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Paradigm Shift: Our Paradigm Shifts

Regular readers know that in our September Wicked Wednesdays, we’re looking at paradigm shifts.

Originally a concept brought into general consciousness by physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn and applied to natural sciences, paradigm shifts arise when the dominant paradigm under which normal science operates is rendered incompatible with new phenomena, facilitating the adoption of a new theory or paradigm.

Or as we laypeople think of it, when the weight of new evidence is not simply additive, but causes us to rethink the entire framework through which we view or experience something. A fundamental shift in our ideas and practices.

I’m curious, Wickeds. Can you give us an example of a paradigm shift in your own life–a time when you had to give up an old idea or way of doing something and adopt a new one in light of new evidence?

Edith/Maddie: The biggest one was my divorce twenty years ago. I had been deeply unhappy for years and all my efforts to improve the relationship had failed. As my sons (ages 15 and 12) began to look for love in their own lives, I stopped worrying about how a split would affect them. I decided to stop modeling a contentious, dysfunctional marriage and instead support them through into a new way of living. We all came out better for it, including my ex-husband, but it was a huge step to take. I’m delighted to report my boys are both in happy, functional marriages (or soon-to-be-married, for the younger one) – as am I!

Jessie: What a thought-provoking question, Barb! I think for me an especially good example of this was a lightbulb moment I had about three years ago when I first completed the Couch to 5K program. I had not thought of myself as someone who could run since I was in elementary school. I completed the training program and blew my own mind. As soon as I got over the shock I asked myself what else I had erroneously believed. Not long after that, I bought some watercolor painting supplies and set about tackling a one-hundred-day project where I painted something new every day for 100 days. By the time I was done I had acquired oil painting supplies and had set up a tiny studio in the corner of my kitchen.

Barb: I love that you thought about your self-imposed limitations and set out proactively to broaden yourself, Jessie! I don’t think I’ve ever done that. For me a paradigm shift definitely occurred when my kids left home. I hadn’t expected to break a sweat. In fact, I was pretty excited, for them launched on new adventures, and for my husband and me, no longer tethered to the house. Much to my surprise, I experienced a profound sense of dislocation. I realized I had defined myself for years as a person who had excellent work-life balance– too much of each. Who was I now that I wasn’t that person? And what was our marriage now that it was no longer an elaborate childcare enterprise? It took time and conversation to make that shift.

Sherry: There have been a lot of paradigm shifts in my life. However, one of the biggest was going from Vice President of Marketing for a financial planning company to Air Force wife and stay-at-home mom. At the same time we moved from Cheyenne, Wyoming to the Los Angeles area. So there I was pregnant, with no friends, no job, and navigating a very different world, on and off base, than I was used to. I had to reinvent my entire life and all the concepts of who I thought I was.

Liz: What a great question, Barb! I’ve had to do this a couple of times, the first when, like Edith, I found myself super unhappy in a marriage and looking to get out, which set off a whole chain of events that resulted in me realizing I didn’t have to live my life the way other people expected me to and I could go off and figure it out on my own. Then again last year when my corporate job blew up and I realized how truly unhappy I’d been there and that I didn’t actually want to be in that environment anymore, at least not in. the same way. So I’ve spent the last year thinking about what I really want out of work and how it fits into the life I want, instead of the other way around. It’s been scary and awesome and incredibly freeing.

Julie: Change is hard. Paradigm shifts require being open to change, and also to rethinking what you’ve always assumed. Like Jessie, one example for me was when I decided to run a half marathon 10 years ago after a lifetime of not being considered athletic. That was a huge shift for me, and helped me realize anything is possible, but not without effort.

Readers: Tell us about a paradigm shift in your own life.

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