Paradoxes Of Personal Development
By Leo Gura - March 2, 2015 | 45 Comments
Exploring and embracing the paradoxes of personal development
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I want to talk about the importance of embracing paradox in your self-actualization journey.
“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” – Georg Hegel
Paradoxes are cool. Not only are they cool, but they are also a necessity of life if you’re going to be going through it and self-actualizing. They are really not the problem that some people make them out to be. Here, we are going to talk about what we mean by paradoxes, why paradoxes are not a problem, why they are a great asset to you if you’re able to embrace them and we’re going to talk about how to go about embracing some of these paradoxes.
Personally, I love studying paradoxes. There are paradoxes that I have discovered in science, mathematics, linguistics and in personal development. I am going to give you a whole list of personal development paradoxes in this video, so that you get a really good idea of what I mean by paradox.
The reason I wanted to shoot this video is because of this. Now that we are getting into more advanced personal development stuff with Actualized.org and covering more advanced topics, what I am seeing is that some people are having difficulty with accepting kind of contradictory notions. This is especially when we’re starting to talk about spiritual enlightenment and how that connects back to the more basic personal development work that we do.
When you’re looking at both of these things, they seem contradictory. When this happens, what then happens after that is you basically use this as an ego defense to avoid looking deeper into resolving these contradictions, or even just accepting that these contradictions are there as a part of reality. This blocks you and prevents you from achieving the most advanced results that you can achieve with personal development.
Just to put everything into perspective for you, I talk about this in a lot of my other videos. Basically, what I am hoping you’re getting from everything that you are getting from my videos is this big picture understanding of reality. To me, this is like an endeavor that you do and undertake in your life as you say this.
“Okay, I’m really interested in figuring out how all of the pieces fit together on a big picture level. I want to know how my psychology works. I want to know how my life works and I need to know every little facet of that so that I can put them together and create this giant jigsaw puzzle. Each little piece I put into place helps me see the larger picture.”
The Big Picture Understanding Of Reality
That is what we are trying to do here. The value of having this big picture understanding is that you then have the wisdom to create whatever kind of life you want. You then also have the wisdom to live a virtuous life, rather than living a shallow life.
When I see people living shallow lives, it is mostly because they don’t have this entire jigsaw puzzle assembled, or at least even a good junk of it. What they do is they waste a lot of time in their life. They go down a lot of dead ends because they don’t really see what is happening in life and what life is.
They don’t understand it. They don’t understand themselves. In order to resolve it, we start putting it together, piece by piece. As you start doing that, one of the problems is that you get pieces that don’t seem to fit. You get a piece, you try to fit it in this corner over here, but then you see that it doesn’t fit in this corner.
You scratch your head and you wonder this. Where should this piece go? Maybe you will try the other corner and it doesn’t fit there either. Then, you have to try in the middle and maybe it doesn’t fit there either.
Then, you just have to put it off to the side for a while, until more of the puzzle gets completed. Then you will say – “Oh, it was supposed to go here all of this time.” This is like a process, like a multi-year long process. This is really a lifelong process of doing this.
The puzzle is never fully complete. You always keep discovering new stuff. Sometimes, the stuff you discover is very intellectually challenging. It challenges you intellectually. It jostles your preexisting notions. Maybe this means you have to rearrange certain aspects of this puzzle.
Maybe you thought you had this part figured out, but you get this new piece and you’re like – “Oh, well that means that this whole part is wrong. I have to reconfigure it.” Some people really have a problem with this.
They do not like doing this because their ego likes to be certain. It likes to be concrete. If you are not able to go through this investigative process and keep your mind open to the possibility that you maybe don’t have it quite right, maybe these two pieces don’t fit because there is something in my understanding that I will figure out three years later, if you don’t have that kind of open mindedness, you’re going to get stuck.
I find that this is not only necessary for the advanced work in personal development, but it is also necessary for even the entry level work sometimes. I will show you what I mean by that in a second when I start telling you all of these paradoxes of personal development. Actually, I wanted to create a whole video series of like twenty or thirty videos that just focus on the paradoxes of personal development.
This is because I find them so fascinating. It is also because understanding this stuff, understanding these paradoxes and accepting these paradoxes, I think creates much better results for you in your life. Maybe I will do that in the future, but right now, I want to go through and just give you a taste of what some of these paradoxes are. Here they are.
The first example goes something like this. On the one hand, in personal development, we tell you that you are perfect. You are perfect as you are and you’re already complete. Yet on the other hand, you must do self-help.
You must do personal development. You need to work really hard to actualize yourself. So, which is it? Am I perfect, or do I need to work my ass off to self-actualize? How do you resolve that?
