The key to happiness? Don’t strive for perfection


Happiness is a topic often talked about. From a personal point of view, I try to make decisions based on what makes me happy. Although it may differ for everyone of us. When talking about happiness, many refer to topics like having a lot of money, having a important big-shot job, achieving world-wide fame, aiming to become the next Elon Musk or just having it all. It points out that happiness would mean you have it better then most. A conversation I had this week kept me thinking about what it really means to actually feel happy.

The other day at work, I had a most interesting conversation with one of our newest team members. She only recently transferred from another team of the company I work at, and had some difficulties to settle in at the beginning. But she said this:

When I first started, I joined here because of I wanted to work at this company. But now I really don’t want to leave this team, it’s the best I’ve ever been in because I can be my true self. I never had that in the last position I was in.

It really struck me, because I never realized how important it is and how big this can effect your wellbeing. Being yourself. It’s just that simple. The funny thing was that the example she used was that she noticed everybody in our team would have a day feeling ‘off’, instead of always overachieving.

She explained that in her former team, everybody wanted to step up the game big time and pretended that you should be better than the rest. She had the feeling she must become someone that she was not, and there was no real reason as to why.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is a good thing to have a certain ambition, to become more that you are now, or to better yourselves. But only on your own terms, and only with the things that will make you happy. If it doesn’t comes out naturally, it’s very distressing to be constrained at that point.

You aren’t made up to live up to the expectations of others. And others are not made to live up to yours.    Tweet: You aren’t made up to live up to the expectations of others. And others are not made to live up to yours #Happiness -

And even with all the personal finance bloggers out there sharing their experience and presenting themselves as they are. There is also a lot of room to be comparing amongst each other. Like who are the core bloggers with a lot of influence? Or who is raking in the most dividend per month? Or who is already retired at a very young age? These are some pretty high standards to look up to.

I would be lying if I don’t see a lot of other bloggers as examples of something we would want to achieve to. The key here is to ask yourself the following question: did I reach my limit? Most often the answer will be no. Which means you still have room to grow, develop yourself and probably still busy with achieving your goals. That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.

TED speakers advise

An article an Inc. magazine summarized some life lessons from different TED Talks on how to be happy, which I would like to share with you.

1. Don’t expect happiness to be one-size-fits-all.

In a fascinating bit of product history, Gladwell recounts how the food industry discovered to its astonishment that some people like chunky tomato sauce. And what that discovery means in a broader context–that what makes me happy won’t necessarily do it for you, and vice versa.

2. Stop chasing things like success, fame, and money.

Or at least, keep chasing them but don’t expect them to make you substantially happier than you are right now. As psychologist Dan Gilbert explains, our brains have a defense mechanism that’s hard-wired to make us happy with the lives we have, whatever those may be. Even Pete Best, a drummer best known for getting fired by the Beatles just before they hit it big, now says he wouldn’t want it any other way.

3. Keep challenging yourself.

If you love your work, you’re good at it, and you’ve been doing it for a while, you probably have experienced “flow,” that state where you get so lost in what you’re doing that you forget yourself and everything else. That state of flow is where true happiness lies, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and we can also find it when doing something creative, or even something recreational. But only so long as we keep challenging ourselves. Boredom is the opposite of flow.

4. Be generous.

Connecting with other people and feeling part of something larger than ourselves takes us a long way toward happiness. Social scientist Michael Norton recounts a fascinating experiment that proves–contrary to popular belief–that money can buy happiness, so long as you spend it on someone other than yourself. Not only will you have made someone else happy, you’ll have made yourself happy too, a happiness buy-one-get-one-free special.

5. Be grateful.

We tend to expect that being happy will make us feel grateful, but actually it’s the other way around, explains Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast–being grateful is what will make us feel happy. And gratitude is a choice, he says. How can we remember to be grateful? By reminding ourselves of all the gifts in our lives. Even something so simple as a water faucet was a true occasion for gratitude for Steindl-Rast after a stint in Africa where drinking water was scarce. When in time it started to seem ordinary again, he put a sticker on the faucet to remind himself what a wonderful thing it was.

6. Train your mind.

The way to do this is by meditating on compassion, says Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. It takes time, he says, but it’s worth doing. Brain scans show that monks who are practiced at such meditation show happiness activity in their brains that is “off the charts” compared with everyone else.

Though he doesn’t mention it, Ricard himself is the poster child for this approach. According to Google’s happiness guru Chade-Meng Tan, Ricard’s own brain scans show him to be the happiest person on the planet.

7. Smile!

It sounds too simple to be true, but research actually shows that if you smile, you’ll have better health, a better marriage and other relationships, and increased life expectancy, says HealthTap founder Ron Gutman. So if you haven’t smiled yet today, what are you waiting for?

8. Tell the truth.

In a highly personal talk, The Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler recounts the epidemic of worldwide violence against women she learned about as a result of her hit show. For a while, these stories threatened to overwhelm her. But then she found herself at the head of a movement to end that violence and give young girls in Africa a refuge from violence she herself had lacked as a child.

And then she says, she learned, “this really simple thing, which is that happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth…and giving away what you want the most.” That’s the kind of happiness all of us can reach for.

Conclusion of the key to happines

In the end there are many different ways to lead your life and fulfill your goals. One may pursue financial independence while another just wants to have a big family, or maybe even both.

The one lesson I learned this week is this:

Don’t see life as a competition. It isn’t about being better than others. It is about being happy on your on terms. The key to happiness? Don’t strive for perfection. 

I hope everyone can find their passion in life. To become a person where you feel happy with what you achieved (or want to achieve). It doesn’t matter if another doesn’t understand why you are doing something. Because the only important reason to do something, is because it makes you happy.

Source used: 8 Life-Changing Lessons From TED Talks on How to Be Happy by Minda Zetlin on Inc. Magazine – link to article



4 thoughts on “The key to happiness? Don’t strive for perfection

  1. Amazing article Divnomics. You read the title of the article and it makes you pause for a second because it comes across as counter intuitive from what you have been told. I agree with the premise that being yourself is critical to long term success and happiness in anything, not just a career. But to circle back to a career, you can only pretend to be someone you aren’t for so long. And honestly, why would you want to live a lie? I did the opposite of the story you shared in this article. I went from a company that let me be myself to a large corporation that could have cared less that I had a personality. Just wasn’t a good fit and I recognized that one pretty quickly. Life is just too short to be miserable at a place that you have to go to to earn the money needed for other things in life (until you are financially free of course)!

    Thanks again for the great read. Really, really enjoyed it. Take care!



    • Hi Bert,

      Thanks for the kind words. I totally agree, it’s not only in your career, but probably throughout your whole life. One of the reasons I still love my current job is because of how it makes me feel: happy. I can truly be myself here and it’s sad to see if someone feels terrible because he or she doesn’t feel accepted as the person he/she really is.
      Some may not realize, but that you found out about the misfit pretty quickly is actually pretty amazing. Do you currently work there still, or have you moved on to something else?


  2. I love this post. I think when people are relaxed, feel appreciated and love what they do they will be more productive Which is awesome for the company and the employees.

    I also agree with you that it’s difficult not to measure ourselves against others at work and the blogsphere. We need to be content with where we are and not compare our happiness to others. Otherwise we’ll be chasing something that will be ever elusive.


    • Thanks for your comment. I agree that if you feel appreciated and loved you will be more productive. It’s just a bit sad, that with a lot of companies that’s not the case. It gives so much more energy if you feel happy at work or anywhere else.


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