Understanding the Power of Paradigms

“Our awareness of our patterns is the first step toward designing the life for which we’re intended.”
~ Mary Morrissey

Like Persephone, the eponymous heroine of this very blog, I too have taken a four-month winter hiatus (although not as the queen of the underworld, although that might be interesting). I did the same thing last year, and it’s become clear that this is an organic schedule that works well for me. It gives me time to recharge and focus on other matters that take up so much of my time and energy during the hectic “holiday season.”

And like last year, I re-booted my blog during Chinese New Year (my New Year of choice). So with new beginnings in mind, it’s time to kick it into gear and get Persephone back to business!

This New Year is especially important for me. I’m in the process of re-imagining what I’d like my life to look like in the coming years. My love of coaching remains and will always remain, but it’s time for me to diversify my professional life by adding other elements to it, beyond some of the fun side gigs that I’ve enjoyed. It’s an exciting time for me and I’m using the same techniques that I teach to my clients to uncover what will come next. So, in essence, this post is not only for you, but also for me.

Before I take on a new client, I insist that he or she participates in a Strategy Session phone call with me. The session is a coaching version of an 'intake' that consists of a short questionnaire completed prior to the call, followed by an hour coaching/discussion/general info session. I insist on this for a few reasons.

For starters, I want to make sure that the prospective client is willing to put in the work required and has the right attitude to proceed. I also want to make sure that the client and I have a good rapport and can work well together, especially given the fact that we’ll be working in very personal, and at times, uncomfortable territory. But most importantly, I want to make sure that my client is mentally healthy enough for coaching, and that he or she isn’t mistaking the work of a coach with that of a therapist.

In a nutshell, while therapy focuses on the past and delves into the 'why' questions, coaching is future-oriented and utilizes the 'how,' 'when,' and 'where' questions. Coaches work with clients on setting priorities and goals, identifying their life vision, and guiding them through the steps necessary to create a plan of action that will enable them to achieve a higher level of success.

There’s one concept that we cover in the Strategy Session — it also comes up time and time again in my coaching — that is imperative to understand. It’s one of the keys that can lead you up to success, but, sadly, it can also bring you down to failure. I’m referring to paradigms and their impact on your life.

My alma mater, the Life Mastery Institute, defines paradigms this way, “The current situation that we’re all in, is a perfect ‘outer’ reflection of our ‘inner’ paradigms. Our paradigms act like an internal thermometer on all aspects of our life. Simply, they are a collection of habits based on our beliefs, feelings, and most importantly, thoughts that shape our circumstances, experiences, and results. Paradigms can be positive and helpful, but usually, they are the blockers — the negative thoughts stopping you from making a change.”

You are not born with paradigms, rather they are gradually instilled in you over time through a series of life events and outside influences. Think about it: who are the main influencers in your life that shape your belief system? You can adopt your parent’s beliefs. You can adopt beliefs from your education, from your cultural and religious upbringing, from your interactions with friends and acquaintances, and, also, from impactful events that occur.

Henry David Thoreau alluded to paradigms in his essay, Walden. He writes, “He will put some things behind and will pass an invisible boundary.” Every person has an invisible boundary. Think of it this way, your invisible boundary is created by your thinking and represents the unknown, the land beyond your current experiences that is home to growth, change, and success.

Your paradigms are the sentries guarding your boundary. At times, they can be of assistance and guide you over the boundary, but more times than not, they are the thoughts and habits that not only stop you from moving forward but trick you into thinking that inertia and stasis are your friends. They are the voices that tell you, beyond the invisible boundary is a place of fear and uncertainty — this is not a place that you want to be in. These paradigms, if not confronted, can destroy you and will lead you to live your life by default rather than your own design.

In the Vision Workshop that I present, I use this story as an allegory to illustrate the power of paradigms:

In India, elephants are the beasts of burden. Elephants pull plows, drag heavy materials, and do most of the hard labor. The process used to train elephants is quite unusual. When an elephant is a baby, the trainer tethers him with a big strong rope tied to a stake that’s driven deep into the ground. The baby does its best to escape by pulling and tugging with all its might. But, alas, the rope and stake are stronger.

