By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author
It seems like we’ve been waiting forever in Chicagoland for the sun to appear and thaw us out from winter. Spring is finally here, and I for one, have been waiting anxiously to play my first round of golf.
There was a time when I used to roll my eyes at the idea of swinging a stick at a little white ball that’s not even moving (insert big yawn).
That all changed when COVID first arrived on the scene. All my favorite outdoor activities were forbidden.
One COVID morning I went for a jog near the golf course adjacent to my house. A distinctive clinking sound caught my attention. It was the sound of nearby golfers sending those little white balls to their holes.
Since most other activities were off-limits, I decided to give golf a try.
After a few lessons and too many days on the driving range, I was ready to play my first round of golf.
Things were going pretty well for the first few holes.
Then I saw it. A long, narrow creek stood between me and the hole. The creek was only 60 yards in front of me. I knew I could clear the water.
I stepped up to the tee and took a swing.
I watched my ball soar high into the air. About half way over the water it started its descent. “Come on little ball, you can make it,” I cheered.
Plunk! It plopped into the water just a few feet short of the ground.
I shrugged it off, ready to take my penalty stroke.
“Let’s go get your ball,” my golf partner exclaimed.
What?! I’m not climbing into that water!
“No,” he said. Your ball isn’t in the water. It’s on the fairway.”
That can’t be right, I thought. I saw that ball splash into the water with my own two eyes.
He kept insisting with a big grin, “your ball went in, but it came back out.”
Impossible. The last time I checked, there’s this thing called gravity. When an inanimate object falls from the sky into water, it doesn’t come back out.
My assumption about that ball is what’s called a “paradigm.”
Paradigms are our way of making sense of the world. We form paradigms from our experiences.
My experience told me the ball fell into the water, and that’s what I saw.
My partner’s experience told him that golf balls can have a spin that causes them to skip off the water. That’s what he saw.
Paradigms can be helpful. They can keep us moving forward without having to stop and process every bit of information coming at us.
Paradigms can also derail our success. They can stop you from going after your dreams. Your paradigm can tell you, “something’s not going to work, so don’t even try.”
I never would’ve known my ball made it onto land without another set of eyes from someone with a different paradigm from mine.
I would have walked straight past it and taken a penalty stroke.
My golf partner saved me from that penalty. He formed his paradigm from years of golf and years of watching the ball skip out of the water.
I started to wonder: in what other areas of my life could I be limiting myself because of my paradigms.
It’s precisely because of paradigms that we often need someone else to help us see what we cannot.