Chasing perfection reminds me of a dog chasing his tale — you get dizzyingly exhausted trying to make it happen, but it’s always just out of reach. And if you do end up catching it, was it really worth it after all?
It’s easy to get caught up in chasing perfection, or the idea of a “perfect” life. It comes with the perfect income, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect body, and whatever “perfect” seems to be. But in reality, those who spend all their time and energy trying to make sure their lives are perfect are usually the unhappiest people I know.
So today I want to talk to you about the difference between chasing perfection and achieving happiness — how to create a life that truly brings you joy and fulfillment.
The Pitfalls of Chasing Perfection
These days it seems like there is more pressure than ever for us to live the “perfect” life. Every time we go online, we see pictures of our “friends” on social media traveling around the world, enjoying magical moments with their friends and family in beautiful locations, and “humble bragging” about their latest accomplishments in their business or career.
And when you compare your life to theirs, it can feel like you’re failing to measure up.
Then there’s the pressure to live up to other people’s expectations of you and do what you’re “supposed” to do in order to be successful in life. Move up the corporate ladder. Get married by a certain age. Have a perfect house and be perfect parents to your perfect children. Make lots of money and drive a fancy car.
But there is a huge difference between “perfect” and happy. It’s time for you to get clear on what will REALLY give you the joy and fulfillment you desire.
5 Tips for Finding Happiness
The fact is, people who spend all their time and energy trying to make sure their lives are “perfect” are usually the unhappiest people I know. That’s because “perfect” is impossible.
Perfect implies 100% success, every time. And life just doesn’t work that way. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to suffer setbacks. You are going to find yourself “falling down” or sometimes having to make sacrifices in certain areas of your life.
Maybe you’re not able to keep your house as clean as you’d like it to be, because you’re always busy working and taking care of the kids. Maybe your business isn’t growing as fast as you thought it would — because getting the word out and building relationships with potential customers or clients are taking more time and effort than you predicted.
Maybe you’re not able to take your family on expensive and exotic vacations every year. Maybe your house isn’t as big as you’d like. Or maybe you’re not where you thought you would be at this point in your life.
But just because your life doesn’t conform to some preconceived notion of “perfection,” that doesn’t mean it’s not ideal for YOU. You are exactly where you need to be in your life right now.
And, whether you are aware of them or not, there are opportunities around you all the time to learn and grow and get more of what you really want in your life. All you have to do is open yourself to receive them. And today I’d like to give you five powerful tips on how to do just that — by aiming for happiness instead of chasing perfection.
Identify What Really Makes You Happy
My first tip is to get clear on what you REALLY want — not what you think you should want. What are the things that truly make you happy?
Is it really the big house, the fancy car, or the high-pressure career that has you working overtime every week? Or is it the time you spend with your family, the joy you feel when you’re out in nature, or the time you spend working one-on-one with others to help them improve their lives?
Whatever gives you joy is a powerful sign showing you what you need to have MORE of in your life in order to be truly happy and fulfilled. So get clear on what experiences give you joy, and look for ways to add more of it into your personal and professional life — and you will be a lot happier.
When I was recently in Atlanta for Super Bowl weekend, I met a young man who told me that right out of college, he landed a very lucrative career on Wall Street, but he wasn’t happy. He was making a salary plus bonuses of as much as a million dollars a year, but he wasn’t feeling happy or fulfilled.
This young man said his boss was exactly like the lead character in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. He went on to say that after he watched our Breakthrough to Success Online Training, he decided to follow his heart and quit his job on Wall Street, which included forfeiting major bonus money he was owed, and start a career as a life coach focusing on professional athletes. He told me he is so much happier and more fulfilled and still makes a very good living.
Pinpoint What You Really Want
And that leads to my next tip for you, which is to stop caring about what other people want you to do with your life and focus on what YOU want to do. Because no one else can see inside your heart and know what truly fulfills you and makes you happy.
You should always live your life according to your OWN dreams and aspirations, not someone else’s — not your parents, not your partner and not your friends, You are the one that gets to decide what’s “perfect” for you. Your main job is to please yourself, not others.
Set Reasonable Expectations
My next tip for you is to have reasonable expectations for yourself. So much of the disappointment we experience in life has to do with us not living up to our own expectations. But sometimes the expectations we have are impossibly high and set us up for failure before we even get started.
For example, let’s say you want to quit your job and start your own business. So to motivate yourself, you set the goal of making $100,000 in your first year. But you’ve never worked in that industry before, you’ve never owned your own business, and you don’t know the first thing about marketing.
That means you have a huge learning curve ahead of you, and it’s going to take you time to acquire the skills and expertise you need to grow a thriving business. So the chances of you being able to learn all those things and make $100,000 in less than 12 months are probably pretty slim.
That’s not to say that starting your own six-figure business isn’t 100 percent achievable for you! It is, and if that’s your dream, you should absolutely go for it. Just understand that there’s usually more to learn than you first imagine, and it’s probably going to take longer than you think to get your business up and running and build up your customer or client base.
My next tip for you is to recognize that failure is a part of life. Failure is how you grow — by taking risks and making mistakes and LEARNING from them. So never let your mistakes impact your moment-to-moment happiness.
I see so many people living in guilt-induced misery because of things they’ve done in the past — or people who refuse to take action to improve their life because they’re so paralyzed by the fear of failure, they simply don’t want to risk it.
But your happiness and self-worth shouldn’t be based on whether you do everything right the first time. It’s not about whether you get it perfect — it’s about what you learn and who you become in the process that matters the most.
Finally, my last tip is to adopt a happiness-centered mindset. Focus on what makes you happy, and you will attract more of it into your life.
One easy way to do that is with a regular gratitude practice. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate everything you have to be grateful for in life. You can either write it down as a list or you can say it out loud.
Sometimes I just walk through my home or office and simply say all the things I am looking at as I walk through. I appreciate my computer. I appreciate my television, I appreciate the carpeting, I appreciate that I have filtered running water, I appreciate my shower, I appreciate my wife, I appreciate my dog Joe, I appreciate the food in the refrigerator, I appreciate the people who grew it, harvested it, and delivered it to the grocery store, and so on.
This practice will cultivate a deeper joy and appreciation within you right away and keep you motivated and on track, as you work to make your dream life — not your “perfect” life – a reality.
One of the richest men in Japan claimed his success was due to silently repeating the word ARIGATO (Japanese for thank you) all day long…every day. Appreciation and gratitude is one of the most powerful mindsets you can cultivate to create more happiness and joy in your life.
Stop Chasing Perfection and Find Your Happiness
Is there anywhere in your life where you have been more focused on being “perfect” than being happy? What steps can you take to change that and shift your efforts towards cultivating greater joy and fulfillment in your life?
Remember that true happiness lies in the journey and not just in the final destination. Identify the things that make you happy and what you truly want out of life, and make those things and people a priority. Set reasonable expectations for yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail, it’s part of the process. And through all the highs and lows, keep an attitude of gratitude, and happiness will naturally follow.
You don’t have to do it alone either. To help you start your journey towards a happier life, download a copy of my Positive Thinking Guide today!
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
Image courtesy of Laura Pocho.