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Embrace Paradox for Less Stress, More Happiness

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Embrace Paradox for Less Stress, More Happiness

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

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Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is CEO of ZBA Associates LLC, a company providing executive coaching, leadership development consulting, and keynote speaking services to businesses and non-profits. He is a developer and instructor of Googleís Search Inside Yourself program. Marc is a Zen teacher with an MBA degree and a former resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.


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10:59PM PDT on May 20, 2013

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

2:41AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

As a painfully shy actor, I enjoyed this post. I also write plays, and I think it's in people's contradictions that you really find their uniqueness. Certainly I think paradoxical characters are more interesting to play.

10:45AM PST on Nov 29, 2010

thank you

5:42PM PDT on Jul 9, 2010

This really is interesting, thanks!

11:54PM PDT on Jun 24, 2010

This is very interesting, I have never actually thought of this. Thanks for sharing :)

5:57PM PDT on Jun 24, 2010

Yes, we are creatures of paradox (and so is the "reality" around us). Short of "embracing" paradoxes, we must at least not try to wrap our heads around them so hard, searching for that linear equation and tidy conclusion, that the old gray matter starts to quiver & seize. For actually, paradoxes aren't paradoxes at all but "semantic arguments" between 2 or more of the numerous theoretical orientations (all of 'em valid in their own contexts!) that we embrace to make sense of ourselves and "reality" -- whatever the hell that is.

1:21PM PDT on Jun 22, 2010

Very interesting. Thank you Mark.

6:11AM PDT on Jun 21, 2010

Good post!! Must try this exercise...

5:54AM PDT on Jun 21, 2010

Very interesting. Thanks very much.

4:50AM PDT on Jun 21, 2010

them and how I should behave. Yet I still feel them and sometimes find it hard to alter my behaviour.

I wear my heart on my sleeve and am honest but I also hide my emotions

I love to travel and do but I am a home-body who loves home and gets homesick

I love my independence, seek to be 'free' and have fun, yet I love being in a long-term relationship and appreciate the love and love my partner.

I often think some young lovers etc. are silly, yet I am one and have been with my boyfriend for 3 years (since I was 16) and we are very happy and work well.

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