This is a semi-transcript from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. My words are at the end. “If you want to make significant improvements in your life, the key is to change your paradigm. If you want to make small improvements, change your character or attitude. For monumental changes, change or shift your paradigm. Character and attitude are effects of the major underlying cause of your paradigm.” Stephen Covey Here’s an example: There is a man in a subway with several children. The children are wild, running up and down the place, climbing all over, upsetting and disturbing all the other people waiting for the train. A man was just observing the scene and noticed everyone’s’ irritation with the children, and their father just sitting on a bench looking down most of the time. So the observer, now irritated as well, approaches the man on the bench and says: “Sir, your children are so upsetting to so many people, don’t you think you can control them better than this?” with irritation in his tone. The father looks up and says: “Oh ya, I know, we just got back from the hospital …and… they lost their mother… my wife. I guess they don’t know quite how to handle it, I don’t know how handle it either… I guess.” Imagine you’re in that situation. Would you have a paradigm shift? Didn’t you have one just now? We see the man totally differently, don’t we? What if the irritated observer tried to change his behavior a little and not speak with irritation in his voice, or have a little better attitude about it or smile about it. But he gave no effort to see the situation from another frame of reference. When a fundamental change took place in the way he saw that situation, the man wanted to help the children, entertain them. The observer replied to the father: “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry about their mother and..your wife. Can you…can you tell me about her? I’m so sorry.” See, in his new frame of reference, character and attitude spontaneously and sincerely come out of him. We don’t consciously work on behavior and attitude, what you do is work on your paradigm, then the behavior and attitude will automatically begin to change. Me: In other words, when we try to make changes in our life but only improve small traits about ourselves—such as our tone of voice when speaking to people, or how we handle annoying kids—we only change character or attitude. If we were to actually see an entire situation from another perspective, like empathizing, our character and attitude would adapt to the situation automatically without us having to work on those specific traits. Traffic example: Someone is tailing you. We have all been there and it is annoying. Maybe we get pissed, give them the finger, slow down passive aggressively, whatever. Then the car speeds up, passes and drives on. Meanwhile you’re thinking “FU Bro.” Now, what if instead you thought, “Those people must be in a hurry, possibly late for work (been there) or going to the hospital.” Haven’t we all been in a hurry and have not been able to explain to other drivers why we are going so fast? Looking at situations from the point of view of the other person, not just yourself, opens up powerful windows to change. We begin to empathize and feel what others are feeling. This is what leaders do. Except they do it all the time. There is very little opportunity to get emotional as a leader. Next time life gives you this situation at work, while in transit, at home, with friends, whatever, try to empathize and see the other person’s reasoning. Forget about yourself a little. In my world, I don’t avoid something I’m not good at. It’s the opposite, I face it head on. But I also don’t seek it to better myself, I let it come to me. You see, it would be easy to force yourself into a situation and come out the victor. “Oh, today I’m going to purposefully spill coffee on myself so that I face that fear.” This would be pointless because you know it’s going to happen. In life, we face the greatest difficulty in the spontaneous. When something blindsides you, that’s when your reaction means the most. That’s when permanent learning takes place in the mind. Setting yourself up will not create the same effect to the brain. Try to see it from that perspective for one or two days. Take whatever comes at you and react from the intellect, not from emotion. After a while there won’t be any situation that shakes you, or anything that you must seek, because you will have trained your willpower to the point that it can take on any situation. You don’t need to build strength in specific areas most of the time, what we need is a foundation of strength, a foundation of solid character and attitude traits that we internalize. Then we don’t actually work on the situation itself, our nature being strong handles it by itself.