Attributed to Voltaire, this expression translates to “the perfect is the enemy of the good”.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I suspect you might be…
I become inspired with all kinds of ideas and plans for how I want to be and how I want to live. I’ll try 3 new recipes per week, read 2 books per month, eat “clean”, totally give up sugar, walk for an hour every day, stop spending money on non-essentials, meditate for 30 minutes every night, keep my home pristeen, learn a foreign language fluently by Christmas, drink 4 litres of water per day, start a blog and write at least 2000 awe-inspiring words per day, and so the list goes on…
These plans come from a positive place and the desire to make the most of life by achieving, contributing and experiencing richly. However, things that should be enjoyable and rewarding aspects of life’s rich tapestry unfortunately become obligations and stressors piled on top of an already long list of chores because, here’s the rub, I am a human being with 24 hours in a day, a full time job, commitments and the normal ups and downs, aches and pains which besiege us all.
Let’s start with food choices. I lead a busy life and it’s very easy to grab take-away lunches, coffees and dinners on a regular basis. I decide that this needs to change, and I make plans for all kinds of exotic acai bowls, salads in jars, raw bliss balls and other amazing concoctions. This becomes intensely pressured, so I have a meltdown and go back to three take-away coffees per day, and a burger for lunch. This is insane!
How about I decide to give myself a break? I decide to eat more healthily and economically, but not elaborately. I take some wholegrain crackers and a can of tuna for lunch. I chop up a few bits of fruit and have them for breakfast topped with some yogurt. I chop up some carrot, cucumber, radish and snow peas, and take them to work as a snack. I still treat myself to a coffee each day, for now… I start to feel more vital – I’m getting fruit and vegetables and protein into me each day. I’m also saving a lot of cash. Occasionally I feel moved to make something a bit more complicated, but this is because I want to – not because I feel I should. If the ‘complicated’ thing works out, I add it to my repertoire and enjoy using it again as it now seems quite simple… and so a few small changes inspire more and more postive developments, naturally and gradually…
What about instead of demanding from myself profound and philosophical blog posts every day, I decide to write a few words from the heart – just enough to record my thoughts, clear my mind, soothe my soul and hopefully help or inspire just one other person? What a pleasure and honour that would be.
What about, instead of berating myself for not having given up every grain of sugar, I pat myself on the back for making myself a turmeric latte with vitality-boosting herbs and spices, which just happens to need (for me, anyway) a shot of sugar to make it yummier? Is this not preferable to a soda, with probably ten times the sugar?
What about, instead of forcing myself to read a certain number of books per month or year, I pick up a book when I WANT to, savouring the escapism and enjoyment it provides?
Rather than forbidding myself from spending any money on “wants”, why don’t I calmly determine which little luxuries make my life truly happier, and deeply appreciate these small indulgences? It could be anything, but for me it would be such items as books, candles, essential oils, and serendipitous charity shop finds such as pottery and glass. I don’t spend a lot really, but the joy of these little extravagances keeps me fulfilled and pampered enough to not feel the need to go beserk on a mindless shopping spree.
How about, instead of ticking glasses of water off a list, I have two glasses upon waking, one with each meal, and one at night, with any extras being a bonus? Why don’t I add some lemon, berries and cucumber to soda water as a treat? Ironically, I will probably reach for it more when it’s not on my “to do” list and when it’s jazzed up in a delicious way.
Rather than meditating sitting up straight (which I hate), trying desperately not to let my mind wander and to make sure I breathe in for 17 seconds and out for 23.4 seconds precisely (I made that up, it is not a real practice – I hope!), I lie comfortably on my bed, play my favourite piece of music and really listen to it while I diffuse and deeply inhale my loved oils, and breathe out all the tensions of the day? How much more nurturing would that be??
Instead of running a marathon every day, why don’t I leash-up the excited puppy and commit to walking round the block once as I breathe in the fresh air and smell the jasmine? Put it like that, and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll do at least two laps of the neighbourhood!
I think you get the picture… There is nothing wrong with goals and targets under some circumstances. But when your whole life is regimented, so much joy is lost! TRUST YOURSELF to find the right balance and equilibrium, based on your commitments, energy levels, inspiration and natural ebbs and flows. Be kind to yourself and, in the words of Max Ehrmann in the famous “Desiderata”, “Beyond a wholseome discipline, be gentle with yourself”. Your body and soul will love you for it 🙂
Is there an area of your life where you become over-zealous, and it all goes belly-up?!
I’m off to do the essential oil / breathing thing now! Craving lavender and geranium this evening… mmmmm