to look down. "We hear what we listen for," he explained.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
- John Lubbock

Just because something has always been done in a certain way is never a sufficient reason for continuing to do it that way.
- Clarence Birdseye

What a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see.
- Thomas S. Kuhn

(like so many significant items floating in cyberspace, the author is unknown)

The U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that size used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were designed and built during the Industrial Revolution by English expatriate engineers to accommodate English-built locomotives.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that was the gauge they used.
Why did they use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tooling that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
OK, why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old long distance roads in Europe and England. This was due to the old wheel ruts worn into the road.
So, who built these old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The thoroughfares have been used ever since.
And the ruts?
The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying wagons, were first made by the Roman war chariots. These chariots were designed to be pulled by two horses hitched side-by-side. In order to roll smoothly, the chariot wheels had to be spaced far enough apart to avoid the hoofmarks left by the horses, yet not protrude past the flanks of the horses to prevent entanglement with opposing traffic or roadside vegetation. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
Thus, we have the answer to the original question.
The U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Two thousand years later, and a continent away, the track layout of the entire U.S. railway network is based upon the fact that Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the rear-ends of two war-horses.
Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are presented with a specification and wonder if some horse's ass is responsible for it, you may be exactly right.

The older you get, the more you like to tell it like it use to be.

We see the world as WE ARE not as IT really IS.

Almost every significant breakTHROUGH is a breakWITH.

A large ocean liner was headed across the Atlantic from Portsmouth to New York. As it neared its destination at night, a lookout on the wing of the bridge reported "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." "Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out. The lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant that that they were on a collision course. The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees." Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees." The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees." "I'm a seaman, second class," came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees." By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, This is the mighty ocean liner, HMS Franconia. Change course 20 degrees." Back came the flashing light, "This is a lighthouse, suggest you change course 20 degrees." Needless to say, the ocean liner changed course!

The old system has two advantages over the new one: it is established and it is understood.
- Colton

Point-of-view: Traveling thru New Emgland, a motorist stopped for gas in a tiny village. "What's this place called?" he asked the station attendant. "All depends," the native drawled. "Do you mean by them that has to live in this dad-blamed, moth-eaten, dust-covered, one-hoss dump, or by them that's merely enjoying its quaint and picturesque rustic charms for a short spell?"

The real problem is that PERCEPTION is all there is. There is no reality as such. There is only perceived reality, the way each of us chooses to perceive a communication, the value of a service, the value of a particular product feature, the quality of a product. The REAL is what we PERCEIVE.
- Tom Peters & Nancy Austin

You see best what you think you are SUPPOSED to see.
- Joel Barker

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin

To illustrate how easy it is for a group of people to get "locked in" to a certain way of looking at things, try this experiment with a group: (Good exercise to illustrate Group Think)
1. Pick a number between 1 and 10.
2. Multiply it by 9.
3. If your number is two digits, add them together to make one number.
4. Subtract 5.
5. If your number is 1, remember the letter "A", if 2, remember "B", 3 = C, 4 = D, etc.
6. Think of a country that starts with that letter.
7. Think of the second letter of that country and then think of a mammal whose name starts with that letter. Now think of the color of that mammal.
Chances are pretty good most of the group picked a gray elephant from Denmark!

It's always easy to see both sides of an issue we are not particularly concerned about.

It's not reality that's important, but how you perceive things.

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.
- Al Neuharth

One person's constant is another person's variable.
- Susan Gerhart

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
- Mark Twain

Houdini was imprisoned in a specially designed new prison cell, and was challenged to escape. Using a small metal strip he had concealed in his clothing, he struggled for 2 hours to open the lock. He started to get weary and frustrated, finally slumping against door, which swung open! It had never been locked! We mentally create our own locks and limits.

Titles tend to lead to mentally imposed restrictions. "I'm a ________, and therefore I don't know anything about _________ . (or "therefore, that's not my job.)

To see ourselves as others see us, It would from many a blunder free us.
- Robert Burns

I like my tailor. He takes my measurements anew each time he sees me, whereas others expect me to fit old measurements.
- G.B. Shaw

Mental Scotomas: "holes" in your consciousness that prevent you from "seeing" different viewpoints and perceptions. If you're not looking for something you probably won't find it!!

The fish only knows that it lives in the water, after it is already on the river bank. Without our awareness of another world out there, it would never occur to us to change.

Live your live with conscious choice rather than through unconscious programming. The observing consciousness is the vantage point from which we see our life from an objective point of view. Anytime you are experiencing a situation that doesn't seem to be working for you, exercise the observing consciousness:
Exercising the Observing Consciousness:
1. Observe your emotions; what am I feeling?
2. Observe your thoughts; what are the thoughts, judgments, attitudes or perspectives I have that are causing these emotions?
3. Look at your only options:
- change the situation
- change your thinking about the situation
- leave the situation
- stay stuck

Too see your drama clearly is to be liberated from it.
- Ken Keyes, Jr.

