Maybe It’s Time to Stop Trying to Perfect Ourselves

As human beings, we naturally want to create a happy, healthy lifestyle, but we just really suck at actually doing it. In a world where there are mountains of tools to organize our lives and behaviors, we still tend to struggle with getting into a consistent, productive, and healthy flow. Clearly there’s something more going on that the tools alone can’t fix.

When there’s so much on the plate every day, we tend to fall easily in “what matters” behaviors or more simply prioritization. Not only do we have to do the work, but we have to become arbiters of value. What’s this action going to do for me and is it worth the energy I’m putting in? It’s a mantra that runs through our heads constantly.

Constantly, we are asking questions to ourselves. Should I answer those emails? Should I spend some time on that new project? How much effort can I devote to my side business this weekend and how much time do I need to recharge my batteries?

There is a general urge in the world today to perfect ourselves—to hack our bodies and minds into the perfect working automaton. If we could just clean up our lives and make them run as smoothly as the machines we use then surely everything would be better.

But the truth is that we’ve been trying to do this for a very long time. And the truth is we’re never going to beat the machines in this arena. There’s something innately imperfect about humans, it seems. Maybe we should ditch all the hacking and begin to embrace that.

I recently read an article about “7 Things People Think Are Terrible for Their Productivity That Actually Aren't” and it seemed completely antithetical to everything I’ve ever known about how to be a productive person. Wake up late? Let your inbox fill up? Keep a messy workspace and procrastinate?

At first I thought it didn’t make any sense. Their recommendations sounded like a petri dish for a stressed out and uncomfortable life. I still don’t agree with every justification they put forward, but this radical take on productivity did get me thinking. What if we stopped spending such an enormous amount of mental energy trying to make ourselves perfect? What if we just focused on what we are doing and less on how we are doing it?

It’s possible that this new efficiency craze has simply produced a procrastination of a different kind. We read and we watch and we listen about how we can do things better, but in the process, we’re just taking time away when we could actually be doing things.

Now with that said, I do believe strongly that there’s a certain happiness to be found in the simple effort to change yourself—the journey alone is gratifying in its own right. The problem comes when the act of self-improvement becomes this big, impossible, stressful thing all of its own.

We’re never going to be perfect. There are just going to be times when we can’t keep up the pace and need to take a break—and the angle we place our notepad on the desk isn’t going to change that.     

But this is just one theory. Maybe we’re just not quite there yet, but perfecting ourselves is still the way to go. Maybe we just need to keep pushing toward that perfect human. Science certainly seems to be getting closer every single day. Food for thought. Let me know what you think.   


Ed Lynes13p5Comment