BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham/Inspirations Blog/The Paradoxes of Life: A Journey Towards Value-Based Living

The Paradoxes of Life: A Journey Towards Value-Based Living

Harsh Pandya
Harsh Pandya

In a Native American parable, an old Cherokee chief imparts wisdom to his grandson about the eternal struggle within each of us. He describes how two wolves, one representing joy, kindness, empathy, compassion, and truth, and the other symbolizing fear, anger, resentment, regret, self-pity, and lies, are in a constant battle within us. This inner conflict between values and desires shapes our lives and leads to three paradoxes — the happiness paradox, the achievement paradox, and the relationship paradox.

The Happiness Paradox:

Society often encourages us to pursue happiness directly by seeking success, wealth, and material possessions. However, research from various fields, including economics, psychology, sociology, and psychiatry, reveals a surprising truth. A 2018 study in the journal Nature Human Behavior found that life satisfaction tends to peak at an income of $95,000 worldwide. Beyond this point, an increase in income does not lead to more happiness and may even result in depression.

The solution to the happiness paradox lies in the pursuit of generosity, kindness, and empathy. Studies show that acts of charity and volunteer work contribute to lasting happiness. The Harvard Study on Adult Development, which spans over 85 years, emphasizes the significance of quality relationships in achieving happiness and longevity.

The Achievement Paradox:

Society often portrays integrity and self-discipline as obstacles to achieving one’s goals. However, research conducted by psychologists Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman reveals that self-discipline plays a more significant role in academic success than IQ. Cultivating self-control and discipline is essential for accomplishing long-term objectives and maintaining focus.

Integrity and values like discipline are not roadblocks to success but rather the engine that propels us towards our goals. In the words of the Bhagavad Gita, working diligently without attachment to the fruits of labor leads to true achievement.

The Relationship Paradox:

As human beings, we naturally desire acceptance while fearing rejection. Many individuals hide their personal beliefs and values, fearing judgment and exclusion. This fear of being authentic hinders the development of deep and meaningful relationships. Research indicates that relationships thrive when individuals show up as their true selves. Authenticity strengthens romantic relationships, fosters longer-lasting marriages, and improves counseling outcomes.

The solution to the relationship paradox lies in embracing our authentic selves and not conforming to fit in with others. By being true to our values and beliefs, we attract like-minded individuals and establish genuine connections.

Embracing Value-Based Living:

In understanding these paradoxes, we recognize the importance of values in shaping our lives. To find happiness, we must cultivate generosity and empathy. Achieving our goals requires self-discipline and integrity. Building fulfilling relationships necessitates authenticity and acceptance of our values.

Unfortunately, as adults, we often neglect working on our value priorities. This neglect perpetuates the ongoing battle between the two wolves within us, leading to negative emotions and struggles.

The path to a better life lies in value-based living. By continually nurturing our values, we create harmony within ourselves and find contentment. Spirituality and the wisdom of our traditions, like those found in Akshardham, offer motivation and guidance on this journey towards value-based living.

The question remains, “Which wolf will you feed?” The answer will determine the direction and fulfillment of your life. Embrace the paradoxes, work on your values, and choose the path that leads to a meaningful and purposeful existence.