The Journey From Perfectionist to Optimalist
One morning somewhat recently, I was reading a Philosopher's Note on Tal-Ben Shahar's book "The Pursuit of Perfect." I haven't read the book in entirety yet but after this brief 6 page synopsis, it's absolutely going on my wish list.
To dive right in to the differences between the Perfectionist and the Optimalist let's start with a great quote from than man Tal-Ben himself:
“The emotional life that the Perfectionist expects is one of a constant high; the Optimalist expects his life to include emotional ups, emotional downs, and everything in between. The Perfectionist rejects painful emotions that do not meet his expectation of an unwavering flow of positive emotions; the Optimalist permits himself to experience the full range of human emotions.”
While this is referring to one's emotional life, it can easily be translated into any other facet of our life. This very much includes someone's physical life and for the sake of conversation let's look at someone's pursuit of a "healthy" lifestyle.
The perfectionist expects every training session to be nothing short of well, perfection. They are incredibly critical of everything they eat, how many calories they burn, and how they look with little regard for how they feel.
The optimalist simply expects that some days to be better than others.
I'm absolutely a recovering perfectionist in this regard and fighting my way toward optimalism. In the past, if I showed up at the gym and it was an off day, the rest of the day would be ruined. If it didn’t eat a very strict "healthy" diet of egg whites for breakfast and a salad for both lunch and dinner, the rest of the day would be ruined.
Now, I'm all about going with the flow. It hasn't been an easy journey and has taken me quite some time to get here but now I'm able to live a healthy life with minimal restrictions and 100% appreciation and acceptance.
While I know I feel and perform my best after a great workout and eating right ("right" for me, of course), I'm not going to lose my mind if I miss a workout or have a couple cookies. Because you know what? I like cookies, especially in dough form and scattered generously throughout some ice cream.
The whole point I'm trying to get at is that living the life of an optimalist prevents two things; one, life doesn't get in the way of living and two, you no longer get in your own way.
Embrace the challenges you face each and every day as opportunities to learn about yourself and your surroundings. Take a moment, and not more than a moment, to look at each situation and find ways that you can improve for future iterations. Don't dwell. Consider, what went well but also what could have gone better to get you to your desired result?
Remember, be kind to yourself. Don't feel the need to be so critical. You’re simply doing the best you can with what you have available to you in each and every moment. And with each and every subsequent moment, you have more wisdom and knowledge to adapt and adjust. Most importantly, enjoy the time you have on this beautiful Earth. Don’t let the fantasy of perfect overshadow the reality of optimal. Keep your head down, your heart up and work hard for what you love.
I got your back. I’m rooting for you. You can…and you will.