13 Paradoxes You Can Use To Improve Your Life Today
A lot of the most important truths in life are those that are contradictory on the surface.
While they may appear to be impossible, with time they are often proved right through experience.
I would class myself as a logical person, so when presented with some of these paradoxes I was initially sceptical.
But the truth is, life is often illogical, paradoxical, and just downright strange.
There are a lot of things in life that don’t appear to make much sense on the surface. But once you get under their skin and take a closer look, you realise that there is some substance there after all.
Reality is not bound to logic. There are limits to logic, and this is where paradoxes come into play.
There are a number of times I have looked back on events in my life and wondered how things transpired when it would appear they should have turned out differently.
A lot of these moments were due to the paradoxes I describe below. They may be counter-intuitive, but they hold true when they are put to the test.
If you can understand these paradoxes and use to them your benefit, your life will be all the better for it.
13. The Pursuit of Happiness makes you unhappy
I have written previously about my struggles with happiness, and whether I will ever achieve it.
I pursued happiness like an addict pursues their next hit. I tried everything to try and be happy, but no matter what I tried, it didn’t make happy.
In fact, the opposite happened, it made me miserable.
I was pursuing happiness for the sake of it, there was no meaning behind my pursuit. I just wanted to be happy, but you can’t be happy simply by chasing it.
I think the best way to describe happiness is from this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.
12. Social media disconnects us from each other
The term social media is misleading.
What is social about sitting at your desk or going through your phone and browsing other people’s profiles, or flicking through your Instagram feed?
Social media is a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends from around the globe, but for that are closer to home, it often drives us apart more than it brings us together.
We are in more constant communication with each other than ever before, but that communication is digital and not face to face.
It’s no wonder more and more of us are feeling depressed and isolated.
We need to relearn to connect with each other on a human level, rather than through the medium of social media.
11. Solitude makes you more sociable
This is a funny one when you first come across it, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
While solitude may appear to make us less sociable, it is during this time that you learn to be comfortable with yourself.
This is key to becoming sociable.
Once you are comfortable being alone with yourself, something a lot of us aren’t today, you will have less trouble being comfortable around others.
Time spent alone and reflecting is useful to develop one’s self. Once you have done enough of this, you will be yearning to interact with others.
10. The only constant is change
Predictions of the future are almost always wrong.
But, if there’s one thing that is always true of the future, it’s this:
Things will change.
You only have to look at the rapid improvement in technology over the past 20 years to see this is the case.
We have gone from phones that had minimal computing power, to phones that are more powerful than most computers 10 years ago!
The rate of change has been phenomenal, and it’s not only in regard to technology.
Everything is constantly changing and evolving. While we may think things stay constant over the long-term, this isn’t true.
Change is with us whether we like it or not. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can adapt when it strikes.
9. The only certainty is uncertainty
This is related to the above paradox. As we can be certain change is constant throughout our lives, we can also be sure that the future will be uncertain.
No one has been able to accurately the future and I doubt that will change as time progresses.
Whatever happens from now on is impossible to predict. We can make assumptions and informed guesses, but we will never know for certain.
Just look at recent events. Had you asked someone in 2010 whether Donald Trump would be President and the UK would vote to leave the European Union in 2016, they would have looked at you with bewilderment.
But here we are in 2019 and both of those statements are true. There is no telling what the future may hold. While this may seem like a bad thing, it can also be a good thing.
It means we have the ability to shape our future if we make the right decisions today. While the future may be uncertain, we can do our best to make it a good one if we take action.
If we don’t, we will be hurtling into the future with no idea of where we are headed.
8. The more choices we have, the harder it is to choose
Whenever I go into a cafe or restaurant to order food, I am always paralysed with indecision over what to get.
There are so many options it can be difficult to decide what to get.
“Do I order a sandwich?”
“I had a burrito the other day, I don’t feel like having one today!”
“I better hurry up and order because the person behind the counter is getting annoyed!”
These are all thoughts that have raced through my mind during these situations and they all relate to one thing, the paradox of choice.
When we are presented with more options, we become less satisfied with those we choose and less able to make a decision.
Due to there being more options, there is a greater opportunity cost associated with selecting a particular item, which makes us less happy with our decision.
Sometimes, less really is more!
7. Failure leads to success
Nobody likes to fail, but if you want to be successful, it is necessary.
I remember trying to ride a bike without stabilisers for the first time when I was little. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t keep my balance.
The bike would keep toppling over, and my Dad would have to rush after me to make sure I stayed upright.
