Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Paradigm Shifts of the Past Ten Years

In celebration of the dawning of a new decade tomorrow, I detail significant changes to the lens through which I view the world from the past decade:

1) The way I'm oriented toward/view other people matters, and is independent of behavior. I can perform the same act with at least two different ways of being. For instance, I can walk across campus lost in my own thoughts (in which case all the people I see are objects to me), or I can walk across campus and when passing people, occasionally focus on one person, reminding myself of the humanity of that person: he or she has hopes and frustrations and disappointments and uniqueness just like me. This shift came from reading "Leadership and Self-Deception" by the Arbinger Institute and helped me realize when I'm "in the box" toward people or not. Similarly, I can give a compliment with the exact same words and intonation and body language and everything, yet view that person as an object (means to an end) knowing that humans usually respond positively to praise. Alternatively, I could give the compliment in the second case identical in all external ways, yet be oriented toward/view the person as a person, just like me, with private thoughts and stresses and dreams and a background and relationships.

2) Leadership has primarily two focii: A) accomplishing group tasks and B) developing followers. People expect leaders to get things done. However, if a leader stops at results, I think that leader stands to gain from a broader view of leadership- leadership like that Christ exhibited. Christ probably could have accomplished many tasks more effectively and efficiently than His followers (e.g. by assigning tasks to angels); yet, He instead delegated to and trained His apostles and other disciples. He knew that leadership is about training and helping followers to progress as much or more as it's about ensuring the trains get to the station on time.

3) Most tenets of contemporary evolutionary theory are quite sensible. This insight is a product of lots of thought, reading a ton (including the influential "Finding Darwin's God" by Kenneth Miller), earning a bachelor's degree in biology, and fasting/prayer.

4) When a person expresses a feeling, he or she usually wants one of two things: thing 1- to be heard, thing 2- problem-solving advice. One of the most common mistakes people (especially men) make is to respond with advice when what is wanted is to be heard. I got to the point after talking about this insight with my sister that when one of the us expresses a feeling, the other just asks straight out if person A wants listening or problem solving help. This practice has helped me refrain from my strong impulse to propose solutions when listening to her and other friends.

5) People's expectations are usually a result of their zeitgeist (culture of their place and time), and most cultural norms are more arbitrary than intelligently designed (else why the prevalence of deleterious norms and the staggering cultural diversity evident in the world today and historically?). Folks generally want their expectations to be met more than they want any given person to behave authentically. Our expectations of ourselves and others derive from the agreements we make with the scripts we are fed during childhood. Most of us are thoroughly domesticated. (see http://gigamaster.blogspot
.com/2009/03/domestication-and-dream-of-planet.html (read the part starting with "What you are seeing and hearing right now is nothing but a dream"))

6) I can raise my commitments kept/commitments made ratio far above the status quo by using my palm pilot.

7) The majority of human experience of love and attachment is biological (specifically, neurochemical). I don't find this reality offensive, since learning to manage a body is a primary purpose of mortality. This insight derives from my education in the disciplines of anatomy, nutrition, evolutionary biology, social psychology, marriage preparation, and a bunch of ancillary research (such as Fisher's "Why we love: the nature and chemistry of romantic love").

8) My testimony of the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ has matured from what it was as a child; though it is still based on my faith in Jesus Christ and constituted by revelation from the Holy Ghost, that revelation is customized to my understanding, which is vastly different now that it was when I was ten. My thinking is more sophisticated- and often the revelation, though simple, fits in that framework in a way understandable to me and accompanied by feelings of peace and assurance.

9) By receiving the Atonement, I can learn from my experiences without being condemned by them. A fuller discussion of this principle is found in Bruce Hafen's "Covenant Hearts." By uniting (at-one) with Christ and the Infinite Atonement, my imperfections are subsumed. E.g.- if I unite my 35 cent debt with a 10 trillion dollar surplus, I haven't affected the net balance much. If instead I unite my finite imperfections and sins and trials with the infinite strength and absolving power of Christ's atonement, my deficit can truly become zero, much as a function may be considered to equal zero at some point if it approaches zero quickly enough without necessarily touching the x axis (the function's limit- see and Tad Callister's "The Infinite Atonement"). Receiving the Atonement does more that compensate for faults or restore me to a guiltless state, however: it can also take me far above the impotent condition of an innocent babe to the level of an intentional, Christlike potentate like the prophets and men of God I admire.

10) #10 is a composite shift I entitle, "why we believe what we believe." First tenet: Rogerian persuasion is effective. I learned this method in a persuasive writing class I took. Instead of starting out by undermining your opponent's arguments, begin by affirming them. Make the opponent's strongest arguments first, make sure they're all out there on the table, and only then introduce your arguments. It's sort of a "yes, you have a good point that ____ and _____ - but have you considered..." approach. Because the person feels heard, he or she may be more open-minded about relevant factors not yet considered. This tenet leads into the second - tenet two: we exhibit a predilection to prematurely take positions on issues (i.e. weighing in before considering all relevant factors). Because we are 1) prone to overestimate our own certainty (ask me for a ten question quiz test you can take to see my point, 2) generally ill-informed, 3) subject to dirty tricks of persuasion and manipulation (start with page 22 of and research foot-in-the-door, camel's nose, low-ball, bait 'n switch, that's-not-all and door-in-the-face compliance gaining techniques) and 4) likely to be influenced by dozens of substantial cognitive biases (, people should as a rule take only tentative, rather than emphatic, positions on issues (e.g. the performance of President Bush or abortion or global warming or the effects of eating close to bedtime or the parenting skills of your mother). Instead, people choose to take sides, establish positions, and offer resolved opinions and unqualified criticisms in all areas of life, thereby creating a psychological need to seek evidence supporting the position (confirmation bias) rather than ensuring an environment conducive to conforming one's views the closest available approximation of truth. This shift has led me to conclude that folks are almost universally more confident in what they believe than is merited. This conclusion has yet to be seriously upset by subsequent insights.

11) Okay, so I pledged 10 and this is eleven. I just really wanted to include it.
I can do anything I want, any time I want! Though this statement is an exaggeration, the scope of my agency from moment to moment truly is gargantuan. Right now I could jump up from the keyboard and arrange a trip to Bolivia, for instance. Or send a mass text insulting all my cell phone contacts. Or go throw a DVD case repeatedly at the back window of the neighbor's. Also, most behavior is constrained not by physical limits, but by norms. Example: a missionary says he can't contact an investigator. However, if you offered that same missionary 10,000$ to find the investigator, she would probably find a way to contact the investigator. (If you or a friend says "I can't..." try applying this "10K rule" test). It's not that there doesn't exist some physical means: it's just not customary to take many of the means that actually exist. Example 2 (another missionary one): inviting 30 people to be baptized. The norm is only to invite taught investigators to be baptized, so it'd take a week or more to accomplish that task: yet, one can conceive of dozens of ways to accomplish this objective outside of normative behavioral bounds (like asking the question as a GQ, or broadcasting an invite, or handing cards to people with that invitation). Usually you can do in a day what it takes most people a week to do.


  1. This made me think. So much. Thank you for sharing your insights and testimony. I feel so priveleged to know you. :)

  2. I should try #6. #11 - so true.

  3. while I lack a palm pilot I subsituted my MacBook Pro and feel that I too can do # 11 with the help of my MacBook Pro.


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