Why am I stuck?

How much our perception has control over our behavior is jaw-dropping.

What do you see? What if that isn’t real?

Suppose you are driving on the street of San Francisco wearing a set of VR goggles. With the goggles on, you have fancy navigation that shows you where to go. The trade-off is you cannot see the real world. I know this sounds scary, but you trust the system. In this nearly perfect representation of the world, you are following the arrows to cross a bridge…

Except, there is no bridge. The VR goggles has it all wrong and in real life, you are driving in Boston, and where you are headed to is the ocean.

Paradigm, or map

We, in real life, cannot see reality as it is but merely the representations of it. Stephen Covey calls this perception the paradigm. Paradigm is like a map, with the right one, you can navigate to where you want to be. You can see things closer to what they truly are and have much better judgment among them.

You might want to take off the VR goggles all together. Why not right? The problem is, you can’t. We see the world through representations and interpretations. A famous experiment in Harvard Business School showed this clearly.

Paradigm shift, or swapping maps

In the center image of the following trio, what do you see?

A young lady? or an old woman?

If you see a young lady, try to imagine her necklace to be the mouth of an old woman. Do you see her now?

If you see an old woman, you know what to do. The mouth of the woman is the necklace of the young lady.

What you experienced is called a paradigm shift. In the two scenarios, you interpreted the lines and geometries of the image differently so you see two representations. As a young lady, that line is a necklace and as an old woman, that line is her mouth.

This experiment caused some debate between students when it took place in Harvard for the first time. It’s difficult for a person who sees a young lady to recognize the old, and vise versa. Not until people exchanged details on what they see, did they find the other interpretation plausible.

“Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right.” — Stephen Covey

Brutally insightful.

Finding an effective paradigm, or suitable map

While there is no right or wrong to view this image as a young lady or an old woman. If you ask the person who did this portrait who they drew it for, there must be a truthful answer.

There is interpretation closer to truth, and in terms of the city map, you want it to be effective to get you where you want to be.

Suppose you get a text message from your spouse saying, “I can’t stand it! It’s time”. Semantically speaking, while it is not wrong to interpret it as the time to quit their job nor to mow the lawn, misinterpreting it may get your relationship in trouble.

That is why getting rid of the VR goggles is impossible. You live in a subjective world, and you will never be any other person. You are you and nothing more. To navigate in reality, what you need to do is to find the effective paradigms and upload them to your goggles.

Throw away that San Francisco map when you are in Boston.

While the truth might never be revealed, it is the search for the truth that is beautiful.

Content inspired by the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Would you mind sharing your thoughts in the comments below to support the community we are building? Please consider subscribing and get one insight into life every day. :)



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Po H

Po H

I coach for happiness. I take the stance that life is here for you to enjoy! 😉 When the foundation is taken care of, whatever you do will be a success! 😎