Solve the paradox of life

Life is full of paradoxes for us to figure out.

Maybe we focus on one thing but we end up achieving the exact opposite:

We seek control over an important moment and because of that we actually lose it.

We want to break free from patterns but the more we feel chained to them.

Or we might obtain something we wish for but then suddenly want something else:

We get a good paying job but end up missing our early life passions and side projects.

We’re single and dream about meeting someone special. But when we’re in a relationship we daydream of being single again.

It seems that we live in a world full of choice, which actually makes it harder to choose what we want.

The source of the paradox

We all have conflicting needs and desires that can lead to contradictory feelings and results. So the paradox is constructed and maintained in the mind itself.

So on the one hand there is no doubt that your mind is your best asset in life but it can also be a great liability. Even though it can be a trusted ally it can also sometimes play games on you.

It is the inherent duality of the mind that creates friction between different priorities in life. And the key to resolve it is to take a higher perspective.

Here is a list of different paradoxes you might have encountered in your life.

Solve the paradox of Stability and Change

“One of the great constants in life is change.”

–  Heracleitus

Change is hard and difficult, but without change we would also be stuck in the same situation forever. In this case, resisting change would be like trying to swim against the current of the water. You might be able to do it for some time, but you will not be able to do it forever.

Face the fact that it is this moving forward and backward that also gives life its diversity and the opportunity to get out of situations that are not rewarding or worth it anymore.

So instead, going with the flow is what can actually bring you to new and unknown places. Rather than choosing for predictability, embrace the fact that change is also what can bring delightful surprise and novelty to life.

“If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy. “

– T. Harv Eker

In other words, change starts with acceptance of the current situation. It is not possible to change if you refuse to accept who you are. But it can form the basis of a hard road about that can be rewarding.

To solve the paradox, create self-discipline to go through both the phases of stability and change when they arise. Capitalize on pportunities in both of the phases to achieve different types of goals.

Solve the paradox of Control

There is story about Navy Seals who have a test. With their hands and feet tied together they have to survive in the water for 5 minutes. Some participants panic and start breathing intensely. Instead of staying calm they burn more oxygen. Ironically, it is their intense desire to live that creates stress, which decreases the chance of them making it out alive and passing the test.

“A fear of weakness only strengthens weakness.”

– Criss Jam

Likewise in life, fear of weakness or fear of not having control only strengthens the feeling. To solve the paradox, the key is to adapt to the situation and take a deep-dive just like a Navy Seal.

Let yourself sink to the bottom and then use momentum to get back to the surface level. All done so you can take one big breath of air before you sink again. It is a great metaphor for control in life as well because we should not always try to stay at the surface (a.k.a. the safe zone). Sometimes you need to relinquish total control so that fear of not having control will lose its power over you.

Solve the paradox of Freedom

“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty. “

– Frank Herbert

On the one hand, freedom means being able to do what you want. But on the other hand, being able to do what you want also means you aren’t committed to anything either.

The paradox implies that choice isn’t always a good thing. Because the more choice you have, the more difficult it becomes to choose. And with all the choices it is also likely to make a wrong one. So contrary to freedom and choice there is commitment, which implies investing in the things that are important in the long term.

Put differently, freedom is only meaningful when other choices are eliminated and commitment to important things is created. To solve the paradox, be clear with yourself where more commitment is needed and to be responsible for it. When you make the right decisions to commit, you will feel more free than ever.

Solve the paradox of Courage

“Courage is not the absence of despair. It is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.”

– Rollo May

Courage is to step up in a moment when fear is present. Courage cannot exist without fear because without fear, one would never have to be courageous in the first place.

“To live fully, one must be free, but to be free one must give up security. Therefore, to live one must be ready to die. How’s that for a paradox?”

– Tom Robbins

Solving the paradox is about focusing on the sacrifice of security. Instead of seeing courage as the antidote to fear, see it as a complementary element in life you have to develop to become the best version of yourself. The result is the ability to tackle new obstacles and challenges in life.

Solve the paradox of Acceptance

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. “

– Carl Rogers

The person who fears being criticized will never get recognized. So don’t chase approval or acceptance. Start trusting your own pride in yourself and you can change into anyone you want.

Besides, there will also be a group of people that have different values the closer you stay to yours.

“You cannot be a powerful life-changing presence to some people without being a complete joke and embarrassment to others.”

– Mark Manson

To solve the paradox, accept that pride in yourself will earn you the respect and acceptance in others. The more we see a person embodying his or her personal values, the more we are inspired by it to do the same.

