Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Just like it doesn’t have to be wonderful to be perfect.

Our own unrealistic expectations, limiting beliefs, and unhealthy ideas of perfection are often what gets in the way of happiness.

Or gratitude, or fulfillment. Whatever you want to call it. The trick is to realize that life doesn’t have to be anything in particular for you to be happy.

As I’ve tried to explain in previous posts, happiness is mainly your own choice — as provocative and over simplistic as it may sound.

When we say life must be this or that, we make a choice, even if subconsciously, and that choice will rarely lead to good mental health.

So instead, make the choice of appreciating and looking at life the same way you would appreciate and look at a piece of art or any type of creation.

Colorful paintings and sculptures, pleasant music, even your own vivid dreams — none of these will ever be perfect, yet they are all wonderful in some way.

Life is the same… until our mind gets in the way. The mind tends to judge, to take control, to label as good or bad, to impose its own unrealistic expectations.

There is a way out, though. You can learn to silence the mind and refuse to accept the thoughts of “have to”, “must”, “should”, and so on.

Let’s have a look at three common but unhelpful thoughts about life…

Life doesn’t have to be hard

Breaking news: life doesn’t have to be hard. Some will say it’s obvious. Some will find this phrase absurd. Yet it’s true. And it could well be one of the pillars of happiness and mental health.

Mind you, I am not saying life is always easy. Yes, life is hard sometimes. The two key words here are “have to”. If you understand this, everything else falls into place.

Life may be hard but it doesn’t have to be hard. The concept of “have to” is nothing but your own self-imposed suffering. Consider this:

  • You can usually choose your environment and the type of people you surround yourself with; if they are toxic, you are allowed to let go of them
  • Negative events may happen to you but you never have to add unnecessary stress and suffering by dwelling on them
  • Life has challenges and makes us grow, but we can choose to see growth as exciting (and embrace it) rather than difficult (and resist it)
  • Many of our own “problems” are actually insignificant and unimportant, unless we choose to make them significant or important

Once you say no to a “hard life” you’ll find that reality changes and most of your struggles disappear; this isn’t a miracle but simply your attitude.

Life doesn’t have to be complicated

Since I embraced a more minimalist way of living and got rid of a lot of unnecessary items (digital and physical), I have come to the realization that life doesn’t have to be complicated either.

You don’t have to become a hermit. You don’t have to give away all your possessions. You just have to prioritize quality over quantity and say no to overcomplexity.

And yes, this is possible even if you have a family and/or a demanding job and/or big goals and dreams and/or live in the crazy “modern world”.

Does the modern world make life more or less complex than it used to be? Again, you decide. You choose your own outlook and mindset just like you choose your own clothes.

There are plenty of reasons to say the modern world is super stressful and complicated. However, at the same time, aren’t things a lot easier and faster as well?

Similarly, although we now own items that didn’t even exist a hundred years ago, these often replace other items so that we don’t have to own as many (think of smartphones).

Life doesn’t have to be perfect

Lastly, life never has to be perfect in any way. Just like you don’t have to be perfect. Social media may have convinced you of the opposite, but just trust me on this one.

Again, think of art. When you walk into an art gallery, you don’t expect to only find paintings that you like. And you certainly don’t expect all paintings to be perfect.

But that’s okay. That doesn’t stop you from going there. You ignore the paintings you don’t like and admire those you do like, and you don’t bring a magnifying glass to notice every single imperfection.

The most beautiful painting may have a tiny scratch, or some of the colors may have faded a bit, or perhaps you don’t like the frame. But it doesn’t matter.

I hope the art gallery analogy makes sense. See and treat your whole life — past, present, future — as a beautiful creation. Love it as a creation. Don’t expect it to be perfect because it never will be.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect: quotes

After all the world is indeed beautiful and if we were any other creature than man we might be continuously happy in it.

Sebastian Barry

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Vivian Greene

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.

Walter Hagen

Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time it’s both.

Kristin Kreuk

Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.

R. Waldo Emerson

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.

Marcus Aurelius

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.

Saint Augustine

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

Soren Kierkegaard

It’s not about perfection. What’s a perfect painting? What’s interesting about a perfect painting?

Peter Doig

Imperfection is a form of freedom.