“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.” – Amit Ray
Imagine for a moment that you’re on vacation on a lush tropical island.
You unwind in a swaying hammock under the cool shade of a palm tree, sipping a refreshing cocktail as you gaze on the white sandy beach and glimmering turquoise blue water that stretches out before you. You doze off as the warm sea breeze caresses your face and calms you with its fresh scent.
During those few precious moments, all your worries and concerns instantly dissipate.
It is magical. It is dreamy. It is perfect.
But will it last? Probably not.
Once the post-vacation euphoria fades away, you realize that you have to deal with the same responsibilities and issues that you left behind. Whether your concerns are related to health, family, money, relationships, or career, they still demand your attention.
For most people, this often triggers stress and sets limitations. In a state of exasperation, a starry-eyed vacationer might exclaim, “Why can’t my life be perfect? Why can’t I always be in vacation-mode?”
Let’s get one thing straight – life is tough. But it’s tougher for those who are married to the fantasy of attaining the “perfect life”. They are disappointed every time the real world creeps in and dashes their hopes. Those who seek perfection have a sense of entitlement that can see them feel crushed they don’t get what they feel that they deserve.
As a former devotee of the myth of perfection, I don’t blame them. When you belong to a generation that grew up watching the idyllic fairytales of Rom-Coms, the invincible superheroes of kids’ television, the aspirational excesses of shows like Beverly Hills 90210 as teens, how could we not covet anything less than a grandiose existence? Celebrity culture and movies provide us with the template for a picture-perfect life.
We grew up hearing that we could achieve anything that we set our minds to and that we deserve the best that life has to offer. Yet, like a relentless heavyweight boxer, life knocks those fantasies out of us until we finally give in to the reality that life can never be perfect in the way that we envisioned.
If this post is starting to sound like a real downer, please bear with me – there’s going to be an upswing. You see, the problem isn’t with our desire to have a perfect life, but with what we believe a perfect life constitutes. It’s the metaphorical “castle in the sky” that messes with our heads.
Most people today will mention one or more of the following if you ask them to define a perfect life: lots of money and “stuff”, beauty, intelligence, plenty of leisure time, a stress and worry-free existence, attractive partners, and any other superficial things.
While it’s perfectly fine to desire these things, we shouldn’t interpret the lack of them to be indicative of an imperfect life. If we’re overly attached to these illusory and transient sources of happiness, we can never be truly fulfilled. The great Buddha once said that happiness does not depend on what you have and who you are, it relies on what and how you think.
Perfection should not be predicated on ownership and achievements, but on the state of our inner world. Perfection is not something that you fabricate in the outside world but it is a condition that you cultivate in your inner world. An internal state of perfection is attained by fostering feelings of peace, tranquility, balance, joy, present-moment awareness, acceptance and equanimity.
A perfect interior world will inevitably be reflected in our external surroundings. Like a sturdy oak tree with tough roots, we can stand tall and strong, against the winds of change. From a big-picture perspective, we’ll be able to see the perfection in our struggles because we know that it is the precursor to a more profound and meaningful existence.
In this evolved state of consciousness we have the discernment to see that chasing a perfect life, based on societal terms, is akin to chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Like Dorothy in the Wizard Oz, we’ll realize that we didn’t need to journey to Oz to find happiness. The magic has been inside us all along.
You can craft a sense of spiritual perfection in your life by adopting the following practices:
1. Manage your expectations: The most common reason why people become disillusioned is that their reality doesn’t match their expectations. People tend to set unrealistic expectations based on what they see in the media. They want the glamour, fortune, and fame, not realizing that the majority of those who achieve it worked hard for their success and endured some tough times. Their lives look perfect because they were resolute about creating the perfect conditions. Setting healthy expectations is an art that you can master over time that will bring you deep fulfillment. You can learn more about setting healthy expectations in this post.
2. Let go of control and over-thinking things: When we’re coming from a place of desperation we usually have a tighter grip on the events in our life. We micromanage and overanalyze things to the point of exhaustion. In his seminal book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” Strive to do your best, but then accept the fact that there will come a point where you won’t have any influence over the outcome. At that point, you’ll need to let go of control and go with the flow.
3. Let go of ego-mentality: When we get too caught up in our own thoughts, we lose our sense of balance. Life gets overwhelming if we drown ourselves in our problems. It’s during times like these that you can benefit from taking a step back and shifting the spotlight away from yourself and onto others. When we open our hearts to those who are less fortunate than us or those who are in need of help, we instantly raise our vibrational frequency. You can do something as simple as helping a sibling with an errand, or volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless. When you use your energy for altruistic endeavors and acts of kindness, life will certainly begin to look up.
4. Adopting an attitude of gratitude: Cultivating the habit of finding things that you’re grateful for can transform your whole outlook on life. Instead of looking for cracks in the wall, step back and appreciate the bigger picture. The late Wayne Dyer said, “Abundance is not something that we acquire, it is something that we tune into.” I recommend having a daily practice of gratitude where you write down a few things that you’re grateful for in a journal that you maintain specifically for this purpose. Studies have shown that a gratitude practice can increase your long-term wellbeing by more than 10 percent, which is the same impact as doubling your income!
5. Cultivate a sense of humor: When dealing with the imperfections and complexities of life, having the ability to laugh and maintain a sense of humor through it all will save your sanity. We can’t let life bog us down. We must allow ourselves to take a lighthearted approach towards even the most complex events. While there certainly are times when a more serious outlook is required, we must be willing to allow sunshine in once the dark clouds clear away. Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Go on and have a good laugh with a friend, or watch a funny TV show or YouTube clip.
All my best on your journey,
Question: Do you believe that life is never going to be perfect? If yes, what are you willing to do to bring a sense of perfection in your life?