Paradigms are powerful. They teach us how to live and what to value. The first time I really learned about the word paradigm and how they affect us I was deep into my Human Training Program (AKA College). I was a junior at First College within Metropolitan State University and in a class called Perspectives. We should be given this class the second we come out of our mother’s womb. I can’t think of a more necessary experience, examining all the different viewpoints and possible ways to perceive life, and learning how to actually think, not just digest facts to later be regurgitated onto paper. One of the best insights I gained from our teacher John was that we are lifelong learners. Our voracious desire to grow and evolve doesn’t have to get snuffed out after college, or our masters, or our doctorate or whatever formal training we go through.
As we developed from little bitty babies into children, and then to difficult teenagers and young adults full of angst, our family taught us how to live not only by example, but also by the encouragement that they gave us throughout our growth and development. What they chose to reward within our behavior and what they acknowledged as our successes and failures has hardwired us.
The fundamental expectations of a life well lived most of us were spoon-fed seems to go something like this:
1) apply to go to college,
2) choose a major of study,
3) graduate and find a “good paying” job within your field,
4) meet someone of the opposite sex,
5) buy a house,
6) get married and have children
(maybe you buy a boat, maybe you don’t),
7) live out your life in your chosen career not questioning too much but definitely buying enough,
8) grow old with your partner while watching your children age,
9) and then eventually one of you dies.
That’s an over simplification and I’m making many assumptions, but you get the gist of where this is going. This is a paradigm, a framework. This is one option. If you’re currently on step 6 of this life plan and you’re happy and satisfied then I applaud you, excellent choices Human!
But what if you aren’t attracted to the opposite sex? What if you want to travel the world instead of going to college? What about your interest in playing the piano? Or building model trains? Or [insert your passion here]. Where’s the time for interests in your life that, well, give you life?
If this plan isn’t ultimately working to achieve your maximum enjoyment of life, then perhaps it’s time to consider another option. Maybe you started with this plan, everything was going great, the sun was shining and birds were singing and then, KAPOW! Something happened and you… *GASP* …CHANGED! Well, the future is not bleak and troubled for you, dear one.
A paradigm shift can be a long, arduous process. It can take generations to unfold in a society, or it can happen in one inspired instant within an individual.
The opportunity to break free from societal and familial paradigms that are not serving you is available at any moment. It’s not necessarily easy or instantaneous, because it’s shifting an entire perspective and way of life. But it is available. The amount of boats/diamonds/shoes/savings accounts/fancy watches you need to live a truly satisfying and meaningful life is possibly quite less than what you or your family may have lead yourself to believe.
Redefining success within our time and culture is one of the most relevant topics.
Money that we use is an imaginary construct that we place value on. In reality, it’s a piece of paper, a piece of metal. Money is a number on a screen. If suddenly we stopped placing value on it, imagine the shift in our society.
But it remains that we need a currency. We need something of value to operate within a world of commerce and trade. Hm.
What if that currency were a talent, a skill, an insight, wisdom?
What if instead of working in such a way that forces you to sacrifice health and happiness, you could follow your true passion of woodworking, teaching Samba to elderly in nursing homes, styling hair, teaching underprivileged youth mathematics, leading deep sea diving excursions.
Maybe you don’t need a complete upheaval in your work life, but instead of coming home and turning on the television or scrolling the Internet for 4 hours you revisit an old hobby or rekindle a past relationship that was stimulating and refreshing.
The measure of success that our culture has given us is monetary. This measuring stick doesn’t take into consideration your level of happiness or satisfaction. I’ve found that money can easily play into our fears and our insecurities. If we have a general sense of “I’m not enough,” money can be one of the substances that we use to fill in that gap. We strive to fill our bank accounts instead of healing the deep wound with, “I am more than enough.”
The entire universe is inside of you. The unbound potential living inside of you is radiant and beautiful. Your fears are not real, they are a construct of your trained mind. Your dreams are not only brilliant, they are also possible.
Whatever crazy hair brain idea you have or have been hiding amidst all your doubts and fears is probably amazing! You don’t have to sit at a desk in front of a computer for 8 hours if you don’t want to. I tried it, not even for 8 hours, and it was horrible! If you love parking your can in a chair and staring at a screen all day, AMAZING! DO IT! If you don’t, then STOP! There are literally one trillion other things you could spend your time doing. Riding a bicycle professionally, sailing across the ocean to bring your grandmother a cake, training your voice as an opera singer, becoming an expert on The Beatles influence on world politics, ANYTHING!
I understand some people have kids or a family to think about; they have a house to pay for. Not everyone is as footloose and fancy free as myself. And that’s ok, too! Come up with a plan! What do you want to change? How can you thoughtfully change your situation over time? What small changes can you make now to shift both your future and your happiness in this moment? The mind can trick you into thinking you’re stuck, but you never are.
Fear is an evolutionary protection mechanism that has ensured our species survives to this point in time. It gives our bodies adrenalin and cortisol when we need to protect ourselves from wild lurking beasts or to save our loved one from underneath a boulder. Oh, wait, I’m not a caveman anymore…We don’t need to worry about being eaten by a lion (unless you live in certain tribes in Africa or are a particularly careless zoo keeper). If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re on your laptop or spaceship cellphone that lives in your hand. You’re drinking your 50th caffeinated beverage of the day that fuels your perpetually worried mind.
Your life is not in any real danger, so you don’t need the Fight, Flight or Freeze response to kick in right now. But many of us are chemically operating out of this place on a daily basis. And it’s exhausting!
Fear is an evolutionary leftover that has overstayed it’s welcome and diminishes the amount of freedom, creativity, connection and radiance that we are meant to enjoy!
Another trick fear might play on us is this concept of, “I need to be busy or I’m not successful.” The amount of stress and workload begins to equate with success. We might even feel guilty when we’re taking time off or doing something that we normally enjoy. Because if we aren’t stressed, then we aren’t accomplishing something, and if we aren’t making money, then we don’t have value.
Sometimes the busyness of our daily life is what keeps us from our true calling. There’s so much mental clutter and distraction that we can’t listen to our heart of hearts. How many Instagram likes did I get on that photo? How many meetings do I have to pretend to be interested in today? How many sport practices do I have to drive my 20 kids to?
This is an invitation to create space, to breathe and to truly consider your options. No matter how old you are, how “deep” you think you are into your situation, it’s never too late. Give yourself permission to be beautiful, funny, adventurous, wild, meticulous, brave, outrageous, introverted, whatever the little voice in your heart is whispering, let it SHOUT OUT to the world. Share the gem that you are, in whatever unique way that unfolds. It might be a small shift that takes a day, or it might be a complete life overhaul that takes the next 20 years.
But will I fail? MAYBE!
But will people like me? NOT EVERYONE!
But will it be hard? PROBABLY!
But will I become a millionaire? NOT LIKELY!
It doesn’t matter what society thinks, it doesn’t matter what your parents think.
Now you get to decide for yourself, what do you truly value?
Maybe the answer isn’t immediate, but sit with it for a while.
Do you value money, prestige, recognition, and titles, or do you value love, honesty, connection, and creativity? And then begin to align your life around that value.
Change takes time. Enjoy the process, and don’t become disheartened with failure. Be gentle with yourself.
Ultimately, the thing that might be missing is your appreciation of yourself. The belief that you are enough, and that you have important insights or contributions to make in the world.
You are valuable.
Let’s begin to shift the paradigm of what a successful person looks like together, one inspired soul on fire at a time.