KB08 - The Art of Balancing Contradictions: 5 Paradoxes for Personal Growth

mindset mindset advice Mar 04, 2023

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In life, we often encounter situations where things contradict each other.

However, these paradoxes can be opportunities for personal growth.

In this knowledge bomb newsletter, we'll explore five paradoxes that can help you expand your understanding of yourself and the world around you.

From the Ship of Theseus Paradox to the Willpower Paradox, each of these will challenge you to think differently and embrace new perspectives.

So, let's dive in and discover the art of paradoxes for personal growth…


"I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is I know nothing" - Socrates


#1 - The Ship of Theseus Paradox

The Ship of Theseus Paradox, also known as the Theseus' paradox, is a philosophical thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

The paradox is named after Theseus, a legendary king of Athens in Greek mythology, and his ship.

The paradox goes as follows:

Imagine a ship, the Ship of Theseus that is constantly sailing the seas.

Over time, every piece of the ship is replaced with new ones due to wear and tear so that after several years, not a single piece of the original ship remains.

The question is then posed: is the ship that remains after all the replacements still the same ship that started the journey, or is it a different ship altogether?

On the one hand, it may seem that the ship is still the same because it retains the same name, history, and purpose. On the other hand, some argue that the ship is not the same because it has entirely different components.

One thing is for certain about the ship…

Whenever something becomes damaged, or a part no longer works on the ship, it is replaced, and the ship continues to work as well as it did 10 years before.

When we look at people, they aren’t too dissimilar from the ship because of the following things…

  • Your skin regenerates every 27 days
  • If you take 70% of a person's liver away, 90% of it will grow back in 2 months
  • Your taste buds renew themselves every ten days to two weeks
  • A study at New York Medical College found your heart is dotted with stem cells that constantly rejuvenate it at least 3-4 times over a lifetime
  • Your skeleton replaces itself every 10 years

Physically, you are a completely different person from the person you were 10 years ago, and yet you still carry all the limiting doubts, beliefs and biases that you had back then, limiting your growth and success.

If your physical body can completely change throughout its lifetime, your mind can too!


#2 - Sorites Paradox

Suppose you have a heap of sand and remove one grain from it.

Is it still a heap?

Yes, it is.

What if you remove one more grain? Is it still a heap?


But if you continue removing grains one by one, eventually, you'll end up with just one grain. At what point does the heap become a non-heap?

The paradox arises because there seems to be no clear line between what counts as a heap and what doesn't. This is because a "heap" concept is vague and imprecise.

So how does this relate to personal development and growth?

A lot of times, when we set goals, they are very vague and imprecise

People say, “I want to be healthier” or “I want to be more successful.”

But what does that mean?

How do we know when we have reached our goal?

Before you can see the heap “your outcome-based goal”,

You need to consistently add each day the habit “the grain of sand

So instead of saying, “I want to be healthier”, you need to commit to a non-negotiable habit of three gym sessions a week

Instead of saying “I want to be more successful” commit to a skill which you practice every day for the next 3 years (e.g. Writing, Coding, Singing)

Small things done consistently turn to big things over time. It won’t be long before those grains of sand eventually start to look like a heap.


#3 - The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

The Hedgehog's Dilemma is a concept introduced by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that describes the tension between the desire for intimacy and the fear of being hurt or rejected.

It uses the analogy of a group of hedgehogs huddling together for warmth on a cold winter night. While they seek warmth from one another, they also risk hurting each other with their spines.


"Love is when you give someone else the power to destroy you, and you trust them not to do it" - E. Lockhart


You desire close relationships and intimacy but fear being hurt, rejected, or vulnerable. This fear can cause you to distance yourself emotionally and physically from others, preventing you from forming meaningful relationships.

Overcoming the Hedgehog's Dilemma requires confronting your fear of vulnerability and developing the skills necessary to manage and communicate your emotions effectively.

