What is the path to perfection?

Sometimes it seems like people think their lives will be some sort of perfect ideal, for example, if I can run marathons or keep my house clean or organize the crap out of every minute of the day… or whatever the latest fad is.  (I guess those fads were several iterations ago… as I finish this post it’s minimalism and Frugalwoods-style frugality… can you tell we’ve been finishing up and scheduling old drafts?)

But these internet fads aren’t magic bullets.   Some people love marathon training and some people don’t.  Some people enjoy cleaning and some people don’t.  Some people need more organization than others or have situations that make compartmentalization necessary or optimal.  It’s great to try these things out, but if they don’t bring the solutions you were looking for, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with *you*.  Even if they work for someone else whose blog you read, especially someone who is trying to sell products along with that perfect lifestyle.  They are they (them?) and you are you.  Different strokes.

It’s important to realize that choices are choices and not referenda on what your values are or maps to what other people should be doing (unless that map inspires you).

Enjoy the journey, and reach for the destination, even if you never get there.  Or if you like where you are, enjoy that too!

Be who you want to be.  Find *your* bliss or just live out your life — not every life has to waste time worrying about bliss or optimization.  Make your choices your own and don’t be bound by what the patriarchy or society or your parental unit has been telling you all your life unless you want to be.

And of course, “an it hurts no-one, do what you will.”  There’s limits to freedom, even in touchy-feely posts.

18 Responses to “What is the path to perfection?”

  1. plantingourpennies Says:

    Ha! I’ve got an unfinished draft post on my own long and complicated (and slghtly abusive, I think) relationship with perfection. In short, my nature (or was it nurture?) wants to strive for it 99% of the time (though not always on what it “trendy”) even forsaking my own contentment. But Mr PoP normalizes me and pulls me back from that, which is absolutely necessary so my own happiness doesn’t get lost in the quest for perfection.

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I love this post!
    I am definitely a perfectionist, but having kids has taught me that I can’t control everything. I still “want it all,” but there are only 24 hours in a day and sometimes the house has to go to hell because trying to keep up with the other stuff is more important.
    Right now my kitchen looks like a bomb went off because we got a new cat and it has toys everywhere. My neighbor found her under her shed and I was *supposed* to find a home for her. Well, I did. Foster Fail! Anyway, there is no way I could survive with cat toys and shoelaces strung all over the kitchen a few years ago so I feel like I’m making progress.

  3. Cloud Says:

    I see this tendency to look for the “shortcut” in so many aspects of life. I am a big believer in paying attention to my moods, and figuring out what aspects of my life I can improve. And I love reading other people’s advice about things, but I always take it with a grain of salt. Each person’s ideas are just something to consider as I think through whatever thing is not working for me right then, and how I might change it.

    But on a lot of the sites that include this sort of advice- whether it is about lifestyle, productivity, fitness, money, whatever- there are always people looking for a prescription, i.e., “do this, and you will be happy (productive, fit, rich, whatever).” And I always want to scream IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT! People aren’t interchangeable widgets. What “fixes” one person might “break” another. I try to make it clear when I write an advice post that I’m talking about what worked for me (or, in some cases, what research indicates works for a lot of people), but that the first step in any of this is to figure out your own goals, and why you’re not achieving them, and then figure out which pieces of advice apply to fixing your specific issue. I don’t know if I always succeed in conveying that message, but especially in my more recent posts, I’m really trying to do so. There is no “one weird trick” for achieving the life you want. There just isn’t.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading on management practices lately, and if anything, it is worse there. People want the “one quick fix” to make management easy. It doesn’t work like that for management, either.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your advice is always great! That attention to research is so important.

      (And I think your walking on the beach reward is a great one and you’re doing it in a way that is right for you– no need to change it, especially if changing it dilutes its power.)

      I would argue that the rule “don’t have a meeting without an agenda” definitely fixes a lot of administrative ills (at least in academia). Getting Things Done’s advice on how to run a meeting is spot on. But that’s kind of how most things work– there’s best practices that work well for a lot of people and there’s heterogeneity and there’s a lot of different things that will often work interchangeably or have different trade-offs, or different trade-offs for different people.

      • Cloud Says:

        Yes, “don’t have a meeting without an agenda” is one rule I rarely break! But, I can think of a few specific meetings I’ve run where the agenda was very loose. Of course, I’ve run A LOT of meetings in my career, so it is no surprise I’d find the exceptions, eventually.

        In the management case, I’m thinking more of the people who see that Google (Alphabet now, I guess) is a big, successful company and assume that the management practices that work at Google will work everywhere. Things like that make me rant-y.

        And in cases where there is research that indicates X for most people, but some people are outliers- e.g., amount of sleep needed, ability to work really long hours over long periods… way more people think they are outliers than really are. But that is a separate rant.

        I am just feeling rant-y, I think. Twitter followers, beware….

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Agreed on all points. (Though I really do think I’m more productive on certain kinds of mindless tasks when I’m listening to music… My theory is it keeps me interested enough to not surf the internet.– this is an example of research says and most people think they’re outliers, but I really do think it’s true for me.)

        wooo twitter rant!

      • notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

        Agendas for meetings as a rule will fix quite a lot, and I totally agree about listening to music. It’s just distracting enough to improve concentration, if that makes sense.

        Keeping this short because WP wouldn’t let me post earlier.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        WordPress thinks you are profcero… very odd.

  4. CMonster Says:

    I notice that I have issues with perfectionism and trying to live up with some imagined standard of perfection when I’m feeling out of control with some unrelated aspect of my life. When I was younger I was incredibly controlling about what I ate/how I exercised/ how much I weighed as a way to deal with the stress of being an undergrad/ growing up/ preparing to become an adult. Now I get incredibly controlling about money when I feel like I’m in a time of upheaval. I wish I could say I came to this realization on my own, but I was once having a conversation with a friend about something… vanity maybe???… and she said that she always because obsessed with how her hair looked when was facing a stressful situation in her job as a social worker. The key I suppose… and it’s easier to say than do… is to recognize what’s actually bothering me and focus my attention on what matters or try to make peace with the fact that my life is in transition.

  5. taylorqlee Says:

    I remember watching some terrible/wonderful romantic dramady with Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg and there was this one line that just *resonated* with me:

    “You want to be right or you want to be happy?”

    I think about “perfection” the same way.

  6. Ana Says:

    Great post. I definitely search for areas that I can control when the majority of my life feels out of my control. Like CMonster said above, its sometimes been food/exercise/weight, or time, organization and most recently money. When life is good again, I wonder what the f I was doing and loosen the reigns completely. Its not so much that I think life will be perfect if I weight x pounds or stick to x budget, but more that focusing on those things keeps my mind off the general suckiness.

  7. chacha1 Says:

    I don’t really believe in perfection. I am what used to be called “a Type A person” but I’m not a perfectionist. Life is too variable, and has too many variables, to hope to control most situations.

    That said, in the areas that ARE under my control, I am generally very clear on my relative competence. If there is something under my control that I know I am well able to accomplish, I don’t do a half-assed job of it. There is a distinct satisfaction in doing my best even if no one but me values the outcome. (Case in point: this paralegal course I’m taking. Nobody cares what my grades are – as long as I pass, I’m good, technically – except me.)

    And THAT said, “my best” is a product of time I am willing to invest x money I am willing to invest, divided by my relative competence. :-) In almost every case, done is better than perfect, because 99% of stuff can be re-done in the rare event I’m dissatisfied with it later.


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