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10 Biggest Paradoxes of Success and Self-Help to Make Peace With

self-helpWho said that success has to make sense? Or that our personal development can be broken down into a certain number of clear and linear steps?

I recently stumbled on an article by Gretchen Rubin that talks about Happiness Paradoxes that she discovered as she worked on her Happiness Project.

Some of the resolutions and contradictions on her fascinating list struck me as true. In fact, they made me realize that the whole self-help theory, as any serious science, is full of paradoxes and opposite truths that complete each other instead of being mutually exclusive.

How can this be? I talked about it in my post “Three Little Rules of True Understanding of Life”. Sometimes in order to understand something fully, we have to make peace with the idea that a sound paradox is what makes any serious theory complete, logical and practically useful.

Here is a list of 10 Biggest Paradoxes of Self-Help and Success that we may need to embrace and practice:

1. Create a strong desire to achieve your goals without being attached to the outcome.

This statement might frustrate some people – ‘Everyone sets goals based on the outcome. Why else would you even set goals or try to accomplish anything?’

Setting goals that we are passionate about is a powerful force that directs our energy towards the results we want. However, the moment we “attach” our happiness, success and self-worth to accomplishing a certain goal, is the moment we make ourselves miserable. We no longer enjoy the journey. We no longer notice other opportunities along the way, as we are too fixed on our final destination. And we are no longer willing to change or adjust our direction even if the situation calls for it.

Being free from emotional attachments is what allows us to stay happy in the moment and have fun along the way.

2. Accept yourself as you are to improve yourself.

When you love and accept yourself the way you are – with your strengths and your shortcomings, your talents and your imperfections, your aspirations and your failures – you no longer feel the need to play someone else’s role or follow other people’s vision of success. And as André Gide put it “It is better to fail at your own life than to succeed at someone else's.

3. Use your time efficiently and do not waste it to embrace the joy of doing nothing.

Being productive and accomplishing more in 24 hours is the ultimate goal of any successful person. However, there is a huge difference between wasting time and doing something that brings you joy, helps you to rest or enriches your life. Spending 4 hours in front of the TV can be a waste of time, but watching a really great movie while cuddling on the couch with your spouse and kids may be more important that any business meeting or urgent phone call.

4. Make yourself happy to help others become happier.

This paradox sometimes works the other way around – helping other people to become happier with their life contributes to your happiness as well. Note: this is not the same as sacrificing your own dreams and happiness to please others. If this is your case, here is how to claim your life back by learning how to say “No”.

5. Dream big but keep your objectives do-able and realistic.

Dreaming big sets you free and reminds you that there is nothing impossible in this world. Yet every great dream may seem overwhelming and even crazy until it is broken down into a number of do-able, realistic and time-limited steps.

6. Give away to become richer.

When you feel the lack of something in your life, be it a lack of money, lack of time or lack of love, it feels natural to take these ‘limited resources’ and spend them only when absolutely necessary. However, the Law of Energy Exchange does not work like this. You can activate the circle of abundance only by giving away what you need most. It may sound strange, but never-the-less it works.

7. Make plans for the future, but also live in the moment.

Being present is part of living your life and making conscious choices that will allow you to build the future you want.

8. Go slow to get there faster.

Instant gratifications, quick fixes and shortcuts to success have just one significant downside – their effect is temporary. Any worthwhile goal, be it building a successful business, raising children, getting back in shape or acquiring a new skill, can not be achieved overnight. And it is OK. Because wonderful things are worth waiting for.

9. Fail more to improve your chances of success.

The more you fail, the greater your experience is of what does and what does not work. The greater your experience is, the better decisions you will make. The better decisions you make, the higher your chances of success are.
It is that simple!

10. Work on becoming happier by caring less about being happier.

Being obsessed with an idea of becoming happier is one of the fastest way to un-happy yourself.

Self-help books and self-development courses can help you to understand your inner drives, core beliefs and thinking patterns better. But they can not become the ultimate solution that will magically bestow happiness and well-being upon you. You have to find something to be grateful for in every second that you live. And sometimes this “happiness” may not make you feel good, but it does not mean that you should stop trying. Because as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

Another paradox? No, simply a way of life…

What are some of the self-help and success paradoxes that have been important in your life?

  • Jagadishdish Pydikonada
    June 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

    its really exelent and true.

  • Omar Farooqui
    June 12, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Thanks.. it is very true. in order to understand the success we should know the success

  • Denise
    April 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    I have emailed you and not had a reply yet. I ordered and paid for your 4WD system and have still not received anything – please can you tell me when I will received the email containing the PDF I was supposed to get??? I have posted on here in the hope that you will now reply.

    • Arina Nikitina
      April 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Denise!

      I replied to your email, please let me know if you received it successfully!


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