The paradox of Risk

“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. “

– Erica Jong

Not risking anything means you are risking even more. You risk staying inside the small world you currently live in. Life isn’t lived in your comfort zone. To truly live life to the fullest, you have to take risks to obtain the greater rewards. By avoiding risks, you are avoiding everything that falls outside of the scope of your current life. To solve the paradox, look for ways to create skin in the game. Risk to lose something to invoke commitment. Because without risk, you actually avoid getting anything of true value.

The paradox of Strength

“We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.”

– Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Strength is like two sides of a coin. One side is your pride and the other side is your insecurity. The more you feel you need to cover for your insecurity, the more you will show your pride. But true power and strength actually comes from that still part within you, where you have everything and have nothing to prove to others.

To solve the paradox, focus on becoming vulnerable. Because it implies that you are certain enough of yourself to show fragility. If you know it, you don’t have to show it:

“Those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know”.

The paradox of Identity

“Often it is not the person that you think you are that is holding you back, but the person you think you are not. “

Barriers are constructed from within. Your beliefs are what stopping you from achieving something outside of your concept of self. In fact for most cases, the only person stopping yourself is yourself:

“Whatever you think is stopping you from living the life you want is not stopping you, only you can stop you. “

Don’t be the warden of your own prison. Creating identity change can be made easier by using two methods; learning strategies and consistency of habits. Together, these two building blocks for growth can create credible behaviour – so that the old you starts to accept the new you.

Identity also ties in with confidence in yourself. It is true that being confident is hard when you have nothing to be confident about. To solve the paradox, you have to start working on building a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. Fake it till you make it. Become confident with what you lack in the first place. Build up your skills from there and practice you are equipped with everything that you need.

The paradox of Knowledge

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. “

– Plato

Having more knowledge isn’t always better. In fact, the paradox is that the more knowledge you have, the more close minded you can become since you are convinced of your own biased opinion. In other words, pretentiousness and ‘knowing’ are the enemy of learning. To solve the paradox you have to stay open-minded, and know that you can always obtain a wider perspective of the situation.

Solve the paradox of Love & Happiness

The paradox of Love & Happiness is that the more you chase it the further it goes. Because the more you chase, the more you confirm to yourself you don’t have that thing yet.

To solve this paradox, stop chasing to get back right where you started. Instead, focus on the law of attraction to make love and happiness part of your state of being, something that is with you any moment of your life .

Stop chasing your own tail and start realizing that what you seek is already somehow a part of you. To love yourself, love others more. Do things for others. Create self-worth in the service to others. To be more happy with yourself, create happiness in others. See the process of practicing as the way towards living a meaningful life.

Solve the paradox of Failure and Success

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

– Rita Mae Brown

Failure is a necessary ingredient for success. They are just different parts of the cycle of life. With aspiration to achieve and experience new things, failure and success will always follow. It is such an inherent part of life – overcoming obstacles. But let’s not fool ourselves. Behind mountains will be more mountains.


It is how life is designed for us. Once we go through this process we learn that the road to personal mastery is always filled with peaks and valleys.

To solve the paradox, realize that a master has failed more often than the beginner has ever tried. All you can do is walk on that path.

Sometimes it is better not to try at all

Sometimes there is an inverted relationship between what you chase and what you get. This is what Mark Manson calls the inverted curve.


That is, the more effort you put into doing something, the more you will fail to do it. This is especially true for paradoxes created by the mind.

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and results come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity.”

– Aldous Huxley

Sometimes the best solution truly is to just let go of the outcome. The more you struggle, the more you validate that it is a struggle in itself. The more you invalidate that feeling, the less there is to struggle for.

Go from Duality to Unity

The interesting part of all the paradoxes is that we create this tension. We choose for a duality perspective and this is what creates tension between our current and desired situation. It is this constant process of balancing in response to a perceived gap that implies suffering as a way of living. But its a fact that we need both sides to create balance in life.

To fully live, we should take on a perspective of unity – seeing that both extremes are part of the beautiful thing we call life.

A perspective of unity

Unity is defined as a complex whole that cannot be separated anymore. It is about realizing and understanding that the paradoxes life are part of the friction in life that allows us to move forward.

In a mind of duality you are chasing one end of the spectrum while trying to avoid the other.

In a mind of unity you are aware of the spectrum and know they are part of a bigger co-existence. Both extremes are there for a purpose.

The benefit of the unity perspective is that you start to realize that what you chase with your mind is practically a game. Stop sabotaging yourself and start creating the awareness of the bigger picture.

Solving the paradox is within your own power – when you stop questioning if it is.

Boris is a Dutch consultant, Lifestyle Coach and Sports fanatic. He enjoys helping others with personal development by creating a change in attitude and behaviour.

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