We are all products of our environment. Family, economic conditions, schooling and experience, just to name a few,  shape the lens through which we look at life. As decisions are made or opinions formed, this lens or paradigm is key in how we arrive at the conclusions we draw.

Often we have strong opinions or reach critical decisions without an awareness of how we did it or that this “lens” even exists. In addition, we can argue with someone about their views or perspective all the while being ignorant to the fact that they may have a different lens then we. In Stephen Covey’s landmark work, “the 7 habits of highly effective people,” he talks about seeking first to understand, then to be understood. This attitude and skill takes a while to develop but is key to solid conflict resolution in life. We simply must realize that each individuals paradigm is shaped by their unique journey  the same way ours is. We must exercise keen listening skills,empathy,and grace if there is any hope of understanding.

Secondly, lets remember that we are hopefully learning and continuing to grow and shape our lens as we move through life. This is helpful and should bring hope to those who are struggling with a difficult situation or are stuck in some sort of life issue. Although we are shaped by circumstances, this is not the end of the story. If we ignore our will or our ability to grow beyond our situation, then we have missed a great deal. Stories of triumph over less than ideal circumstances litter our history as well as the lives of some of the most famous people in the world of self development. Tony Robbins, for example, was at a point of being destitute and broke before he became one of the most recognizable people in the self improvement industry. General George Washington had been dealt a bad hand as well. His army was under funded, lacked leadership and the experience of the British and dealt with bad weather yet still he, and they, triumphed.

In summary this ability lies within us, the answers and determination are within our control. We must take responsibility for propelling ourselves forward and growing beyond the present condition. At times, it can seem daunting and certain things we are unable to control but understanding the difference is wisdom. Next week we will dig in to some of the nuts and bolts of moving ourselves in the proper direction and shaping our lens.