Being Happy Doesn’t Mean That Everything Is Perfect

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown

We are all on a mission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect house, family, partner, and job. To complete our to-do list, to complete out bucket list, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, and be successful.

Life can often feel like a never-ending treadmill, going quickly in the wrong direction. As we run faster to try to progress down this path, the goal becomes more elusive.

Are we setting ourselves up to fail in this quest for the perfect life? And will it even result in our one main aim: happiness?

I’m beginning to think that our quest for success and happiness is, in fact, the main reason we are unhappy.

We place such high expectations on ourselves—to progress at work and be successful, to meet the same pressure to be perfect at home—and we feel we have to conform to the media ideals we see every day in terms of our health, our looks, our weight.

As if that’s not hard enough, we then look at everyone around us feeling like they’ve got it mastered and we’re falling short.

We often don’t realize that what we see in others and the media is only the best side. It’s not a full picture, so it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to achieve this. We’re setting ourselves up to fail.

I spent years doing all of the above, climbing the corporate ladder, trying to conform in a bid to please people, and it made me unhappy and unfulfilled. The perfect life always seemed just out of reach, and yet my life on the outside might have looked ideal to everyone else.

I thought there must be another way, so one day I gave it all up and set on a journey to rebuild my life around my passions and restore my happiness.

I learned a lot about myself and learned, from others, how people become happy and how we can live an authentic, perfectly imperfect life. I’ve learned that:

  • Things won’t always go according to your plan
  • The to-do list will never be complete
  • You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that is as perfect as it can be
  • No one has a perfect life (despite what it may look like on Facebook or in a magazine)
  • Happiness is not a point you arrive at in the distant future when you resolve all your problems and achieve perfection.

So often it’s our quest for perfection that stops us from being happy.

We plan our weekend and then get upset when it rains, disrupting our plans. This prevents us from enjoying the fact that it’s the weekend, and we get to spend time with those we love, doing what we enjoy (even if it rains).

We want our to-do list to be complete, and of course it never will be, because as fast as we cross things off, more stuff will appear on it. We never quite have the right amount of money saved, so we work harder to get there, that perfect point in the future, with enough money to be comfortable, which of course never exists because we always want more.

We look for a partner with no faults, when being human means we’re always going to have some.

We expect for things to turn out the way we’d like them to, but life isn’t like that. It’s full of ups and downs. Even for the happiest of people, the storms will always come.

We search for the perfect job, one we will enjoy every day. Yet every job will have its highs and lows. Even the rich and famous, who get to play sports or music and make a living from their passion, complain about the travel, the schedule, the media, and the pressures of fame. Every silver lining has a cloud, and the reverse is also true, because true perfection is always imperfect.

It’s because of our desire to achieve perfection that we worry about making the wrong choice. We come to a fork in the road and we want to make sure we go in the right direction, but how can we know, since we can never see the end of the path at the beginning?

I regretted not having the courage to leave my corporate job when I was offered the chance of redundancy money. Instead, I hung on for another year in a job I didn’t enjoy and delayed my dreams.

It took me a while to realize that there are no wrong choices; every choice has ups and downs, and there is no such thing as a perfect outcome.

When we chase an unrealistic expectation of perfection for our life and expect happiness to follow, we’re missing the point. Happiness is available all along in those imperfect moments scattered throughout our everyday life.

A recent party I threw springs to mind. It was supposed to be a barbecue, but the weather didn’t cooperate; my outfit got torn just before the guests arrived, so I had to change; and the recipes I’d planned were seeming harder to pull together than I thought. Then there was the fact that I’d woken up that morning with the start of a cold.

As we sat inside drinking wine and laughing together with the few dishes I had managed to prepare, I realized that while it was far from the perfect evening I’d planned, it was still lovely. We were surrounded by friends, everyone was having fun, and it was perfectly imperfect.

It’s all too easy in today’s society to get caught up in the cycle of always wanting more. Our house, car, and partner were once new, and we thought they were perfect, everything we wanted. Then the novelty wore off and it became apparent that this was not the case, so we began searching again, back on a quest for perfection.

When I’d ticked off the things I thought I wanted, when I had it all—my corporate career and all the things I’d bought with it—I sat on the deck of my dream beach house and felt empty inside. I knew this wasn’t the recipe for happiness; after all, I had everything I’d ever wanted yet felt unfulfilled. I’d clearly been missing the point along the way.

Happiness is about loving what we have rather than chasing down the things we think we want. If we can focus on what’s good in every imperfect moment, we’ll all feel a lot more fulfilled.

About Jess Stuart

After a successful career in the corporate HR world Jess decided to follow her passion in Health and Wellness as a coach, speaker, and author. A qualified yoga instructor who has trained in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, living and working in many countries Jess draws her life experience into her work to share the principles of health and happiness.

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  • Thanks for the great post Jess, especially the point about comparing yourself on social media. It’s easy to forget people will only show you the good things that are happening in their life while hiding the negatives. In my opinion happiness is a choice we make, and can never be determined by the external circumstances in our lives.

  • You defined very well about social media and human nature. Great tips

  • One of the great benefits that comes from establishing a mindfulness practice is that we naturally break free from the fear-based need for perfection and control. Instead we develop emotional freedom and are more able to appreciate of life as it unfolds moment to moment – including things not going to plan!
    The Boulder Center for Online Mindfulness Therapy

  • Siddharth Karunakaran

    I could totally relate to this article and will save this wisdom for the years to come.

  • Happiness is a journey, not a destination. You can live happy right now. today if you choose. The decision is yours. Learn to live in the moment, practice gratitude, and do for others. Those are just a few of the things you can do today to be happier.

  • lv2terp

    WONDERFUL post and reminder! Thank you so much for sharing this message of inspiration and grounding 🙂

  • LossExperiment

    Unknown = Gerard Way. All you had to do was google it.

  • Loved this Jess! Thank you for sharing! Especially loved this part: “Happiness is about loving what we have rather than chasing down the things we think we want. “

  • I think it’s natural to strive for perfection, but often things don’t turn out as planned! However, if we have a vision of what we want to create and we take action towards it, the outcome isn’t as important as the fact we took action towards our dreams. As ‘Creating True Happiness’ says below, it’s a journey not a destination.

  • Alessio Milo

    The gratitude makes perfect imperfect moment.
    Thank you for the article 🙂

  • This is brilliant!

    Thanks, I needed this today.

  • So true Peter, it’s the one thing I swear by, part of my morning routine and responsible for so much I’m happy about 🙂

  • Thanks for the feedback Dave, you’re welcome

  • So true, thanks for your feedback 🙂

  • Great advice, so true

  • Thanks for your feedback Samy, glad you liked it

  • a pleasure, thanks for taking the time to feedback your thoughts

  • great advice, well put

  • Thanks for sharing, apprieciate your feedback

  • Thanks for your feedback Piyush

  • I totally agree Cal, thanks for taking the time to give us your feedback, glad you liked it

  • Marilyn Bubblo Giambra

    Excellent article, thank you! However, I have learned through life that happiness is just an emotion, like every other emotion we experience day to day; such as anger, fear, sadness, excitement, etc. which are all fleeting and never last 24/7. I believe it is peace that we should strive for. The peace in knowing. Knowing that we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves, The Divine, Our God. It is from whence we came and from where we are going. And so too, our life on this earth is but fleeting. However, knowing where we are going through faith, gives me the peace to live here on this earth and experience all these human emotions which come and go throughout my journey. Thank you for allowing me to share.

  • I absolutely loathe these kinds of stories: I had a successful corporate career, but I wasn’t happy, so I pursued x career instead (some type of lower-paying, less prestigious but more artsy gig). Do you know how privileged it is to be in a financial position where you can choose to leave a higher income bracket for a lower one, even if it means some sacrifices? These types of stories I would imagine are few and far between, and don’t do anything except highlight how courageous the author is for daring to go against societal expectations. Because they can financially afford to.

  • Shanker

    Very good insight. Yes, life pains at certain areas despite our best efforts, and we have to accept what is not changeable however unfair it may be . If we are stuck up there, we will suffer continuously without redemption, and certainly miss those situations that are good enough.

    Thanks Jess!

  • Alyssa Dayton

    I agree with everything in this article however how do you “build” a future for yourself or set goals or improve your life without “looking” for happiness or making changes

    Ex: my boyfriend is always chasing …he wants more money…wants to invest in real estate…buy a cottage to enjoy ….he has to work hard to get jobs as a contractor to pay for life but he wants to make money and invest it and save it and spend it!!! I feel he is always “chasing” and searching for happiness rather than finding it inside or what he has however I’m also confused between “chasing” and also wanting to better your life!

    I am the complete end of the spectrum, I am a massage therapist and don’t make enough money to afford life so I don’t even bother “chasing”. I also find people in my social circle all compare and try to live like the Joneses and that is horribly stressful!!! It makes me very upset and I always have felt I don’t even want to try!

    I also work at an office part time I don’t like but need the money and I’m trying to figure out my purpose and what makes me happy and always thinking about wanting to earn money doing what I love and don’t know what that is. I don’t like “chasing” things that are expensive and prefer living a simple life and doing what I enjoy like yoga or reading or spending time with my dogs but my confusion is if you chase are you not also trying to make your life better by “becoming more” or trying to establish yourself or make yourself secure financially etc?!

  • Myla Mercer

    This is a wonderful idea and one that I try to practice daily. Thanks for the article!

  • Your word on social media are amazing. I read many blogs but this blog gives me some fresh words which i never heard.

    Thanks for sharing.