Life Lessons

The Futile Pursuit of Perfection

In business (and life) chasing perfection is setting you up to be disappointed for the very simple reason that perfection does not exist. There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ and Stephen Hawking is here to tell you why. Click through to read this article and watch the video.

Stephen Hawking is rather a clever chap. Along with being one of history’s truly great scientific minds, he also has the ability to explain highly complex concepts and processes in accessible ways to the layperson. I am just such a layperson. Despite my creative, non-scientific mind, I have a mad love of documentaries about physics, especially about space and the Universe. I wish I could say I understood everything these contained but alas, no. Quite the opposite at times.

Hawking, on the other hand, is behind some of my favourite documentaries for precisely the reason that one of his many considerable gifts is to illustrate intelligent yet understandable explanations of scientific concepts. Most incredibly though are the beautiful parallels he draws between physics and how we live our lives. Talk about making science accessible!

I love to look at how what I learn can be applied to my own life, and challenges I face, and one such lesson that struck a chord with me was hearing him talk about perfection. In his own words, one of the basic rules of the Universe is that nothing’s perfect – perfection simply does not exist.

I wanted to share this as an invitation for you to consider the role the pursuit of perfection plays in your life, and your business. Does working toward perfection hold you back from being willing to give things a go, unless you can control the outcome? Maybe you struggle to get past the dream stage because in reality things won't always go how you planned?

Realising that perfection doesn't exist may just set you free.

This short video contains an excerpt from one of his documentaries, Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking, which does a very elegant job of explaining why perfection does not exist and why we wouldn't want it to anyway:

Considering the necessity for imperfection in creating anything new. why is it we strive so hard for the opposite? This may sound rather cynical but I think this is because

'perfection' is something our culture encourages, whether consciously or otherwise, because it is unachievable. If we keep trying and striving to be and do more, we buy into a cycle of self-improvement and consumption that never ends. The beauty industry is one such example of a mechanism to keep us endlessly chasing perfection.

Indeed, anyone who tells you that perfection is achievable is trying to sell you something.

Given that perfection is impossible, instead of wearing the badge of ‘perfectionist’ with a kind of battle-worn pride, or trying to change ourselves to suit an ideal archetype, I believe we should embrace the imperfection in our selves, in others and in life - as that is truly where the magic lies.

As bloggers and creatives, striving for an unattainable perfection can all too often hold us back from sharing our message with the world.

To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, without imperfection nothing would be here. That means there would be no hot chips or potato fries, no puppies, no sunsets over snow-capped mountains, no Ewan McGregor. And really, who would want to live in a Universe like that? Certainly not me.

What do you think about perfection? Does it hold you back, or have you been able to let go of the belief in one ideal outcome? I'd love for you to share your thoughts in comments below, and don't forget to share this with a friend who might also like it.

7 Things Bob Dylan Can Teach You About Happiness

Bob Dylan is a genius and a poet. And it turns out he has a lot to teach us about happiness! Read on...

Even if you're not a big fan of his 'unique' voice (sorry, Bob!) or find all that harmonica work a bit tough to take, there is no denying that Bob Dylan is not only a gifted poet but a modern day philosopher. And a rather beautiful genius if you ask me – obviously I don’t mind the reedy voice and multitudes of harmonica action!

Despite not being famous for a cheery disposition, Dylan has much to teach us about happiness. He is such a prolific songwriter that it is difficult to know where to start in drawing wisdom from his many songs. If I tried to give you a definitive guide I think we’d be here all day, so instead I’ve chosen to focus on just one of his songs: Forever Young.

Written as a blessing from a parent to a child, Forever Young is full of sage wisdom and sweet sentiments about what it takes to live a good life, and indeed to remain forever young. I believe the idea of staying young is about holding onto the bravery and parts of ourselves we freely express as children, but which we don’t hold on to as tightly as adults, leaving us less in touch with who we are and what it will take to live a good life.

Here are some of my favourite lessons from the song and what they mean to me:

1. May you always do for others, and let others do for you

Being generous can feel very natural to some people, and taking can feel very natural to others. I think all too often people will fall into one category or the other. Many of us are conditioned to give so much of ourselves and this can truly be a wonderful, expansive experience, but are uncomfortable receiving as there is guilt or shame attached to letting others help us. Others are more than happy to take what others will give, freely or otherwise, but don’t easily see how, or why, they can help others.

Being able to experience the joy in helping others and find the peace and gratitude in letting others help us can truly enable us to feel more free.

2. May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung

Dream big. Work hard at making them come true. Experience the journey.

(I just love the imagery of a ladder to the stars. It’s kind of magical, thanks Bob.)

3. May you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you

There is beauty in truth and truth in beauty. Being honest in our relationship with others and the world around us opens our minds to experience the world in a unique, powerful and shining way.

4. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong

Life won’t always be sunshine and lollipops but with courage we can face obstacles and unhappiness along the path and not be deterred or diminished. We can grow our courage by being proud of, and true to, who we are.

5. May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, may you have a strong foundation, when the winds of changes shift

Boredom can create unhappiness so find things in life to challenge and engage you while also being ready and adaptable to the change that will inevitably occur. Don’t be so wedded to the reality of one thing that you are knocked about if that present changes, especially if it is beyond your power.

6. May your heart always be joyful, and may your song always be sung

Be open and loving, and experience the joys in life. Express honestly who you are and find freedom and happiness within.

7. May you stay forever young

'Nuff said.

This song means a lot to me and I’d love to hear your thoughts on these lessons in the comments section below. Was there something in this that resonated especially for you? Anything different you draw from this song?