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A Habit of a Highly Effective Person

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Michael read the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, years ago.  He would retell a story from that book all of the time in conversations with all different kinds of people.  Every time he would tell it, it was like he, too, was hearing it for the first time. He would explain the lesson of the story and the importance of us examining this in our lives.  The point, or lesson to be learned, is called a paradigm shift...."but whether they shift us in positive or negative directions, whether they are instantaneous or developmental, paradigm shifts move us from one way of seeing the world to another.  And those shifts create powerful change.  Our paradigms, correct or incorrect, are the sources of our attitudes and behaviors, and ultimately our relationships with other people."   The point of the story resonated completely with him and inspired him every time he dealt with a stranger.  He could be at a bank, restaurant, shopping,  or even on the phone with a stranger, and this story would define the way he treated people.  I was recently thinking about this fact and saw the irony.

Many of you may know the story, but it is a great reminder... as Michael would say.  The story takes place one Sunday morning on a subway in New York.
People were sitting quietly- some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed.  It was a calm and peaceful scene.  Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car.  The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.  The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation.  The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers.  It was very disturbing.  And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.  It was difficult not to feel irritated.  I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all.  It was easy to see that everyone on the subway felt irritated, too.  So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, " Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people.  I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?"  The man shifted his gaze, as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time, and said softly, "Oh, you're right.  I guess I should do something about it.  We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago.  I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."..... [a paradigm shift took place in the business man] everything changed in an instant.
Stephen Covey goes on to say later that, "if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms."  Our paradigms are the root at which our attitudes and behaviors flow. Michael worked on his basic paradigms everyday.  If someone he ran across throughout the day had a bad attitude or no joy, instead of taking an offense, he would try to consider where they have walked in their shoes.  He would look at it as an opportunity to practice patience and kindness.  He would say, "you never know what is going on their lives." His correct paradigm, the way that he saw the world, made a powerful impact on the lives around him.  It was the source of his relationships with other people.

The irony that I saw in all of this is that I am in the same situation as the father on the bus, not rambunctious children, but children.  This same story that Michael shared with someone on a weekly basis, is my story.  Any time I have gone somewhere in public these past 6 weeks, I find myself thinking, "What is this person thinking of me? Can they see it in my face?  Are they offended that I don't smile a good morning to them?  Do they see the weight on me as I stand or walk?  Do they think I am being rude because I give them one word answers?  Do they think I am not friendly? When they say, 'How are you today?' and I look at the ground as I say, 'Good', so that they won't see that I am lying, do they think, ' Well, good day to you too!' "  Are there paradigm shifts going on around me or is everyone just thinking, "Well! She is an unhappy person!"  A couple of weeks after Michael's death,(It is still hard to write that word, death.), I had to go to Apple store to make some changes to his cell phone.  My close friend and my daughter, Julia, went with me.  It was pouring down rain outside and the store was packed with people.  We were told we had about 30 minute wait, even though we had an appointment.  It was my first outing and the air was heavy to me, conversation was a chore.  The young man finally came to help us.  I know I looked depressed, unhappy, and uninterested in trying to be friendly.  He did not appear to be overly friendly at first either, but when I  began to cry as I told him that my husband had died and I needed some help making changes to some options on his phone, he quickly whisked me to the back corner of the room to a stool.  He calmly and gently tried to take care of the needs that I had with the phone.  When we were finished, he placed his hand on my arm and said, "I am so sorry about your husband."  He had a paradigm shift.

I, too, have had my own paradigm shift.  I see the world differently now.  I see people differently now.  I can only hope to run into to people like Michael, who have a correct paradigm, and will consider what it has been like to walk in my shoes.

4 comments:

Anonymous Says:
April 7, 2011 at 8:25 AM

My,oh my. It is inspiring to see what is unfolding in your life. The transformation, in reading your words, is tangible. There is nothing harder than rejoicing in the midst of all things when those things seem so absolutely wrong. It seems so inadequate to say what you are experiencing,and how you are experiencing it,resonates to the zenith, but it certainly does. As previously mentioned, I know Michael is evolving and surely is a master builder in that next phase of his being. Lives touched here, lives touched throughout eternity. Who he is continues.

LiNz Says:
April 7, 2011 at 8:31 AM

He did this exact thing with us the night we watched him sing. It was convicting, stopped me in my tracks and left me questioning myself; realizing I had not even taken the time to consider the woman's heart, life and reason behind her actions. It clicked that night...I have thought this many times since then! He was & still is such an amazing blessing. He taught me much, and continues to teach through your open heart. Love you much! <3

Anonymous Says:
April 9, 2011 at 6:09 AM

Reading your blog has caused a paradigm shift for me. Real change is so hard but I'm betting that my heart is not the only heart that is warming and my soul is not the only soul that is stirring as a result reading your story.

I am simply amazed at your strength and courage --and I thank you for your generosity for sharing in your darkest hour. I hope it brings you joy to know how much you are helping others.

swimmom1969 Says:
April 9, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Jene---- You are all still in my prayers.
Sherra

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