Here is another one. In personal development, we tell you that you have real problems in your life that need to be fixed. They are maybe health problems, business problems, career problems or whatever. We try to go into problem solving mode and help you solve all of these problems that you have.
We help you diagnose them and understand them. On the other hand, we also tell you that your problems are really illusory. They are not real problems. In fact, problem solving is not the best way to go about living a good life.
So, which is it? Should I be solving problems or shouldn’t I be solving problems? How do I reconcile that? How about this next one?
One – we tell you that relationships can give you lots of fulfillment and happiness. Relationships are one of the highest quality happiness that you can have. They are deep relationships. On the other hand, we also tell you that relationships can never make you truly happy. Then, you have to make yourself happy from the inside.
You can’t rely on other people to make you happy. So, how do you resolve that? Which one of those is true? Another paradox goes like this.
We tell you to be wise. Don’t make any unwise decisions in your life. Make sure that you are making proper choices, so that you are not making the kind of mistakes many other people make in society.
On the other hand, we tell you that some of the greatest people we know in history and their lives, such as entrepreneurs, business people or whoever, are constructed around their biggest mistakes. Failure is good. The more you fail, the better you become and the stronger you become. So, which is it?
Should I be worrying about making perfect decisions or should I be making more mistakes to avoid failure? Which should I be doing? Another one goes like this. On one hand, we tell you to think about your life.
Contemplate about your life. Live a contemplative life where you are examining your life and you’re planning. On the other hand, we tell you that thinking creates neurosis. Don’t think so much, stop thinking.
How do you reconcile that? What should I do? Should I think more or should I think less about my life? How about this one? Work hard to make yourself more attractive for the opposite sex.
If you want that great girlfriend or that great boyfriend, work on yourself to be more attractive. Then, you will attract that person that you really want. On the other hand, to be the most attractive, don’t work at it at all.
Be cool and be detached. Be independent from outcome. Don’t rely on the other person and don’t be needy. Don’t even try to act attractive. Don’t even think about being attractive.
How do I resolve that? Should I be thinking about being more attractive and working hard on that, or shouldn’t I be? How about this next one? To get into a relationship, you don’t need the relationship.
This basically states that if you really need a relationship badly and you’re desperate for one, you probably won’t get one because nobody wants to be in a relationship with you. On the other hand, if you’re very independent, you don’t need a relationship at all and you don’t want one, then everyone wants to be in a relationship with you because you’re not needy.
How about this one? Be present! How many times do you hear “be present” in personal development circles? Be present, be in the moment and be in the now and in the power of now. We have people telling us to be present.
Also, people tell us that delayed gratification is good. Don’t focus on the present. People who focus on the present are hedonistic. Instead, focus on the long term perspective. Plan and prioritize your life properly.
Don’t live in the present moment. Live for the future. How do you reconcile these two? Here is another one. On one hand, we tell you to be very careful with your mind and your ego because it is very deceptive.
You can’t trust yourself because you are deceiving yourself all the time with stories and thoughts that you create in your mind. On the other hand, we also tell you to trust yourself. In fact, you have to trust yourself completely to be successful and really fulfilled in life. So, which is it?
Am I deceiving myself and should I not trust myself, or should I trust myself completely? How do we resolve that? Another one goes like this. Never quit and persevere. We are like the champions of perseverance in personal development.
So, never quit. On the other hand, prioritize and cut your losses early so that you are not going down a dead end. So, which is it? Should I never quit and persevere all the time, or should I quit the things that are not working for me? How do I resolve that?
How about this one, it is the paradox of happiness. To be happy, don’t think about happiness. If you’re thinking about happiness then you’re not actually happy. To be happy, you need to be happy in the moment. So, what should I do? Should I not worry about thinking about happiness at all?
If I do that, won’t I be like the rest of the people in the world who are not happy? Should I think, plan and strategize about happiness? In this case, I am thinking about happiness so much. How can I be happy? What do I do?
How about this next one? Be selfless. That is a virtue, to be selfless and to not be selfish. But, to be selfless, work on yourself really hard. So, if you want to be selfless, be more selfish. If you’re selfish, you won’t be selfless.
So, what should I do? Should I be more selfish or should I be more selfless? How do I resolve that? How about this next one? To be the most authentic self that you can be, eliminate your SELF.
Eliminate the ego. Do you want to be the most authentic human being that you can be? Well, eliminate your ego. Aren’t you using your ego to want to eliminate the ego? It’s a bit of a paradox there.
Here is the mother of all paradoxes, which is the paradox of spiritual enlightenment. It goes like this. On the one hand, you exist. On the other hand, you do not exist. Literally!
So, what is true? Do I exist or don’t I exist? How do I make sense of this? Then, I like this last paradox, which is what I call the meta-paradox. The meta-paradox goes like this.
