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A New Paradigm, a New Life

Updated: Mar 9




A New Paradigm, a New Life

The word “paradigm” sounds like a powerful and strong word, and it is.  If you don’t know what it means I would encourage you to understand this concept as thoroughly as possible because it has the potential to change your life for the better. Knowing your own paradigm brings self-awareness.  This concept was best illustrated for me when I had to learn English.


Growing up in Chile, I had the privilege to attend a private catholic school just for girls and it was taught by nuns.  That was a wonderful experience for me.  The nuns were demanding and expected nothing less than excellence from us and they provided us with an excellent education.  Our mother could barely keep her 5 children fed and clothed, but she did not hesitate for one second investing on her daughters’ education.  The education was strict, rich, and abundant. Somewhere along the way, however, I came to believe that I could not succeed in English class.  Every semester was a struggle; unknowingly, to me I had created a paradigm that I couldn’t do it.  I became convinced that English was not for me and that the English teacher did not like me.  All those beliefs were my paradigm from which I perceived my inability to learn English.  My happiest thought on graduation day was that I never had to use English again for the rest of my life!  Little did I know that God had different plans for me.  A paradigm is a model, a frame of reference from which we perceive the world.  Often, we are not aware of them until we pay attention and begin to recognize them.


When I came to the USA newlywed at age 19, for the first three days my husband would be willing to translate from Spanish to English for me and then he stopped; it was probably too much work.  That pushed me to change my paradigm and start believing that I could learn English.  Not only did I learn but I also decided to go back to college and finish my college degree.  I was terrified of going back to school at age 30 and not being successful.  More than anything, I did not want my children to see me fail.  I went into this journey with the paradigm: “Failure is not an option.”   There were a few challenges lined up for me during this journey.   A couple of months into my first semester, my English professor at Salisbury University said to the Dean of the English Department: “She doesn’t belong here.”  He said it in front of me. I am not sure what I felt in the moment, I was so afraid.  The Dean’s response was very kind and supportive, he said: “Let’s wait and give her a chance.”  In that moment I knew I was going to make it.  I got an A in that class; I had found a way to make it.


My first grade I ever received when I went back to school was a D in a literature Spanish class.  When I received that paper back, I said quietly to myself: “What?  I speak better Spanish than you (the professor), I am a native.”  There were many tears during my first semester.  I would say to myself sometimes: “What am I doing here? Why did I not stay home and just bake cookies with my children?”  There was something pushing me forward and I needed to keep going.  I had to follow my heart and I had to keep changing my paradigm to succeed. I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I did not even realize that until I was in the middle of my graduation ceremony, and I was looking though the graduation booklet and my name had a few stars next to it.  Not only the paradigm “I can’t speak English” had changed but the one, “I can be a very good student” had changed for me as well.  I smiled and could feel the relief.


We all have the option to change our paradigms. Some paradigms we adopt from the world around us, and some are given to us by our family members, school, and the society we live in.  We, however, are in charge of keeping them.


Later, when I became a therapist at Salisbury University, I would say to the students I worked with:  “You can blame your parents for your life’s circumstances only until you are 18.  If you come up with a different paradigm, take ownership, find options and create solutions, then you will succeed in anything you set your mind toYou were given the gift of choice, use it to create a beautiful life filled with success, joy and wellbeing.”


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