Recently I met a fascinating woman.

She had started a successful company. Sold it for massive amounts of money. Traveled around the world. Meditated with monks and communicated daily with spiritual healers and shamans. She was attractive, fit, and friendly. And she had just started her second company combining her old passion for startups with her new passion for connectivity and enlightened life.

Powerful yet playful, she was the epitome of a catch.

And yet, when our conversation turned to relationships, she proclaimed that she would give it all up if she could just find a guy to fall in love with and marry. Apparently she was doing all she possibly could to be open and loving to guys and to become exactly what they wanted, yet all she had suffered was disappointment after disappointment and couldn’t take it any more.

Hearing this, I wasn’t sure what surprised me more: the fact that despite her incredible success she still didn’t feel good enough for another human being who just happened to have an extra appendage between his legs, or the fact that she had approximately 10 spiritual teachers on her roster that she saw throughout the week, sometimes daily, and none of them had helped her to solve this basic problem.

But my surprise quickly left me. Of course, it was all related.

This poor, brilliant woman was convinced she needed to be “more.” Which meant that all those “spiritual goo-roos” and their healing techniques to get her closer to enlightened transcendence and/or meditative nirvanic bliss (insert spiritual jargon of your choice) were at best palliative and at worst actively holding her back from getting past these brutal expectations of “improvement” she had for herself.

Here’s why:

If your paradigm is one of being insufficient, then every single thing you do to try to improve yourself or become more at peace and enlightened is going to feel insufficient.

It doesn’t matter how many times you meditate. It doesn’t matter how many retreats you go on. It doesn’t matter how much you work out. It doesn’t matter how many successful multi-million dollar companies you start.

You will still be insufficient. Because “perfect” or “enlightened” are illusory, subjective terms that are constantly shifting and inevitably out of reach.

If her network of mentors wasn’t helping her to understand that, then they were failing to serve her in a massive way. Talking about minimalism while introducing hours of daily practices “essential to becoming more at peace” sounds to me like height of spiritual arrogance and hypocrisy.  If you call yourself a coach and you’re not addressing the elephant in the room, what are you doing?

But I digress. I know this behavior by no means characterizes everybody in the spirituality / self-improvement space (though many do fall into this trap); plus, I am a firm believer in many of the practices they espouse and their benefits for people.

Not only because a lot of coaches and practitioners really are life-changers, but because the practices aren’t even the issue.

The issue is the intentions behind the practices.

Too many people jump into personal development or spirituality not because personal development or spirituality serve them so much as they are a more psychologically acceptable way of reminding themselves of all the ways they “are” inadequate.

The ideal road, if you will, on the endless, dissatisfying journey for “more.”

I need to follow this guru or I won’t get enlightenment…

I need to work with this trainer or I won’t look good enough…

I need to study under this business guru or I won’t be successful…

After all, they know “the truth,” right?

Well, actually, they don’t.  Truth and meaning are as much inside of you as they are out.

And you don’t need to follow them.  In fact, you don’t need to do anything.

Because you are already perfect as you are.

“But Pat,” you might argue with me, “of course I’m not perfect. I haven’t done this, I don’t look like this, I haven’t experienced this.”

Yes. So what? What makes *that* perfect?

When we look at a bud that has yet to turn into a flower, do we judge it as being un-perfect? Do we say, “that bud sucks, look at it, it’s not a flower!”

Of course we don’t. It’s a bud. How could it be anything else? A bud is a bud, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And there is nothing wrong with you either.

Now, lest you accuse me of apathy or (gasp) hanging out with too many hippies, let me get one thing straight.

This is not to say that we can’t choose to act differently in our lives, in ways that better serve us and our vision of ourselves. It’s not to say be lazy, do drugs, watch tons of porn, and clean out a tub of Ben & Jerry’s every night, because “it’s all good, bro.”  And it’s certainly not to say we can’t benefit from coaching, healing, training, reading, etc.

But it is to say that we don’t need to do or not do any of it.

Living a good life is a matter of aligning yourself with behavior that serves you and avoiding behavior that doesn’t.  Incidentally, you decide what behavior that is, and what “serving you” means.

Wish I gave you more guidance?  Sorry, the choice you have to create the world you want for yourself is yours and yours alone.

But I would recommend if you’re overwhelming yourself with personal development and spiritual practices that you reexamine your motives behind it all.  Are they a means to an end (as they should be), or the end themselves?

Mix it up and you have a recipe for being unhappy the rest of your life.

So slow down people. Stop taking it all so seriously. Stop thinking “there” is better than “here” and just enjoy the ride.

As Alan Watts wisely once said,

“No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.”

Get out there and live.  Get in the action.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll forget about perfection, and realize if there ever was such a thing, you were it all along.


PS If you think this article was bullshit and actually do want the secret to becoming the most spiritual person out there (which I of course have been keeping to myself and a few select students), I encourage you to watch this video.

PPS Leave a comment!