On the one hand Leo, you’re telling me to embrace paradox. This means that I should be open to certain contradictions in my world view. On the other hand, you’re telling me to create this perfect world view, this jigsaw puzzle of understanding, where every piece fits together perfectly. So, how can I do both?
How can I accept paradox and also build my model of reality at the same time? Yes, that is an additional meta-paradox. So, you can see that we have a lot of paradoxes here. These are just the paradoxes of personal development. There are more, this is just kind of the tip of the iceberg.
There are also paradoxes in sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and linguistics. I encourage you to actually go out there and read up on these paradoxes, and just embrace them, study them and kind of immerse yourself and absorb some of them into your system. Don’t do what I see many people doing, which is kind of getting stand offish as soon as they see a contradiction or a paradox.
Then, they can’t hold the paradox. They are unable to hold it in their mind. What this actually says is that it doesn’t say so much about the quality of information or the error in the ideas that you are being presented, but it actually speaks to your closed mindedness and your neurosis.
Should Paradoxes Be Resolved?
You might say – “But Leo, shouldn’t paradoxes be resolved? After all, we don’t want contradictions in our world view, right?” That is generally true, but you also have to understand that when you’re hung up on a paradox, it is usually because you are coming from an insecure place.
This is not a problem with the inherent ideas or the theories, but it’s mostly a problem with you, your insecurities and your need to feel certain. Most people really like to feel certain in their mind and in their world view. When your mind does not feel certain about something, it is agitated. This is called cognitive dissonance.
This is not like a science problem. This is not a problem with reality. This is a problem with the ego. Yes, in general you want to be correcting contradictions, trying to understand as much as you can with your mind and kind of grasping stuff. You also have to kind of recognize the limits of your mind.
You have to understand that this process of grasping stuff is a lifelong and ongoing process. It’s not like you just hear some ideas and everything is great. Some of these paradoxes that I just listed off to you have taken me years of personal development work, experience, study, reading a bunch of books, listening to seminars and thinking about it on my own to finally get a resolution of it.
It took me years, and some of them are still not totally resolved for me. What does this mean? This means that you have to treat your mental model building kind of like an ongoing process, like it’s always under construction. You can never put up a sign and say – “Okay, I’m done and it’s completed.”
There is always more maintenance work that is being done. There are always new pieces that you’re putting into place. Basically, it’s kind of like you’re assembling an infinite jigsaw puzzle. There aren’t a hundred pieces, there aren’t a thousand pieces, but there are an infinite number of pieces.
So, in your entire lifetime, you will never piece everything together. In your entire lifetime, you probably won’t resolve every contradiction. In fact, I want you to do a little experiment with me right now. In a second, I’m going to ask you to just pause.
I want you to just look around. Pause the video if you would like to. Just look around, but I’m going to be looking around too. You can do it with me while you’re watching the video. Take like 10 or 15 seconds to do it with me.
Be very present in the moment. I want you to take your focus off of the video and what I am saying, and just look around and just get in touch with reality. Reality is happening around you right now, but we get out of touch with the moment a lot of times.
Just get in touch with the moment and I will tell you why it is important. Ready? Go!
Okay, good! Did you look around? Did you get in touch with the present moment? Well, what happened there? When you were looking around, did you see any paradoxes happening in reality? Were there any glitches in the Matrix?
Were there any discontinuities? Were there any contradictions floating around you? Are there any contradictions actually inside of reality? If you look around and you’re honest with yourself, then the answer is no.
There are no real contradictions anywhere in reality. Then, where are the contradictions and what are paradoxes? If paradoxes don’t really exist, what are they?
Paradoxes Are The Desire Of The Brain To Influence Reality
Well, paradoxes are a function of language and they are a function of your minds desire to conceptualize and model reality inside of the brain. As you’re going around and looking at life, life is very rich and very complex. There is so much happening in life that even the most advanced super computer could not simulate it.
In fact, if you think about it, you could not simulate reality inside of another system because that system itself would be a part of that reality. You can’t simulate reality. Reality is like the ultimate simulation itself.
So, when your brain is trying to run a simulation of reality, the problem there is just fundamental. The problem is that there is always going to be a lack. What we naively assume is this. Because we have science, because we have mathematics and because we have all of this fancy technology nowadays, we’re human beings and we now feel like we’re the masters of the world.
We have pretty much taken over the world. Our technology is so awesome that we can send people to outer space successfully. So, because of that, we know all of reality. Actually, that is not what is going on. What is going on is that we have a very limited understanding of reality based on certain concepts that we have created and certain models.
