Happiness Redux: Is Perfection the Enemy of Happiness?


fireworks-2Hi Awesome Readers — 2014 has started with a bang, not the least of which is a lot of writing obligations that I am jamming to keep up with. I don’t want to lose anyone on this blog though, so now and then, when I don’t have time to create brand new content, I will re-run a past favorite from the early days, that many of you may have missed the first time around.  The message is unchanged, so hopefully, this is reaching you when you need it.

This one is from February, 2013.  Hope you enjoy it:

Is Perfection the Enemy of Happiness?

Last week, I mentioned that I bought and installed blackout curtains in our bedroom.  This has been a huge improvement in keeping mornings a bit more sacred, and also in blocking out both streetlights and noise at night.  All in all, a huge win.

Except they aren’t perfect.  There are four panels, each with Velcro on the sides and the gaps between the Velcro still allow sunlight in.  Tiny little rays of aggressive, intruding sunlight.

Last week, this was making me very unhappy.  However, I slept in so late on Sunday that it made me realize how much better it is now than it was, and “better” is enough to make me happy.  It has to be, because in life, the results of most of our efforts will be “better,” not “perfect.”

If you make perfection your standard for happiness, you’ll find far fewer things to be happy about than if you look at improvement on a continuum and simply decide that each move towards progress (whether a big change or a small one) is good enough to be happy about.

I’m not saying to give up the quest for perfection, but don’t let its absence prevent you from seeing all the change around you that can, should and will make you happy, if you decide to let it. 


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2 thoughts on “Happiness Redux: Is Perfection the Enemy of Happiness?

  • Nina

    That’s funny. We recently bought blackout curtains, and we do have little slivers of light that peek out from the edges, but I love them anyway. It makes the bedroom so cozy for sleeping, and even keeps our dog, Bella, from getting up too early.

    As far as perfection goes, I am a copyeditor, so striving for perfection is part of my work life. Lately, I have been working way too much. So, I am currently striving for just a little bit of me time. I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel; and I think things will soon be better. So, I can totally relate to your phrase: “better” is enough to make me happy.

    • Valerie Alexander Post author

      Nina, I hope you get the break you need soon!

      There are a few great micro-vacations you can take when working crazy hours. One is to set a timer to go off every two hours, and when it does, close your eyes and take four long, deep breaths. It is less than a minute and can be really revitalizing. The other thing to do, if you have access to a tub in the middle of your day, is to fill the tub with hot water, and fill a pan or bucket with cold water, then soak your feet for 30-seconds at a time, hot-cold-hot-cold. This makes the blood circulate in a way that it feels like getting a little massage, and again, takes less than five minutes.

      Both of these also clear the brain, which is a great thing, since your job requires perfection!