Derek Featherstone's Box of Chocolates: You never know what you're going to get

Box of Chocolates

Saturday, January 16th, 2010 - 8:32am

Living Contradiction

I am a living contradiction.

The living contradiction is a concept I first encountered in my days as a teacher. Through my professor and friend Tom Russell I learned of Jack Whitehead, who was very interested in action research, reflective practice and living educational theory.

Jack talks about experiencing oneself as a living contradiction — when we experience our actions being at odds with our beliefs and values — as the impetus to improve. When we experience that feeling, we are motivated to act. To change. To iterate.

This is different than hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the when we pretend to have certain beliefs and values, when we don’t really have them. With hypocrisy, we are lying.

A living contradiction, however, is about the truth. Finding a way to live true to what we believe — both personally and professionally.

Feeling the Pain

In the final two months of 2009, I did precisely the opposite of what I should have been doing. In October, I wrote two posts “What Gives?” and “Needs More Whitespace” — both of which explored the need to give things up, to slow down, to create space in our personal and professional lives in order to achieve a better balance between the personal and professional parts of our lives as part of long term “success” and happiness.

I wrote the words, but I couldn’t live the ideals. I slept less per night than I had for the last 2.5 years. I didn’t log my hours of sleep, but I know that more often than not, my alarm woke me only 3 or 4 hours after my head hit the pillow. Not healthy.

I believe, like Jack, that I can make a positive change after feeling and experiencing this dissonance. Feeling it so acutely is certainly more than enough to provoke me. I need to reflect, plan, act and evaluate. I am a living contradiction, and I’m okay with that, as long as I do something about it.

What are you doing — right now — that shows you are a living contradiction? What are you going to do to make a change to bring your actions in line with your ideals and beliefs?

We both need to change this now, while we’re still in the tone-setting, habit-building infancy of 2010.


I experience myself as a living contradiction. Do you?

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Nicely explained. I’ve never thought of it this way. I’ve taken to the “are my actions in line with my goals and values?” idea/question.

This feeling you describe hit me at the end of 2008 and I took a month off of work to get sorted out, hang out with my family and enjoy some outdoors.

I spent all of 2009 putting into practice answering that question above much more seriously then ever before (and found that asking myself “who are you going to be today” became a quick “put me in my place” sort of motivator – and a cool domain name :)

Good luck in 2010. As you say above, building and breaking habits is on the menu, but more importantly is deeply knowing which ones you want to act upon.

My friend, just take a break from the conference circuit. That’ll help some. Also, don’t do every single volunteer job that comes your way. That’ll help some, too.

I’m going to do exactly that in 2010.

Nice post Derek

Total agree, we need to stop procrastinating with words and act. Make those hard life style choices and change things for the better. I know personally I have been down this road in 2009. It’s not easy! However I took steps to slow things down and the like and I’m now taking it a step further, hopefully for the better.

We are sometimes strange beasts. We can with all the intent and passion of the world see what we are doing wrong and the solution we must undertake. And yet we are focused in the moment and blind to our path we are creating in that moment. Maybe we just need to stop and see it all and take stock.

Being a living contradiction. How do we need to change to live our values better? /by @feather

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

This should make you think – RT @feather: I experience myself as a living contradiction. Do you?

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Understanding the values and frame I want for everything prompted me to mind map my work existence recently.

I probably need to do one for my life, and then mesh it with the work one, though I feel like my life itself is better. I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve been in a long time.

If you and I can both make it work, we’ll be doing well. I’m always here to be a sounding board.

Great post Derek.

Last summer a few people mentioned to me that after losing weight and running everyday that I was a huge inspiration to them.

Since around November, I stopped running everyday. In fact, I barely run at all these days. I’d like to tell myself that it’s because it’s the winter and that it’s cold etc., yet I ran every day last winter.. not really an effective excuse.

I still find myself telling people that they should be running everyday if they want to stay in shape, and that diet is extremely important.

I’m glad that you posted this… hopefully now that I’m confronting it I can deal with it.

Hurrah for 2010!

Nice post. Was inspired to include your sites in my own blog. ( And clever idea of uncovering contradictions before they become dangerous habits that we simply ignore as rituals. Makes me need to run…


feather replied on March 3, 2011

Hi Rob,

To what specifically are you referring?