These models are very simplistic. You look at reality and then you basically take all of this vast richness and you draw it in a little schematic form on the back of a cocktail napkin. Then, you tell yourself this. Look, I’ve figured out reality!
It’s right here, on this little cocktail napkin and in this little equation, this little theorem or this little formula. That is very limited. We need to recognize the inherent limitations in that process. So, while conceptualizing and modeling stuff might be helpful in certain situations, we don’t want to go all out and just assume that this is the “end all – be all”, and that our models and cocktail napkins are somehow actual reality.
We don’t want to make that mistake. Basically, when you recognize all of this, then you start to recognize this. You know what? I probably shouldn’t be taking my concepts to seriously. This jigsaw puzzle that I am assembling is not the “end all – be all”.
It is probably not the actual truth. It is not the actual reality. It’s just an approximation. Even in the best imaginable cases, it is a probably very loose and very poor approximation of reality. Any kind of contradictions that I find, any kind of difficulty that I have with combining two ideas, reconciling a couple of ideas or fitting everything together in some grand theory of everything, are really problems of my own mind and of my own ego.
They are not problems of nature. So, let me just kind of chill out and not be so serious about it. Let me embrace the paradox. Let me look at these paradoxes and say – “Cool, let me just play around with them and let me just experiment with them.”
Let me go and try it out, both sides of the paradox, and see what happens and what the results are. Then, I will trust that, overtime, stuff will click for me. My intuitions will kind of figure stuff out. Even if there is something that I cannot quite reconcile, that’s okay.
It’s not the end of the world. Reality is still whole. Reality is not affected or threatened by this in any way. That is very natural. You want to be able to keep these contradictions in your world view for potentially years on end, without needing to find that security and that certainty.
See, so many people cling to security and certainty. This is kind of like the default operation of the human mind. The human mind likes to be certain. When it is uncertain, it feels afraid, it feels insecure, it gets angry and it gets frustrated.
This is called neurosis. Self-actualized people have an increased tolerance for paradox and contradiction, rather than a decreased one. Sometimes, as very rational people, we get hung up on this idea that everything has to be rational. We take our rationality so seriously.
As Abraham Maslow talks about when he describes self-actualization, he did a lot of study on self-actualized people. What he discovered is that they are more comfortable with accepting paradox than the average person. They are more comfortable.
This is what makes them wiser. This is what makes them more open minded, more open to new ideas and more willing to explore the intellectual landscape. Whereas the people who are more like normal people, they are the ones that cling to beliefs. They are the ones that wrap up their ego in their world view.
This creates all sorts of problems down the road. The most important reason that you want to start being cool with paradoxes is this. If you want to be following along with some of my spiritual enlightenment videos, this will be a massive theme in all of those videos. There are going to be lots of paradoxes.
There will be very deep seeming paradoxes, which are going to boggle your mind. Instead of shying away from them, I want you to be like this. Oh, this is cool and exciting, it’s a new paradox! Let me go and explore!
In fact, what I want to leave you with is this. I want to leave you with an assignment. In the bottom, in the video description, I am going to leave a link to a Wikipedia page which has a bunch of different paradoxes. You can go and you can start exploring.
Like I said, there are paradoxes within mathematics, within science, linguistics and all sorts of other areas in life. It is cool to just go in there, start to dig around and just to see what the paradoxes are and what other people said about these paradoxes. This is because there were a lot of great thinkers through history who have faced these paradoxes, from the Ancient Greeks and Romans and all the way to modern physicists, mathematicians and philosophers.
They are really hard-nosed guys. So, you can go through and take a look at all of those. That will be kind of a good homework assignment for you, to help you to get comfortable and be cool with your not knowing. Not knowing is not a bad thing.
Not knowing is a good thing. Alright, that is it!
This is Leo, I’m signing off. Go ahead and post me your comments. Like this video. Share this video with a friend on Facebook.
Finally, come and sign up to my newsletter at Actualized.org. It is a free newsletter. I release new videos every single week. They are videos on self-actualization topics.
I am really excited to be talking about more advanced topics, paradoxical topics and topics that will really challenge your understanding of life and yourself. Of course, they will help you to kind of create that extraordinary and fulfilling life that you want.
So, this is not just philosophy. We tie the philosophical and abstract concepts in with actual and practical reality. Even when we are talking about stuff like spiritual enlightenment, all of that will tie back in with your own happiness, your own fulfillment and your own success in life.
It is all coming together. If you really want to create a powerful and self-actualized life, then my advice for you is to do it on a consistent basis. If you like this video, watch the next one. Watch the next one. Watch one every week.
Watch a couple every week. Do this for a few years and you will be shocked at how different your life is and how much you have grown on the inside and how much your outer circumstances reflect the new inner development that you acquired. Alright, go ahead and sign up right now.