I just got a book of Zen koans. It was an impulse purchase, and I snatched it up without thinking much about it. It seemed like the perfect resource guide for these ambiguous, ambivalent times. I’ve read that koans are helpful for understanding the paradoxical aspects of reality. So even though I’m a koan novice, I think they’ll fit in nicely with my love of life paradoxes.
For a long time I’ve had great respect for life paradoxes.
They’re full of unexpected wisdom.
And as strange as this may sound, I think they often help us get clear about what matters most to us. In some ways, they teach us how to live.
I also suspect that they’re related to the synchronicities of life. But I’m not really sure that even makes sense. I mean, do the contradictions of life lead to the coincidences of life?
I have a hunch there’s a relationship there, but I’ll have to give that thought some space and get back to you on it.
One thing I do know for sure is that the many paradoxes of life are frequent topics in my therapy and coaching work.
Of course, how could they not be? Life paradoxes are often what bring people into therapy and coaching. And while I love them and recognize their implicit wisdom, I also know they can create immense challenges for we humans beings.
Just consider the biggest existential paradox we encounter: the contradiction of living a full and meaningful life when each day brings you closer to death.
But not all life paradoxes are so big and unwieldy.
In fact, some are really useful. And when you start experimenting with them, you might even discover they can help you feel better.
So here you go!
7 life paradoxes to help you feel better
- When you feel stressed and overwhelmed by a lack of time, give your time to people and things you care about. This can actually create a sense of more time in your life. In fact, studies show that giving time in this way actually brings on feelings of “time affluence.”
- Similarly, when you have far too much to do, often the best way to increase your productivity is to stop and simply breathe for awhile. And after you’ve focused on your breathing for a few minutes, you could add some doodling, drawing or writing. Even better!
- When you need to boost your mood, you can feel happier almost immediately by thinking about future pleasurable activities and events that you’ve planned for. Anticipatory joy is a real thing, and in fact, the anticipation might even bring more joy than the actual event.
- When you need to make an important decision, often the best thing you can do is to stop trying to make the decision and let the answer reveal itself to you. Decision making can be exhausting. So when you give up some control and consider that the decision may be capable of making up its own mind without much help from your cognitive reasoning, you may experience great relief.
- When you feel sad or low, listen to sad music, read a sad book or watch a sad movie. This can help you feel better, perhaps because the experience brings you back to an appreciation of your own life.
- When you’re juggling multiple life goals, consider the age old paradox that less is more. You may discover that when you do just one thing, it actually results in more. As in, more accomplished, over the long haul.
Finally, I’m handing it over to Carl Rogers for this last, and most important, of life paradoxes:
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.