A few days ago, I woke up with these words on my mind: the seven paradoxes we all must live with. I have no idea what I was dreaming about but I know that opposites, extremes and contradictions have been on my mind.
I immediately jotted down the first few points and paused only seconds until the rest just came to me. I don’t know if they’re all encompassing but these seven are a good place to start.
Most of us are taught to think in either/or terminology, black or white, succeed or fail, yes or no, zero or one. We tend to think linearly and that excludes so much of the world. I find myself saying this to clients over and over again. Life is not binary, it’s ‘this, and….’
Here’s what I came up with.
1- Stability and Variety
According to Tony Robbins (coach extraordinaire), we all crave different amounts of these based on who we are. If you create too much stability for yourself though, you’ll find only boredom. Bring too much variety into your life and you’ll be living in turbulence. In the space in between, where you maximize both? You get Adventure.
2- Aloneness and Connection
People like to think of themselves as either introverts or extroverts and although most of us have a tendency towards one or the other, we all need some amount of both.
Constant aloneness leads to isolation and loneliness. In the West, we’ve been trained to think of aloneness as independence. It’s not the same thing. Constant connection on the other hand can leave you suffocated and needy. You get no head space to think, be or digest what’s going on in your life. Bring enough of both into your life to find true independence.
3- Creativity and Logic
Humans are very quick to categorize themselves as either rational or creative, but not many strive for more of both. If you lean too much on the rational side, you end up caught in Automation. Anything that can be consistently rationalized can also be outsources to a computer. On the other hand, constant creativity without logical and planned action is nothing but imagination and doesn’t serve us either. How can you bring more of both into your life? Applied creativity is Innovation.
4- Science and Magic
Ah this one is my favorite one. Can you believe in science and also accept the existence of ‘magic’ (whatever that may mean to you)? Can you allow yourself to leave space for things that science is unable to explain?
Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We think we know but we are never quite certain. Our knowledge is constantly evolving and transforming. In the space where both magic and science exist, you have possibility, and that’s a beautiful thing.
5- Adulthood and Playfulness
Some time ago I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I would have to do some ‘adulting’ sooner or later. And the more I stepped into that role with courage and grace, the better I could manage it. But then I felt like I was abandoning a very integral and necessary part of who I was. I needed that kid inside me to express herself too.
Too far one way or too far the other and you’re either too serious or too juvenile. The sweet spot is in being a playful adult where you can handle grown up situations with humor and ingenuity and still come out with your pride intact. That’s charisma!
6- Self interest and the greater good
There are people who are great at sacrificing. They will give you everything and leave themselves with nothing (my grandma was a great example). Then there are those who will only think of themselves and their interests, they’re really not too concerned with the betterment of society (I see lots of these in Lebanon). Either one leaves you off balance and skewed. You don’t want to be a welcome mat and you don’t want to be the only person on the planet.
When you take care of yourself while keeping the wellness of your community and environment in mind, you get a triple bottom line as they say in business. You’re operating in the zone that’s optimal for everyone (yourself included) and you build community.
7- Leadership and Followership
Some of us love being leaders and some hate it. Neither is an ideal space to live in. Taking the lead all the time leaves no room for others to rise up and test out their leadership skills. It also doesn’t give you the chance to see what it’s like to follow, to be led, to self-manage and learn from these experiences as well as the style, actions and thoughts of others.
Similarly, being a follower all the time puts your own ideas and desires in second and deprives you of the chance to test out your leadership skills, lead the pack and explore what you stand for.
It’s an art to feel out the moments when you should take the lead and those when you should sit back and be a great follower. Living that out feeds you a variety of experiences that leaves you with presence, the ability to be seen regardless of where you stand.
What would you add to this list?