When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty good at guessing. I couldn’t see the blackboard that well from where I sat, so I learned how to recognize the patterns of the letters and numbers. But when I was preparing to go to junior high, I thought it would be worth getting glasses so that I could see the board. I knew I would be at a new school with new kids I had never met before, so I figured that would be a good time to make the change and get new glasses. If I wanted to see the board, I realized I would have to make a change. I couldn’t expect to see the board without doing something different. As much as I didn’t want to have glasses, I wanted to be able to see the board more. So I was willing to make a change. Because new situations require new paradigms.
You will face similar situations in your life. You may not want to have to change, but you will feel the pain of not changing is greater than the discomfort of doing something different.
I tell my clients all the time that if you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always got. The thinking that brought you to where you are is not usually the thinking that will get you to where you want to go. You have to be willing to change the way that you think. Because new situations require new paradigms.
Based on the parable Jesus told in Luke 5:36-39, here are three ways people resist making changes in how they perceive things.
1. Processing new situations with old paradigms
Jesus said people don’t sew a piece of new fabric on an old garment: the new garment gets messed up and the old garment doesn’t get fixed either. And Jesus said people don’t put new wine into old skins or else the skins will get messed up and the wine will get spilled.
Although Jesus said that people should obviously pour new wine into new skins, we don’t do that with how we think. We still try to process new situations with old paradigms.
When we come to situations similar to what we have dealt with before and things don’t work out the way we want—again—we tend to blame others or other outside factors. We tend to not accept responsibility for how we deceive ourselves into thinking things that just aren’t true. And we spend more time trying to justify our perspective than trying to understand if our thinking has led us astray.
We can’t believe everything we think. And yet we spend too much time trying to process new situations with old paradigms. Because new situations require new paradigms.
2. Not wanting the new paradigm
Jesus said that people who have drunk old wine don’t want new wine. We are the same way. We get used to doing things the way we have always done them. And we don’t have to have think differently than we always have.
Alan Jacobs describes this situation well in his book, How to Think: “we suffer from a settled determination to avoid thinking. Relatively few people want to think. Thinking troubles us; thinking tires us. Thinking can force us out of familiar, comforting habits.”
We like our “familiar, comforting habits.” Even if they are not helpful, they are familiar. And we are often content to stay where we are, instead of moving out of our comfort zone into what could be a much better situation. But we don’t want to take the risk. And we end up staying where we and not becoming who we could become.
3. Saying the old paradigm is better
Jesus said that people prefer the taste of old wine to new wine. And we are the same way. We allow our perceptions to be justified by our past experience. And we don’t want to have to be bothered with the facts.
Daniel Ariely summarizes our perceptions in his book, Predictably Irrational: “We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we make and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires—with how we want to view ourselves—than with reality.”
The choices we make today are influenced by the choices we have made before, even if they were poor choices. This is due in no small part to what Dr. Ariely calls self-herding. “This happens when we believe something is good (or bad) on the basis of our own previous behavior.” Dr. Ariely explains that doing something beforehand paves the way for us to do it again. If we do it a second time, that reinforces the decision to do it a third time—simply because we have done it twice before. We do things again simply because we have done them before.
Unless we use new paradigms to process new situations, then we will always get what we’ve always got. It comes down to results. How do you want your life to end up? What kind of results do you want to have in your life? Are you content with what you’ve always gotten up to this point? Or are you willing to make a change in how you see things and use new paradigms for new situations.
This article has been adapted from the #1 international bestselling book, Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew.
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