A paradigm is a state of being; a status quo for a given moment in time.

A paradigm shift is what happens when variables change in such a way that the status quo changes measurably or perceptually.

Post-WWII Europe was a very different place than pre-WWII Europe: the paradigm shifted because so many variables changed.

The same is true of the pre-smartphone and post-smartphone paradigms. It doesn’t seem like the introduction of a consumer electronics product category would change much of anything, but the world (economics, relationships, governance, everything) shifted dramatically in mere years as a direct consequence of this device-type landing on the market.

This concept, though typically applied to macro-scale concerns, can also be applied on a personal level.

If you move from one city to another, you’ll tend to experience a paradigm shift: everything has changed, from the keys in your pocket to the grocery store you typically visit to the people you see on a daily basis to how you get around and where you go.

Part of what makes a paradigm shift so meaningful is that all of these changes cause countless other changes, rippling forever outward from that initial change-droplet.

This arguably applies on a smaller scale, as well.

After hearing a song by an unfamiliar artist, I’m a different person than I was before I heard it: my exposure to new creative work changed me, even if only in minuscule ways.

Each of those tweaks—in how I’m feeling, how I think, what I consider normal and possible and good—can have multitudinous downstream effects. Those effects, in turn, can influence my next-step status quo; my new mini-paradigm.

Thinking in these terms helps me remember that I have the capacity, if I apply my efforts and attention intentionally over time, to produce significant and positive change in my own life and in society as a whole.

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