“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.