The President Paradigm:
Name the five American Presidents NOT buried in the United States.
What is your paradigm? What are you visualizing? Re-examine the problem, break it down.
1. We are looking for five American Presidents
2. These five are not buried in the United States - which means:
a) They are buried in foreign countries
b) They are living!
The five Presidents are: Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama

Your attitude and behavior are a function of your paradigm. For example: It's Sunday morning, you are enjoying a quiet ride in the subway - no crowds. A man with several children gets on. The children act rowdy, shouting, disturbing others. You become irritated and finally say "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people, I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more." The reply comes slowly: "I guess I should...We just came from the hospital...Their mother just died about an hour ago and I guess...I don't know what to think...I guess they don't know how to handle it either..." You have just experienced a paradigm shift that puts the situation in new light.
We all see things differently. Similar to putting someone else's glasses on. See things distorted, but they don't see things that way.

My reality check just bounced.

Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimension.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Let me dispel a few rumors before they fester into facts.
- Robin Williams, from "Dead Poets Society"

A farmer once went to the county fair with a pumpkin that was the exact size and shape of a two-gallon jug. His pumpkin won the blue ribbon. When someone asked him how he grew a pumpkin to look like that, he said, "It was easy. As soon as it started to grow, I stuck it inside a two gallon jug - and here it is!" In the same way your life situation, your view of the world around you is shaped by the container you hold it in. Such beliefs can put a lid on potential. You might be a golfer who averages 90 for 18 holes. One day you're on your way to a 70 at the 16th hole. You say to yourself, "This isn't like me!" Hearing that, your subconscious makes sure you put the next ball into the woods or the sand. At the end of 18, you have your usual 90 average. "That's more like me" you say to yourself. Your subconscious will work hard to match whatever you believe on the inside with what you see on the outside.

POINT OF VIEW: Two guys were sitting around the campfire when one of them spotted a grizzly bear approaching. He immediately got up and went in his tent. The other guy followed him in and notice that he was putting on his running shoes. "What are you doing that for," he asked. "You know you can't outrun a grizzly!" "That's true," the first guy replied, "but in this case, all I have to do is outrun you!"

Russian Olympian Vasily Alexeev was trying to break a weight-lifting record of 500 pounds. He had lifted 499 but couldn't, for the life of him, lift 500. Finally, his trainers put 501.5 pounds on his bar and rigged it so it looked like 499 pounds. He lifted it easily. Once he had created this new reality, other weight lifters went on to break his record. Why? Because they now knew it was possible to lift 500 pounds. The limits we set for ourselves exist in our minds. Sometimes, if we let our hearts do the talking and believe in our ability to overcome past perceptions, we can create another reality.

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.
- Nobel Laureate, Albert Szent-Gyorgys

Habits are like a cable - we weave a strand of it every day and soon it becomes very difficult to break.

Habits are like gravity - they pull on us. Just like a rocket, once it escapes earth's pull, it floats free, but it requires a lot of initial energy to break free. So we can break free of bad habits if we put enough energy into it.

Ancient maps and the symbols on them can be used to demonstrate the "paradigm" of the times - the thinking of the people and civilizations that drew the maps.

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
- Albert Einstein

HeartHuman RelationsKindness
MindHuman ResourcesContribution
SpiritManagement by PrinciplesMeaning

He who is good with a hammer tends to think that everything is a nail.
- Abraham Maslow
(Some people who think that everything is a nail, are down on themselves because they are not a hammer. They tend to deprecate their own unique talents and capacities to use a chisel or a pair of pliers.)

While driving along, a man noticed a woman driving behind him waving her arms and acting kind of oddly. Finally she passed him and shouted out to him "Pig". He leaned out of the window and shouted madly "Sow". Immediately after that the man hit the pig.

Framework of reference: A woman conducting a survey into sexual behavior was questioning an airline pilot. She asked him, finally, when he had last made love. He replied, "1956." She was most surprised, pilots being what they are. "Nineteen fifty-six?" she asked. "Well it's only 2216 now," he replied, looking at his watch. A joke involves a sudden switch from one framework of reference to another. This sudden switch of frames of reference is the kind of lateral thinking that can often generate creative ideas.

People hear and perceive exactly what they WANT to hear. This was illustrated by a speaker trying to convince a group of alcoholics the evils of alcohol. On the platform he had what appeared to be two identical containers of clear fluid. He announced that one contained pure water and the other was filled with undiluted alcohol. He placed a small worm in the container while everyone watched as it swam around and headed for the side of the glass, whereupon it simply crawled to the top of the glass. He then took the same worm and placed it in the container with alcohol. The worm disintegrated right before their eyes. "There," said the speaker. "What's the moral?" A voice from the rear of the room said quite clearly, "I see that if you drink alcohol, you'll never have worms!"

Sometimes we complain about the resistance we sometimes encounter when trying something new or learning a new skill. Remember, however, that the kite flies highest when it faces the stiffest winds. Working against and overcoming such resistance will result in superior performance.

Some people steer by the light from the stars, while others steer by the lights from each passing ship.

Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use what one already knows.
- Seymour Papert

Societies need rules that make no sense for individuals. For example, it makes no difference whether a single car drives on the left or on the right. But it makes all the difference when there are many cars!
- Marvin Minsky

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
- Kurt Vonnegut

Your family recently moved to a new neighborhood. Next to you lives another family who had a rabbit for a pet. Your family owns a dog who loved to chase rabbits. One weekend the neighbors went skiing. That Saturday, your dog shows up on your doorstep with the neighbor's dead rabbit. Oh no, what shall we do? So, you wash it off, blow dry it and put in back in it's cage. The next week you see your neighbor. "Hi! how was skiing?", you ask. "Fine," your neighbor replies, "But you know a strange thing happen to our rabbit while we were gone." "Oh," you ask innocently, "What happened?" "Well, our rabbit died last Friday and we buried it before we left, but when we came back we found it all cleaned up and lying in its cage!?"

A bank teller cashed a paycheck for a customer. The customer took 3 steps, then stopped, and said, "Excuse me, a think you made a mistake." The teller immediately responded "I'm sorry, but I can't do anything for you. You should have counted it. As soon as you walk away we are no longer responsible." Whereupon the customer replied, "Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20."

POINT OF VIEW: Hold up a quarter to someone else so s/he can see the head side and you can see the tail side. Ask them to describe what they see. When they say "George Washington", etc. get a puzzled expression on your face, then eventually disclose: "No, its not. Its an Eagle", etc. reflecting what you see on your side. Dramatically demonstrates how we view things differently.
- Grant M. Bright

The RULE book for baseball defines - 9 players, role of pitcher and catcher, other 7 can be anywhere on field. GUIDE lines define 1st, 2nd, 3rd basemen; shortstop; right, left and center fielders. However, care should be exercised that GUIDELINES don't become RULES! Be flexible. Example: switching shortstop to right side for left handed batter.

A GYROSCOPE demonstrates how, over time, we can become fixed in our ways, personalities, and, as a mature person, psychologically resistant to change. With EFFORT, however, we can make changes. We are not today exactly what we were yesterday. We are almost imperceptibly different. We do change with time and we can control to an extent the direction of the changes.
- Grant M. Bright

The lives of many of us could be compared to the making of a clay vase. When the clay is soft, the potter shapes, molds and throws it. The potter then puts it into a kiln and fires it. It is then no longer possible to re-shape it. We are "shaped" by our experiences as we go through life. Unfortunately, many of us allow the fires of prejudice to harden us so that it becomes very difficult for us to re-shape our thinking or try to understand someone else's point of view.
- Grant M. Bright

A white man was unsuccessful in trying to catch monkeys. Native took a narrow mouth pot and placed cookie at bottom. Monkey reached in grabbed cookie, but couldn't remove hand. Was stuck didn't think of letting go! We don't want to get trapped into fixed methods of doing things to the point where we can't see any other way. Babies tend to do the same thing (grasping reflex) "lock-on" to finger, can't let go.

In an experiment, a scientist place a number of fleas in a glass jar. They quickly jumped out. He then replace the fleas back into the jar and placed a glass plate across the top opening. The fleas began jumping and hitting the glass plate, falling back down into the jar. After a while, the fleas, conditioned to the presence of the glass plate, began jumping slightly below the glass plate, so as not to hit it. The scientist then removed the glass plate as it was no longer need to keep the fleas in the jar. Do you create your own "glass plates" that keeps you restricted?

We tend to gather information to support our dominant beliefs (whether they be right or wrong!).

MENTAL CONDITIONING: A barracuda was starved, then put in large tank. A glass pane was inserted and a mackerel placed behind it. The barracuda banged itself into the pane five or six times, then conditioned itself to stop just short of glass pane. The glass pane was then removed. The barracuda continued to stop just short. A second barracuda was placed in tank - it quickly caught the mackerel thus "blowing" the first barracuda's mind!

Zones that correspond to our current self-image in any particular area of life, within which we effectively and efficiently perform tasks & exercise skills.
We feel very uncomfortable outside of that comfort zone.
Example # 1: $100 bill at end of 14' board, 14" wide, laying on floor. We would have no problem walking to end of board and retrieving $100. However, if board was extended from the edge of a building, 50 stories up in air, most of us would not attempt to retrieve the $100!
Example # 2: Driving across a bridge over a canyon. Bridge has railings along side, yellow lines showing lanes, etc.- we feel comfortable. What if we remove the yellow lines and take down the railings. We now feel uncomfortable and probably would not drive across bridge - BUT WHAT HAS CHANGED? It is all based on our mental perceptions.
Sometimes "rules" and "guidelines" can present a false sense of security. When taken out of their comfort zones, people tend to recreate their old comfort zone.
Example: Tear down slums and put up high-rise; high-rises become high-rise slums!

BELIEF creates the actual fact.
- William James

It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.
- Roger von Oech

Whatever you resist, persists.

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.
- Aristotle

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
- Aristotle

End of Quotes on "Paradigms & Perceptions"


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