As the elephant gets older and increases in size and weight, instead of the restraints getting stronger, the ropes and stakes gradually get thinner and flimsier. Yet, oddly enough, the elephant begins to tug less and less against the restraints, and in short order, just gives up the fight.

When the elephant reaches full size, the owner just goes to a river or stream, pulls out river reeds, and weaves them together. They then control the animal with these little river reed ropes.

Now, you know how powerful elephants are and can imagine how easy it would be for the elephant to break the rope and escape. But that doesn’t happen, the elephant stays put. The elephant has an ingrained pattern, a set belief. He has been conditioned to think that no matter how hard he struggles, he will not get free, so he doesn’t even make the attempt. It’s not the rope that’s keeping him stuck, but the elephant’s own paradigm that keeps him stuck.

Paradigms are powerful. They can be used to propel you forward, or, they can drag you down to defeat without you even knowing it. Take a closer look at your circumstances — perhaps you are dealing with some river reed thinking of your own.

**Persephone Rising will return every other week until October, barring any unforeseen circumstances.


Cooking for Joan

I don’t eat or cook steak very often but when I do, I want it done to perfection! A few years ago, I heard about the reverse sear concept and was intrigued. I prefer my meat rare/medium rare and always hate that the outer circle below the crust of a steak is usually well done, even if the middle is medium rare. So, I decided to try this with beautiful 1 ½ inch ribeyes that I purchased for a steak extravaganza dinner for some friends.

Let me tell you — this technique is manna from heaven! The steak was crispy with caramelized fat on the outside but perfectly medium rare from top to bottom. It was incredibly juicy and delicious. I paired it with garlic mashed potatoes cooked in cream and orange glazed asparagus. A perfect combination for a lovely group of friends.

By the way, I thought I had included both side dishes in my previous posts, but alas, I never added them. In my next two blogs, I promise to include the mashed potatoes cooked in cream and the orange-glazed asparagus recipes, respectively. YOU WILL LOVE BOTH!!

How to Reverse Sear a Steak


Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Serves: 2


  • 2 steaks, (Ribeye, New York Strip, Porterhouse) 1 1/2 to 2-inches thick
  • kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee (I prefer a combination of the two)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional


Pre-heat oven to 275º F

Line a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack on top, set aside.

Place a large 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm, on a rack below the center rack.

Dry the steaks with a paper towel to remove excess surface moisture and transfer to the wire rack.

Season the meat generously with salt and ground black pepper on both sides.

Place steaks in the oven and cook about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness.

(See notes for target temperatures of the steak)

Remove the steaks from the oven and set aside.

Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and transfer to the stove top.

Heat pan over high heat and add oil and/or ghee.

Once the oil or ghee is very hot and just beginning to smoke, carefully add the steaks to the pan.

Sear the first side until a deep brown crust is formed, about 2 minutes.

Flip the steaks over carefully and sear about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Use tongs to turn the steaks on their sides to cook and render remaining fat, about 2 minutes total.

Transfer steaks to a clean plate and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Serve steaks warm.


Add one tablespoon of the butter to the pan, melt and use a spoon to briefly baste the tops of the steaks.


When steaks are in the oven, check the temperature of the steaks using an instant-read thermometer at 15 minutes, then every 5 minutes until target doneness is reached:

90 to 95ºF for medium-rare

100 to 105ºF for medium

When steaks are searing, aim for an internal temperature of:

120 to 125ºF for medium-rare

130º for medium.

bon appétit!

Categories: Purpose - Mindfulness

Tags: life coach , life coaching , paradigms , what's blocking you from success? , power of paradigms , getting unstuck , moving forward , understanding your paradigms , perfectly prepared steak , reverse sear , best way to cook a steak , reverse searing a ribeye , best way to prepare a ribeye