Paradigms and Principles


So what’s a paradigm?


A paradigm [pair-a-dime] is the way you see something, your point of view, or belief. When thinking of paradigms think of your own belief system. Paradigms are like glasses. When you have incomplete paradigms about yourself or life in general, it’s like wearing glasses with the wrong prescription. The lens affects how you see everything else. As a result, what you see is what you get. If you believe you’re dumb, that very belief will make you dumb.

We have paradigms about ourselves, about other people, and about life in general.



Stop right now and consider this question: Are your paradigms of yourself helping or hindering you? You may be wondering, “If my paradigm of myself is all contorted [twisted, or out of shape], what can I do to fix it?” One way is to spend time with someone who believes in you and builds you up. Ask any successful person and most will tell you that they had a person who believed in them…a teacher, a friend, a parent, a guardian, a sister, a grandmother. It takes only one person, and it doesn’t matter who it is. Don’t be afraid to lean on this person and to get nourished [feed to promote life] by them. Go to them for advice. Try to see yourself the way they see you.



We have paradigms not only about ourselves, but also about other people. If we want to make big changes in our lives, the key is to change our paradigms, or the glasses through which we see the world. Change the lens and everything else follows.

If you’ll look closely, you’ll find that most of your problems (with relationships, self-image, attitude) are the result of a messed-up paradigm or two. For instance, if you have a poor relationship with, say, your dad, it’s likely that both of you have a warped paradigm of each other. You may see him as being totally out of touch with the modern world, and he may see you as a spoiled, ungrateful brat. In reality, both of your paradigms are probably incomplete and are holding you back from real communication.



Besides having paradigms about ourselves and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. You can usually tell what your paradigm is by asking yourself, “What is the driving force of my life?” “What do I spend my time thinking about?” “Who or what is my life obsession?” Whatever is most important to you will become your paradigm, your glasses, or, your life-center. Some of the more popular life-centers for young adults include Friends, Stuff, Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Heroes, Enemies, and Self. They each have their good points, but they are all incomplete in one way or the other. They’ll mess you up if you center your life on them, but there is one center you can always count on. This will be discussed last.



There’s nothing better than belonging to a great group of friends and nothing worse than feeling like an outcast. Occasionally, they are fake. Sometimes they talk behind your back or develop new friendships and forget yours. If you base your identity on having friends, being accepted, and being popular, you may find yourself compromising your standards or changing them. Make as many friends as you can, but don’t build your life on them. It’s an unstable foundation.



We live in a material world that teaches us that “He who dies with the most toys wins.” There is nothing wrong with accomplishing things and enjoying our stuff, but we should never center our lives on things, which in the end have no lasting value. Our confidence needs to come from within, not from without, from the quality of our hearts, not the quantity of things we own. “If who I am is what I have and what I have is lost, then who am I?”



The ironic thing is that the more you center your life on someone, the more unattractive you become to that person. If you are centered on someone, you’re no longer hard to get. Second, it’s irritating when someone builds their entire emotional life around you. Since their security comes from you and not from within themselves, they always need to have those sickening “where do we stand” talks. You can usually tell when a couple becomes centered on each other because they are forever breaking up and getting back together. Although their relationship has deteriorated, their emotional lives and identities are so intertwined that they never fully let go of each other.


Other possible centers

Hero-Centered: If you build your life around a movie or rock star, what if they die, or do something really stupid, or end up in jail? Where are you then?

Enemy-Centered: You build your life around hating a group, a person, or an idea. This is often the case with gangs.

Self-Centered: You think the world revolves around you and your problems. This often results from being so worried about your own condition that you’re oblivious to the walking wounded all around you.


In case you were starting to wonder, there is a center that actually works: principle-centered.



We’re all familiar with the effects of gravity. Throw a ball up and it comes down. It’s a natural law or principle. Just as there are principles that rule the physical world, there are principles that rule the human world. Principles aren’t religious. They apply equally to everyone. If you break them, you will fail. It’s that simple.

Here are a few examples: honesty, service, love, hard work, respect, gratitude, moderation, fairness, integrity, loyalty, and responsibility. There are dozens and dozens more.

Principles never fail. It takes faith to live by principles, especially when you see people get ahead in life by lying, cheating, indulging, manipulating, and serving only themselves. What you don’t see, however, is that breaking principles always catches up to them in the end. A principle-centered life is simply the most stable, immovable, unshakeable foundation you can build upon, and we all need those.

