A paradox is something that appears to be contradictory, unbelievable, or absurd but may in fact be true. Do less. Accomplish more. These statements present a paradox. Acknowledging, owning, and embracing the paradoxical nature of our lives, the lives of others, and the world can lessen our resistance to change and increase our effectiveness. At its most basic it makes us less tense and more open to happiness.
When I look at my own life and self, I see that I embody a number of paradoxes. Here are a few:
I am shy and solitary, and I love speaking in front of people.
At work, I am completely myself, and I play a role.
I am firm and decisive, and I am cautious and conservative.
I am a businessman, and I am a Zen priest.
I can concentrate for long periods of time, and Iím easily distracted.
I am confident, and Iím extremely vulnerable.
Each of us contains similar paradoxes. The more we look for them, the more we see paradoxes everywhere ó in the world of the heart, in the world of work, and in society. Acknowledging and understanding this basic truth can be freeing. What a relief to not have to make ourselves, others, and life fit neatly into some limited idea or framework! Intuitively we know that all humans are complex and contradictory. Embracing our paradoxes not only provides real insights into ourselves and allows for more self-acceptance, it also increases our appreciation of everyone elseís surprising quirks and contradictions.
Sometimes we get caught up trying to resolve internal contradictions, thinking that if we can, we will solve our busyness. Instead, this effort can itself become the cause of our busyness and our scrambled bewilderment. Our complex minds, emotions, and personality traits are simply a rather wonderful fact of human existence. Accepting that can lighten and expand our self-image, making it more fluid. In a strange way it is a more accurate view of life. Embrace paradox and you increase self-acceptance, tolerance of others, and your own possibilities.
Next: Paradox exercise