I was inspired to write down a few notes on my problem with the illusion of perfection by an interaction with a close relative over this past weekend. We have been saying for many months (years?) that we want to take a trip together as a group, but we never got around to doing it. An opportunity arose in the form of an invitation from another family member to join them this Fall on a lake trip. I thought it was a great idea, and began researching immediately. I got the details together, such as where to stay, the estimated cost, who we were going with, and the dates to go. All the basic necessities you need to plan a vacation. When I asked the rest of the group if I could go ahead and book, one family member wanted to put the plan on hold “until we got all the details together”. He was experiencing some anxiety, because not every single detail regarding the trip was planned out. Details such as what to eat, who to hang out with, what water activities to do. So much anxiety that he did not want to commit to booking a location just yet. Which is what happened in every past trip we tried to plan, hence the months and years that have passed since we first decided this was something we wanted to do. Someone else in the family had to explain this aversion to me so that I may better understand it. For this family member, not having an extremely detailed game plan set in stone causes anxiety. He had high expectations of what a trip SHOULD look like, and feared deviating from that picture perfect image. And his anxiety leads to inaction. This happens a lot, and to many people.
For example, I know many friends who have personally expressed to me their dissatisfaction with the work that they do. When I delved deeper into the reasons for their dissatisfaction, with a focused interest on what their true passions are in life, I notice that all of them have current jobs that do not equate with their true passions. The solution to the problem was simple. So I point this out to many of them, and when I asked why they don’t just open up their dream coffee shop, or travel the world (or insert-dream-job-here), they give me a list of excuses.
“I cannot afford it.”
“It’s too risky.”
“I don’t have the time.”
Or my all-time favorite: “I still need to achieve ____ and ____ and ____ before I can even start that process.”
They fear failure. They fear the unknown. They fear not having a perfect plan that will guarantee them success. They fear not being a perfect person, and mostly, they fear having others judge them for it.
As human beings, it is in our nature to make mistakes. We are also blessed (or cursed) to be one of the few species on Earth capable of self-awareness. Together, these two human traits make us doubtful creatures, constantly re-assessing our value and worth based on what we perceive to be ideal.
Growing up, many of us are taught that ideal equates to perfection, or at least, as close to perfection as you could achieve. The problem with perfection is the fact that perfection does not exist. Many are aware of this but still continue to search for that which does not exist. Obsessing over perfection leads to very detrimental effects to one’s lifestyle, and fear of making mistakes could cause us to make the biggest mistake of our lives, which is, to not act at all.
We are constantly surrounded by social media and advertising that show us a picture-perfect image of what the ideal is. Even though most of us understand that these images are staged photographs of what could be and not necessarily what is, it is difficult to separate the subconscious conclusion that we, too, could attain this picture-perfect state. Because of this assumption, our goals become unreachable when they mirror the expectations set before us. Perfection can then lead to that ever-famous saying, “If I can’t reach it, why bother try?”
“Our lives are defined by opportunities. Even the ones we miss.”
We have to stop fearing the imperfect. There is no perfect. Inaction, by definition, leads nowhere. We have to stop waiting for that ideal time. We have to stop waiting for the stars to align. Make them align yourself. The person who acts towards an unreachable goal and falls short achieves more than the person who did not try at all.
Because as humans, we also have the power to adapt. Follow actions with even more actions, even if they are corrections of previous actions. And repeat this again and again and again. Never stop. Take back your life. Live it to the fullest and live it well.
And when you get there, reach back and pull someone up with you. Each one, teach one. I’ve had a mother of two thank me for giving her the courage to quit a busy and stressful office environment, in exchange for a slower practice with less days that was more suited to her lifestyle and gave her the time to be with her kids. She had been afraid to try and see what’s out there, until we prioritized her life goals together. A co-worker kept telling me that he always wanted to take a DJ-ing class, and so I kept telling him he should do it! A few months later, he told me that seeing me take pottery classes and guitar lessons inspired him to finally sign up for DJ classes. And it was very humbling to hear someone older than me, more experienced than me, and wiser than me, tell me that my frequent travelling motivated him to plan a three week vacation to visit multiple countries in Asia where he used to live. People want to act. They just need help being unafraid.
Oh, and about that vacation. I booked it.