This carried on for a few days, before I finally got the handoff it, and was able to ride without any assistance.
The old adage we learn from our mistakes is true.
There is nothing wrong with failure as long as you learn from it and apply it to your endeavours in the future.
Success comes from improvement, which comes from failure. The two are intertwined more than you think.
6. Fear of death will impact your enjoyment of life
This is something I have experienced myself.
I remember reading a passage from a book of knowledge that made me shit my pants!
When all the hydrogen runs out the universe will die.
This seems like a silly thing for a 9-year-old child to be worrying about, but worry I did.
So much so, that I was unable to enjoy everyday things because I was worried about an event that was out of my control, and would happen long after I’m gone!
Ironically, when I got hit by a car, the first time, and then the second time, it didn’t make me fear death.
I was accepting of it.
The incidents made me realise it would happen one day, and that I should make the most of the brief time I have on this planet.
5. The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know
I have been trying to wrap my head around the world of physics recently.
It is a subject that has fascinated me since I was little, yet my knowledge of the subject is limited at best.
To improve this, I have been reading various articles and books by respected physicists and listening to podcasts that feature prominent scientists in the field.
I thought I had a rudimentary idea of the world of physics, but I was wrong.
It is a complicated, ever-changing world, that has so many foibles and contradictions that are hard to get to grips with as a layperson.
No matter how old we get and how much we think we know, we will always have blind spots.
This is one of the many beauties of life. There is always something new to learn.
4. The more available something is, the less we want it
Humans have a strong scarcity bias.
We assume because something is scarce it must be more valuable. This is often not the case.
A case in point is clubs. They create the illusion of being places of scarcity, where only select individuals can get in.
However, once we have worked our way through the queue, made our way past the bouncers, and find ourselves inside.
We are often left feeling disillusioned. All that queuing for nothing when it’s similar to most other clubs we’ve been to.
This is because we subconsciously assume things that are abundant are not valuable, whereas those that are less available are.
This is why we dream of owning a Ferrari, why becoming an entrepreneur is all the fashion right now, and why we all wanted that cool toy at Christmas.
We are hardwired to desire those things that are less valuable. Yet, when we get them we are often underwhelmed.
It’s important that just because something is scarce does not mean it’s valuable.
3. If something scares you, you should probably do it
Travelling has reaffirmed this paradox to me many times.
There were many things that I was scared to do for some reason or another. Travelling was actually one of them.
More specifically, travelling abroad by myself.
I had wanted to go to backpacking in Australia for as long as I could remember, yet I was too scared to go alone.
It got to a point where I could no longer take working at my job. I paid for the year-long visa, quit my job, and eventually booked my one-way ticket to Australia.
I was petrified the moment I booked the tickets, and I was even more scared once the flight was underway, as I knew there would be no turning back.
My fear of being alone in a foreign country was so strong, I didn’t want the plane to land.
However, once I got off the plane and out into Australia, a funny thing happened. I was no longer scared, I was excited. I realised I had to take responsibility for myself and get on with things.
I had an amazing year, and ended living abroad in various for five years afterwards!
Fear only gets smaller the closer, sometimes that’s all we need to do.
2. The more you try to keep someone close, the more you will push them away
This comes down to feelings of neediness. No one likes doing something they feel obligated to do.
It may feel normal to want to keep that special someone close to you all the time, but it can make the other person feel as though you are being needy, and that they are obligated to be with you.
When actions or feelings become obligations, they lose all meaning. People want to spend time with you because they enjoy being around you, not because they feel like it’s an obligation.
Boundaries in any relationship are important, it’s what makes them work. Respecting other people’s time and desires, and not forcing them into spending time with you is the way to keep your relationships intact.
Otherwise, you may find them falling apart.
1. Talk less to say more
This is something I used to great effect when I was at university.
I was shy back then, and I wasn’t fond of speaking up during seminars. Depending on the topic and the people in my class, I would speak up in certain classes but not others.
During this time I noticed a funny thing.
Those classes were I was more active in speaking my mind, were the ones were people paid less attention to what I saying. Yet, when I spoke in those classes where I rarely spoke, everyone gave me their undivided attention.
I was confused at first, but then I realised why this was the case.
The more we speak, the more comfortable people become around you. They start to form their own assumptions based on what you have said.
Whereas, this isn’t the case when you don’t say much. It’s harder to form a view of someone because we aren’t sure what their views are.
Once you do speak up people tend to listen more, because they’re eager to hear what they say.
The more we speak, the more our words lose meaning. But, if you let others speak, once you do speak, those words will say more will carry more weight.