10 Paradoxes of Success and Self-Help

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

Gretchen Rubin famously penned an essay that addresses the concept of “Happiness Paradoxes.” These paradoxes may seem counterintuitive at first, but, when embraced, can give you a significant leg-up on your own happiness journey.

Here are a few to make peace with as you continue your effort to be a happier and more fulfilled person.  

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1. Desire to Achieve Your Goals Without Attaching Yourself to 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 we’re passionate about is a powerful practice that directs our energy towards the results we want. However, the moment we “attach” our happiness, success, and self-worth to accomplishing a particular goal, 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

Want to be a better person? Start by accepting yourself the way you are right now.

When you love and accept yourself the way you are – strengths, shortcomings, and all – 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 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 massive difference between wasting time and doing something that brings you joy, helps you rest, or enriches your life.

Spending 4 hours in front of the TV can be a waste of time, but watching a great movie while cuddling on the couch with your spouse and kids may be more important than any business meeting or urgent phone call.

4. Make Yourself Happy to Help Others be Happier

helping others

This paradox sometimes works the other way around – helping other people become happier contributes to your happiness as well.

Note: this is not the same as sacrificing your own dreams and happiness to please others. Saying “no” is still an essential part of being a healthy person.

5. Dream big but Keep Objectives Realistic

Dreaming big sets you free and reminds you that there is nothing impossible in the world. Yet every great dream may seem overwhelming until it’s broken down into realistic steps.

By setting SMART goals and being intentional about ensuring your objectives are attainable, you set yourself up for success and give yourself a fighting chance of becoming a better person.

6. Give it Away to Be Rich

When you feel a 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 necessary.

However, life doesn’t work like this. You can activate the circle of abundance only by giving away what you need most. It may sound strange, but it works.

7. Make Plans for the Future, but 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.

While planning for the future keeps you on track, living in the present allows you to enjoy the journey.

8. Go Slow to Get There Faster

slow road to success

Instant gratification, quick fixes and shortcuts have one significant downside – their effects are temporary.

Any worthwhile goal, be it building a successful business, raising children, getting back in shape, or acquiring a new skill cannot be achieved overnight. And this is okay – wonderful things are worth waiting for.

9. Fail More to Boost Your Chances of Success

The more you fail, the better you know 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’s that simple!

10. Be Happier by Caring Less About Being Happy

Being obsessed with an idea of becoming happy is one of the fastest way to drive yourself crazy and, consequently, make yourself less happy.

While self-help books and self-development courses can help you understand your conflicts and improve your thought patterns, they won’t serve as a panacea that creates perfect happiness right away.

Instead, you have to find something to be grateful for every day.  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?

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