Paradoxical Problems: When Hard Work Doesn’t Work | Summary and Q&A

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March 17, 2019
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The Art of Improvement
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Paradoxical Problems: When Hard Work Doesn’t Work

TL;DR

Trying harder is not always the solution to every problem; in fact, for certain problems, it can make them worse.

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Key Insights

  • 🙈 Trying harder is often seen as the solution to problems, but it's not always effective.
  • 🍂 Paradoxical problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, can worsen with increased effort.
  • 🥺 Effort and hard work are highly praised and rewarded in our culture, leading us to believe that trying harder is always beneficial.
  • 🍗 Flexibility in problem-solving is important, as not all problems can be solved by trying harder.
  • ❓ It's crucial to recognize when a problem may require a different approach instead of solely relying on increased effort.
  • 🍂 Mental energy and arousal can be counterproductive to certain problems, such as falling asleep.
  • 💦 The belief in the intrinsic value of hard work can be misleading when it comes to problem-solving.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is trying harder often seen as the solution to problems in our culture?

Trying harder is deeply ingrained in our culture as a means to achieve success and improve outcomes. Effort and hard work are praised and rewarded in both educational and work environments.

Q: Can trying harder ever make a problem worse?

Yes, for certain problems known as paradoxical problems, trying harder can actually exacerbate the issue. In the example of trying to fall asleep, the more we worry and expend mental energy, the less likely we are to become sleepy.

Q: How can we approach problems in a more flexible way?

Instead of automatically resorting to trying harder and thinking more, we should consider alternative approaches. Sometimes, a problem requires a different perspective or approach that doesn't solely rely on increased effort.

Q: Are all problems paradoxical problems?

No, not all problems fall into the category of paradoxical problems. Most problems can benefit from increased effort and trying harder. However, it's important to recognize when a problem may require a different approach.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Effort and trying harder usually lead to better results in most areas of life, such as studying, working, and exercising.

  • The belief in the intrinsic value of hard work is deeply ingrained in our culture and often praised and rewarded.

  • However, for certain problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, trying harder can paradoxically make the problem worse.

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