As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages again, I’m reading Stephen Covey’s darling of the self-help genre, international best-seller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s oriented toward the individual but I’m sure the same lessons can be used for a group or nation of individuals.
In the book, Covey starts off by differentiating between personality and character ethics as being totally different paradigms from which we improve ourselves or solve a conflict (such as war). If we focus only on personality ethics, he says we are merely scratching the surface of whatever is holding us back. We have to dig deeper into our own character to see why we are navigating from the personality characteristics we act out in the first place. He uses the analogy of a map: Most of us study our life maps intensely to see how we can get somewhere more efficiently, but we never question if we are even using the right map. If we are in New York, we shouldn’t be using a map of Chicago, for example.
Our life maps are of the way things are, or our realities, and of ways things should be, or our values. We interpret life through these maps, often without question. We go wrong when we try to change/solve a problem while living from faulty assumptions. “To try to change outward attitudes and behaviours does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviours flow.”
I guess that’s how two people or groups of people can see the same situation so differently: they perceive their reality from two different paradigms and try to solve a conflict accordingly. I guess many of our paradigms are about blaming other people/ethnicities/countries for our own misfortune.
I see a further need to explore the deep paradigms in my own life in order to permanently solve the chronic issues that hold me back. No matter how disciplined I am, I won’t get very far until I figure out why I’m doing the things I’m trying NOT to do. I know all too well that high of getting my personality in order for a period of time, then suddenly falling off the wagon. I have to ask myself: why am I choosing to fall of this wagon? Because no one else is pushing me off, after all. I then ask myself, why do battling countries keep falling off the peace wagon?
Recently I received an email from a well-known raw-foodist who seeks to inspire others while making his own journey of meaningful existence. He wrote that his ego is getting the best of him and questions his ability to inspire others when he himself feels chronically unworthy and unhappy. His problem isn’t falling off the wagon of his own well-developed, good habits (excellent diet, methods of nourishing mind/body/spirit), but it seems he’s fallen off the confidence wagon. He’s seeking some “thing” and without it, he inevitably goes back to feeling unworthy and unhappy.
In Covey’s sense, I think he’s going back to the blueprint to see why this is happening, forcing him to again go deeper and ask the tough question: why is he doing what he’s doing in life? Why does he feel the need to inspire people? What paradigm is supporting this belief?
Just as I write this, I’m reminded of a video that I posted at work the other day. Simon Sinek says we should start by asking why.