A Series of Edits

In his book “The Art of the Good Life”, Rolf Dobelli outlines the overestimation of set-up in our lives. He brings forth examples such as flying a plane or driving a car, emphasizing that a mere seconds left its own devices could result in a tragic accident. It’s a sequence of perpetual re-adjustment, and it’s only on course for a fraction of the time it’s off it.

Dobelli also leverages marriage as an illustration:

“So next time you hear that an apparently perfect marriage between two perfectly well-matched partners is on the rocks, don’t be too surprised. It’s a clear case of set-up overestimation. Frankly, anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in a relationship should already know that without ongoing fine-tuning and repairs, it doesn’t work. All partnerships have to be consistently nurtured.”

We can intellectualize this, I’m sure. But why is it we’re so hung up on a “set it and forget it” systematic approach to life and are ready to hurl the kitchen sink upon each misstep?

As human beings, one of our most primitive needs is that of safety. Lots of things get in the way of this but since the threats of old aren’t exactly the threats of new, we use what we can immediately access to communicate a red flag. This takes no effort. What’s wrong is always available.

Something not going according to plan to typically interpreted as failure. We assert to ourselves if the plan needs amending, it’s a bad plan. And if our plan is bad, we’re bad. If we’re bad, no one will love us and we will die alone. (Author’s Note: these aren’t conscious thoughts but it’s a typical neuro-associative pattern that unfolds in our subconscious reel when things go awry.)

Unfortunately for those around this, this doesn’t make us very fun people to be around. Despite being told early on the set-up (go to school, get good grades, earn a degree, land your dream job, start a family) is the key to a fulfilling life, all of it is hanging in the balance without constant calibration and wholehearted attentiveness.

The need for perfection is a fallacy. We strive for perfection because it levels off into something called stability, which life anything but encompassing of. It’s understandable that one would work tirelessly to achieve a break from the ongoing blows to the heart and gut life brings, but what this certainty also brings is emptiness. When things are perfect, there’s nothing left to work on. Nothing left to contribute to. No difference left to make. No progress to be celebrated.

It’s safe to say this life thing is a peak never reached. The sooner we grip this view of reality, the better off we’ll be for ourselves and for others. When you’re fixated on arriving at the zenith of your life but ignore what it took to get there, the apex is pretty dry. All that time spent stepping over the little things on your way to the summit, without appreciation or acknowledgment, it’s no wonder basing our lives on a single event is wildly unsatisfying.

Perfection may breed relief, but ongoing progress is what lights you up. It’s the feeling of excitement that you made a difference and there’s still more to accomplish. The confidence that incremental betterment creates is as intoxicating for oneself as it is for those in proximity.

Consider the quote by Immanuel Kant,

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

This constant series of edits fulfills these rules. There is no perfect strategy or perfect marriage. There is no perfect proposal or business plan. There’s no perfect relationship of any kind. It’s never that way on its own volition. We must make the difference — with our pledge or commitment to making such difference, serving as the denominator.

Boredom is the enemy of joy. If anything in your life was perfect, you’d eventually adapt and become bored — seeking out further, newer desires to fill the void created by adaptation. We just have to get who we are. We’re an extremely smart and developed species, but sometimes we over-complicate it.

Try on an alternative view. Everything in life is temporary. We’re loaned this time, these people and these things . Ups and downs are sure to ensue but it’s the return on the investment life makes in us that is the deciding factor.

Life isn’t perfect. And I’m thrilled about that.

Go out there and make progress — it’s the cure-all for the human heart.