This involves practising self-awareness, and empathy, honing your communication skills, and most importantly…


Learning to trust others.


Many people fall into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when it comes to relationships…

  • They start to get close to someone and open up more
  • They fear that person will break their heart now they've let their walls down
  • They start to put the walls back up and create distance from that person
  • That person then leaves because they're not being open and honest with them
  • They get their heart broken and the prophecy gets fulfilled


#4 - The Self-Defeating Prophecy

A Self-Defeating Prophecy is the complementary opposite of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in that it’s a prediction that prevents what it predicts from happening.

Understanding the difference between the two is super important before I delve deeper into how to use Self-Defeating Prophecies to Succeed.

Say I was focused on losing weight and getting in shape, and let’s say that deep down I believed I would not be able to achieve it and, because of this, stopped doing the things that would get me the result.

That would be a Self Fulfilling Prophecy.

Let’s say again I was focused on losing weight and getting in shape, and I had people tell me again that I would fail at achieving my goal.

That negative feedback made me question how much I wanted to achieve my goal and gave me the focus and drive to ensure that I succeeded.

This is a Self-Defeating Prophecy.

So how can we “Slay the Dragon” and Defeat The Prophecy that’s in our minds and guarantee success?


Recognise - Recognise the thoughts that you’re having; get them out of your head and onto a piece of paper.

Challenge - Now that you have these thoughts written down, it’s time to challenge why you’re thinking them. These will be down to fears, false beliefs and temporary blips in self-confidence.

Realise - Write down the action that, if you did, would guarantee failure. An example of this would be (Skip my Gym Sessions, Not Tracking my Nutrition, and Avoiding the scale)

Reframe - Now, it’s time to reframe those actions into commitments to guarantee success. An example of this would be (3 Gym Sessions Per Week, Tracking my Nutrition, Weigh myself every morning)

Act - Make a Commitment to the Habits to achieve the goal and add in some accountability (find a gym partner and put some skin in the game to keep up with the sessions, get a coach to submit my nutrition to each week, take a picture of me jumping on the scale and post it on my stories for accountability)

Celebrate - When you achieve your goal, get something completely selfish to reward yourself. You’ve slayed the dragon, and you need to remind yourself that doubts can be turned into wins)


#5 - The Willpower Paradox

The Willpower Paradox is the idea that the more we try to exert willpower to control our behaviour, the more we may experience a sense of loss of control.

This paradox arises because the act of trying to control our impulses or behaviour requires mental effort and energy, which can be depleted over time, leaving us more vulnerable to giving in to temptation.

For example, if someone is in a customer-facing job and uses their willpower to smile at everyone all day and avoid arguing back with people, by the time they get home they lose all control which is why they end up in massive arguments with their loved ones at home.

Look at willpower like a battery on your phone.

If you wanted it to last all day, there are a few things you could do…


  • Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Reduce the Brightness on the screen
  • Make sure to bring a charger with you 


If you want your “Willpower battery to stay full, there are a few things you can do too...

  • Stop following negative things on Social Media.
  • Surround yourself with people that lift you.
  • Fill up your vessel daily (Exercise/Nutrition/Mindfulness)



👉  “The Ship of Theseus Paradox” You’re a completely different person than you were ten years ago; it’s time to change your mindset too.

👉  “Sorites Paradox” Focus on daily habits and look at them as grains of sand. Eventually, they will look very different over time

👉  “The Hedgehogs Dilemma” When you start to get close to someone, you risk being hurt. Stop protecting yourself and setting boundaries, as that’s a guaranteed way you will.

👉  “The Self-Defeating Prophecy” Listen to the internal dialogue in your head, understand it isn’t true and write a plan of action to guarantee success.

👉  “The Willpower Paradox” Don’t rely on willpower to succeed. Find ways to keep your battery full throughout the day by avoiding the things that drain it and focusing on the things that power it up.


I hope you enjoyed this week's knowledge bomb! Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you for the next one soon.


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