What really makes you happy? Through a series of stories, Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect tries to help you identify what is really important and how you can live a simpler yet fuller and more honest life.
So many of us are hardwired to want to do and have it all – successful career, family, friends, travel, etc. We think success and achievement bring happiness. You may be happy with the things in your life, but life can be like pulling a little red wagon and as more and more and more things get piled in the wagon, the harder it is to pull.
Niequist believes there are a handful of passages that transform us and give us the opportunity to evaluate our lives. Often these are challenges, something is broken – jobs are lost, our health is threatened, loved ones face trials. Or maybe it’s just that our day-to-day responsibilities have overloaded our red wagon and the wheels fell off. We’ve overextended ourselves and are too tired, too sad, too disconnected to go on without a change.
If you feel overwhelmed, and you’re ready for change, Niequist says one of the first things you must do is learn to say no. You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t be and do everything to impress “them” (whoever “they” are). Many of us are not used to saying no, but it can be so valuable. It’s uncomfortable to think about disappointing people, but sometimes that needs to happen, and you get to decide who you say no to, and who you disappoint.
We must know our purpose. We must realize that we get to decide how we want to live.
“What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love, and a strong sense of your own purpose. Without those two, you’ll need from people what is only God’s to give, and you’ll give up on your larger purpose in order to fulfill small purposes or other people’s purposes. Recognize what you can and can’t do with a full heart and without resentment.”
The pull of perfection will always be there but strive instead to be present. “Present means that we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.”
We can’t count on “later.” Life is short and fragile. We’re not guaranteed time later to spend with our family, to reconnect with friends, or to read that pile of books. Take some time right now to think about what is important to you and how you can protect your time for what makes you happy and fulfilled. And strive to be present in the beautiful moments of this life.
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications