Happiness Without Perfection

Yesterday morning, I read a great post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits, The Truth About Your Uncertain Life Path & Purpose. It echos a point I’ve always known: that no one has it all figured out, and we are all just trying to do the best that we can. Leo says,

“Do you think they have it all figured out? Do you think they have certainty and a feeling of reaching perfection? Not a chance. There is not one of us alive, not me or anyone else, who ever feels certainty about their purpose or path. If they do, they’re fooling themselves. But if they’re honest, they don’t feel that certainty. No one ever feels they’ve found the perfect productivity routine, the perfect version of themselves … because it doesn’t exist.”

Social media would have you believe that everyone else’s lives are happier and better than yours. The grass is always greener, right? And I admit that when I blog, I frequently don’t write about the things that get me down. I don’t want to post when I’m upset with a friend or colleague, and I’m not sometimes not comfortable sharing when I’m stressed about something that’s my own fault. So, as much as I don’t intend for that to be the case, I’m probably one of those contributing to the glossy perfection you see on social media.

Funny_Faces_in_the_Vineyard

Let’s fix that social media perfection image with this ridiculous picture of me in Sonoma a few weeks ago.

But I think too many people lose sight of the fact that social media is a moment in time, covered up with a pretty filter. Unfortunately, they think that there is perfection out there – that’s why we end up with articles like Why Millennials Keep Dumping You. I don’t think that jobs today are worse than they were 20 years ago; I think that we think our job isn’t as great as everyone else’s, and we keep looking for perfection. I agree that all those changes in the workplace would be nice, but they certainly aren’t the norm just yet, and quitting every job until you find one that offers all of those perks, to me, seems foolish. (Of course, if your big dream is changing that workplace status quo, that’s an incredibly worthy endeavor – but make sure you are doing something about it rather than just being one of the thousands who fruitlessly hops from job to job.)

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I told the senior associates who chatted with me at Discover a few weeks ago was that they need to figure out the one thing that will make them happy – and then go after that as hard as they can. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think I will ever have a job where I love every single second and have no complaints. In consulting specifically, I really can’t imagine that anyone wakes up in the morning thinking, “YES, I can’t WAIT to write that status report today!” And yet, right now I’m working on a consulting project with a fantastically supportive team, on content that is both fascinating and also transformative, and with a lifestyle that may not be ideal but is doable and I’m reasonably happy with it. (Traveling four days a week is always hard.) I do have to write status reports, and I may not be waking up every morning feeling like my work day is a vacation, but I would say there is at least one point in every single day where I feel so lucky to have the project and job that I do. And so I will say: this job is awesome! I am in it for the long haul.

Discover_Orchestration_Day_1

One of my absolute favorite non-project-related parts of my job: playing the orchestrator role at our senior associate leadership development experience this fall. Discover was the best!

But in the spirit of honesty with which Leo wrote his post, I will end with this. I love my job, but right now I am also very excited that it’s almost the weekend. (One doesn’t cancel the other out.) TGIF!

Comments

  1. Life is a paradox. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

    Is the idea so much about seeking perfection but rather seeking improvement or being better?

    And if the idea is about improving, then what do we use as our barometer/gauge for improvement? In other words, in what direction do I seek improvement? How do I know that the direction I am going is towards being better rather than worse?

    It is about balancing long term and short term vision. In the short term this status report or this accreditation self-study review isn’t going to make me happy, but in the long-term this review process is going to put me in a better position.

    How well we are able to balance the short term and long term simultaneously is the key towards a life of freedom, happiness and prosperity.

    • I think life should be all about improving… but you have to celebrate the improvements even if you haven’t reached perfection. (I am notoriously bad at this myself.) I think that generally, anything that gets you closer to perfection is a good thing, but it’s also important to recognize the tradeoffs that you’re making in order to get there – and that’s where I think it’s especially important to focus in on one goal rather than trying to “have it all.” If you are trying to “have it all,” you’re going to be making a lot more tradeoffs, which is presumably less palatable. If you only have ONE goal, though, presumably the tradeoffs would be well worth it.

    • Who said anything about reaching perfection?

      Are you notoriously bad about celebrating small improvements? Or is that a ‘normal’ thing for everyone? Have you ever met a runner, after they just ran a personal best, where they did not talk about how they could’ve been 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 3 minutes faster?

      Is it because we are blessed with rational thinking and a free will that our natural desire is to always seek more?

      Maybe even more than a goal or succeeding or failing; it is understanding what the costs are to have the goal? I dunno, I’m just throwing stuff out there…

    • Fair point about runners! It can be easy to overlook the small improvements due to the larger goal. This is why I always recommend that first time marathoners don’t set a time goal – that would become the “perfection” rather than just getting to be so proud that they finished a race.

      I completely agree with you that human nature is always to seek more – sometimes we just need to be satisfied with “enough”, particularly when costs are high.

    • :)

  2. One thing that (I think?) has really helped with the perception that everything is AMAZING has been my pic of the day. Some days, I literally don’t have anything going on. I go to work, come home, do boring house stuff, and then go to bed. That said, I say ad nauseam that a lot goes on behind closed doors / stuff that isn’t posted online.

    Focusing on the positive vs the negative is a powerful skill and tool that everyone would be well served to learn. So glad you found a job that you love!
    Boring Adam recently posted…Briefly Boring: Retore? Strained?My Profile

    • SO true about things going on behind closed doors – I remember talking about that this weekend with you.

      I try to keep my blog fairly representative, but I also definitely go days without posting on Instagram – so, to your point, my feed is curated whereas your daily pic is more representative. That said, I tried pic a day myself and only lasted like a week :(

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