Continuing from my previous article on “Sri Lanka needs a paradigm shift” (Daily FT of August 18) I would like to focus on the ever so important “Self Paradigm” which is also an insight from Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
The Criterion to measure the development of a nation is not only GDP and per capita income but also personal ethics, integrity, honesty and accountability (the values) of its people. If we analyze Sri Lanka as a nation where are we in this context? Whether it is the business community, public sector or private sector can we truly be happy with the rate things are progressing. Are we going back as a nation?
“Self Paradigm” according to Covey is the way we see ourselves. If you try to stand apart from your self, try to project your consciousness upward into a corner of the room and see yourself in your mind’s eye can you see yourself almost as though you were someone else? “Self awareness” makes us stand apart and examine even the way we see ourselves. This is the most fundamental Paradigm of effectiveness.
If the only vision we have of ourselves comes from the social mirror, that is the perceptions, opinions and Paradigm of people around us, it is not the real vision. It is merely a projection and character weaknesses of people giving the input rather than accurately reflecting on what we are. This means we are determined by conditioning and conditions around us. According to Covey all this is based on stimulus and response theory. However what is amazing is between stimulus and response; man has the freedom of choice to think differently. Covey says in addition to self awareness, we have “imagination”, the ability to create in our minds, “conscience”, deeper awareness of right and wrong, and “independent will”, the ability to act based on our self awareness. This is something unique to humans. It’s a human endowment.
A basic habit of a highly effective person is “proactivity”. It means more than merely taking initiative.-it means as human beings we are responsible for our life. The ability to choose your response is responsibility – response – “ability”. They do not blame circumstances, conditions and their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice based on values.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said” no one can hurt you without your consent”. Gandhi said “they cannot take your self respect if we do not give it to them”. It is our willing permission; our consent to what happens to us that hurt us far more than what happens to us in the first place. Though it seems impossible to accept emotionally that’s what proactive people do. Once you practice it will become a part of your life.
The essence of this article is who ever you are, what ever you do, what ever the position you hold, you choose to be what you are. Whether you want to be a person with integrity, honesty and accountability is your choice, you cannot blame the conditions for your decisions.
If only we Sri Lankans are willing to take a look at ourselves or our “self paradigm” we will be able to become a nation of integrity, honesty and accountability. It will definitely be a conceptual revolution within Sri Lanka.