Making Peace with Imperfection

This article was written by Vikas Malkani, and is an extract of the book, The Little Manual of Happiness

 

I have yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life is filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what is wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what is wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontented.

Whether it is related to ourselves—a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an “imperfect” accomplishment —or to someone else’s ‘imperfections’—the way someone looks, behaves, or lives one’s life—the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our desire of being happy and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what is wrong with life. It is about realizing that while there is always a better way to do something, this does not mean that you cannot enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.

The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into your habit of insisting that things should be other than what they are. Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you will begin to discover the perfection in life itself. And yes, that is bound to bring happiness into your life.

Let me give you ten suggestions on how to maintain a state of happiness and joyfulness as you sail your ship in this ocean of life. Remember, we live in two worlds simultaneously, the inner and the outer worlds. To become joyful and experience happiness as an apparent quality in our daily life it is necessary that we maintain awareness of both these worlds in every moment. The steps below are intended to keep you firmly on the path of freedom and happiness in every moment of every day. Practice, and be happy—all-ways, always!

Step 1: Laugh at failure and defeat.  Defeat and failure are only a perception from a small vision. They have no real life of their own except what you give them. This means that the only time you have to feel the pain of any defeat or failure is if you ask for it, by delving into trouble.  Stay in the present moment. Consciousness likes great heights; dare to follow!

Step 2: Start all over again; if necessary.  Any time you truly choose, you can start your life over, without permission from any higher authority. You can have just as many new beginnings as you are willing to leave behind all your old ideas and conditioning about the concepts of right and wrong. Life can be as new as you choose it to be.

Step 3: Stop looking outside of yourself. After endlessly looking for it outside, realize that the answer is within you. Your life is only as complete as you are—no more, no less. Looking to your work, relationships or events for a feeling of self-completion is a self-defeating exercise. Being complete and whole is first an understanding, and then a state of being. It does not need a certain set of conditions to be perfectly manifested for its occurrence.

Step 4: Let go! Trying to control every moment of your life, or another’s, causes more disharmony than any other process. Keep in mind that everything and every person must go through their own lives, based on their own awareness, at their own pace. Allow this to happen. Let something higher have its hand at directing your life, in shaping your destiny. Learn to let go!

Step 5: Don’t live for others.  There is no satisfying the fear that you may displease others. Allowing what others may feel about you to dictate how you feel about yourself is like believing that someone else can decide your identity for you. This choice gives away your power. The only real strength comes from knowing that you have your own likes and dislikes in your own life, and can never make everyone happy with everything that you are, or can do.

Step 6: Believe in action. Wisdom turns into strength only if it is followed up with action. To learn how to swim, you must be prepared to get wet. Any weakness voluntarily faced and met is the same as greeting a greater strength. Wisdom lays the foundation, but it is action that finally changes life and the future.

Step 7: Be optimistic! You always have two choices in every situation—either curse the darkness, or light a candle. Choose the more positive. It comes at the same expense as the negative thought or choice but with extremely different consequences. Why wait until you feel down before you think of looking up. You can always glimpse the higher, in every moment, but you have to remind yourself to look in the right direction. Remember that if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see the shadows.

Step 8: Choose the heart over the head. No matter how much you try, you can’t think yourself into happiness. You must actually feel happy. However, you can sink yourself to your lowest low with a chain of thoughts that start from a single dark one. Bright, positive emotions spring from the heart. Heavy feelings can’t exist without the presence of negative thoughts. This means that sad states are just a trick of the mind, and begin with our thoughts.

Step 9: Walk one step at a time.  Don’t be too concerned about how much there is to do, or how impossible some of the tasks seem. Just get one thing done at a time, again and again. Just do what’s in your power, and brush aside all other concerns. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And the most beautiful tapestry begins and ends with one of ten thousand individual threads.

Step 10: Know that the time to act is always ‘now’.  You can’t change the mind of the person you are later. There is no later, it’s always now or never. The moment, ever present, ever powerful, is before you. And it has limitless potential. The time to accept responsibility for your happiness and freedom is now. The time to change your destiny is now. Accept that change is inevitable; it is part of our life’s journey. Confucius wisely said, “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

Be ready to accommodate change in your life. Your personal growth depends on this. So does your state of mind. Do not delay. I have always maintained that there is really never a better time than the present. Remember that if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see the shadows. Accept imperfection.  Don’t have to wait for perfection to be happy.

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One thought on “Making Peace with Imperfection

  1. I love step 8. I ruminate a lot and one dark thought can definitely bring me way down. Thanks for sharing these steps.

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