Ironically, putting principles first is the key to doing better in all the other centers. Putting principles first is also the key to becoming a person of character.


How you feel about yourself is like a personal bank account. Let’s call it your personal bank account (PBA). Just like a checking or savings account at a bank, you can make a deposit into and take withdrawals from your PBA by the things you think, say, and do.


Possible Symptoms of a Poor PBA


Possible Symptoms of a Healthy PBA


Small deposits over a long period of time is the way to a healthy and rich PBA.



PBA Deposits                                                               PBA Withdrawals

Keep promises to yourself                                             Break personal promises

Do small acts of kindness                                              Keep to yourself

Be gentle with yourself                                                  Beat yourself up

Be honest                                                         Be Dishonest

Renew yourself                                                 Wear yourself out

Tap into your talents                                          Neglect your Talents


What Exactly are Habits?


Habits are things we do repeatedly.


Some habits are good, such as:


Some are bad, like:


And some don’t really matter, including:


Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do. Luckily you are stronger than your habits. Therefore, you can change them. For example, try folding your arms. Now try folding them in the opposite way. How does this feel? Pretty strange, doesn’t it? But if you folded them in the opposite way for thirty days in a row, it wouldn’t feel so strange. You wouldn’t even have to think about it. You’d get in the habit.


The 7 Habits of Highly Defective Teens


Habit 1: React

Be a victim. Take no responsibility for your life. Act like an animal. If you’re hungry, eat. If someone yells at you, yell back. If you feel like doing something you know is wrong, just do it. Blame all your problems on something or someone else.


Habit 2: Begin with no end in mind

Don’ have a plan. Avoid goals at all costs. And never think about tomorrow. Live for the moment. Sleep around, get wasted, and party on, for tomorrow we die.


Habit 3: Put first things Last

Always put off what you can do today until tomorrow. Make sure that things that don’t matter always come before things that you do.


Habit 4: Think Win-Lose

See life as a vicious competition. Your peer is out to get you, so you’d better get him first. Don’t let anyone else succeed at anything because, remember, if they win, you lose.


Habit 5: Seek First to Talk, Then Pretend to Listen

You were born with a mouth, so use it. Make sure you talk a lot. Always express your side of the story first. Once you’re sure everyone understands your views, then pretend to listen by nodding and saying “uh-huh.”


Habit 6: Don’t Cooperate

Teamwork is for the dogs. Since you have always have the best ideas, you are better off doing everything yourself. Be your own island.


Habit 7: Wear Yourself Out

Don’t learn anything new. Avoid exercise like the plague. Be so busy with life that your never take time to renew yourself.


These are habits that would be withdrawals from your PBA. Next we will give a quick description of the habits that would make deposits in your PBA.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens


Habit 1: Be Proactive

            Take responsibility for your life


Habit 2: Begin with the end in the mind

            Define your mission and goals in life


Habit 3: Put first things first

            Prioritize, and do the most important things first.


Habit 4: Think Win-Win

            Have an everyone-can-win attitude


Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

            Listen to people sincerely


Habit 6: Synergize

            Work together to achieve more.


Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

            Renew yourself regularly.


These habits will be explained in more detail in the next modules. These 7 habits are sequential [in order]. They build upon each other. Habit 1 comes before Habit 2 (and so on) for a reason.



Paradigms and Principles – Worksheet


1. What is a paradigm? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


2. Name five principles: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


3. Define habit: _________________________________________________________________________


4. Name the seven habits of highly successful teens: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


5. Think of a limiting paradigm you might have of yourself. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


6. Think of a loved one who has been acting out of character lately. Consider what might be causing them to act that way. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


7. When you have nothing to do, what is it that occupies your thoughts? Remember, what is most important to you will become your paradigm or life-center.  What occupies my time and energy? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


8. List a talent that you would like to develop this year. Write down specific steps to get there.

Talent I want to develop this year: ______________________________________________________________________________________

How do I get there: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


9. Make a list of the at least three talents of two people you admire most:


Person                                                                         Talents I admire:



10. List five strengths, or things you admire in yourself:

1. ____________________________________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________________________________

4. ____________________________________________________________________________________

5. _____________________________________________________________________________________________