The Balance of Good Enough v.s. Self Improvement

I have always believed in bettering myself. I see problems in myself or my actions and I figure out a solution and I act on it. Life is too short to not spend it always improving. I don’t want to waste a precious second of this human life (it is said that only a human embodiment can achieve moksha/samadhi).

Trouble socializing? I studied how to small talk the way Data did. Okay, maybe not exactly the same way.

Trouble with intimacy? I set up a regimen for myself and got better.

Fear of sharing my writing with others? I joined writer’s groups and forced myself to do it.

I’m always on the look out for new areas of self-improvement. It seems to be one of the major things people who like me like about me! I’ve been told sometimes that it’s admirable, although I just didn’t realize there was any other way.

This drive to always be improving myself does have its downsides, though. It can bring with it a frenetic intensity and sometimes attempts to squash things that are not actually problems but are innate parts of my personality.

We are told that we are already divine, that God is within us and without us, filling the entire creation. The Perfect Prayer reminds us that everything is already perfect, including ourselves.

That is Perfect; This is Perfect;

Perfect Comes From Perfect.

Take Perfect from Perfect,

The Remainder is Perfect

Where does that fit in with my compulsion to find and fix problems in myself? How do we balance making strides towards our goals with also remembering that we are good enough and that our true inner Self is already perfect?

Please share your experience! (I know my husband will have a comment for this one too! He’s big on what he calls “self cultivation.”)

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Sri

    Ambaa… you have mentioned somewhere in an earlier post that ‘I am God’. But, it is to be realized not to be claimed.
    Once Jesus said that ‘I am God’. Now you can see the consequence all over the world. People lost their identity. They believe that only through him salvation can be attained and there is no other way.
    If you possess extraordinary powers and start doing miracles then you will have many followers. They will start believing you are God. A new religion will be born after your lifetime. Your followers will believe salvation can be attained only through you. Is it good for mankind?
    What is good is self realization and making others to realize their true nature. Don’t you agree with it?

    • Ambaa

      Definitely. I would never claim I am God without adding You also are God. Rather than ignore our true nature, I think we need to encourage everyone to look inside and see it. Problems arise when we think we are God and we are more special than someone else. When one remembers that yes I am God but so is that person who annoys me at the post office, then one can’t feel superior and keep others down.

      • Y. A. Warren

        If the person at the post office is intentionally annoying you, that person is not God in that moment.

        • Sri

          You cannot think I am and the person at the post office are same at that moment.
          As far as we live in the normal consciousness two things always exist in the mind ‘You and Me’. One cannot wipe out it from mind completely as far as we live.
          A sincere devotee (Baktha) there is only two things exist in the universe, He and his God. Baktha says “ Oh God, you are the source of this universe, you are manifested in everything in this universe. I love you, but, I have nothing to give you the body, mind, powers, money everything is yours. Whatever you give whether good or bad I accept it blissfully. All the task I do is for your sake, because I love you. I do not have any desires for my own.”
          Can such a baktha be annoyed? Though he could not feel the other person and himself as same, he feels everything is God around him and everything is given by God. Good and bad will not influence his mind, he is free from karma though he is involved in his duty. Baktha do not bother whether the disturbance is created intentionally or not, he can see everyone and everything as God.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Thank you for the explanation.

          • Ambaa

            I’m sure you’ve told me before and I had forgotten!

          • Kevin Osborne

            in this place, you are free. The more free you are, the more you consciously act as God.
            Realize that you are free, and the door to God is open.

          • Ambaa

            Why not? I don’t think that my consciousness is limited to thinking only “me and other.” I think I am absolutely capable of knowing that I am God and you are God at the same time.

        • Ambaa

          Of course they are. We are all always God. Sometimes it is covered over by a veil, but it is always there and I believe we should always treat everyone as the Lord.

          • Y. A. Warren

            The veil is often so thick that it smothers or suffocates
            God. I have looked into too many pairs of eyes where the light of “God” has been killed or put into such a deep sleep that it has become a coma through which no light can penetrate to impart new life.

          • Ambaa

            Yes. It certainly can be very thick. Particularly now in the Kali Yuga, right? :(

          • Y. A. Warren

            I’m not Hindu, so I don’t subscribe to the belief in the Kali Yuga. I don’t subscribe to any belief in apocalyptic endings for earth cycles. Though I am not a “Christian,” I subscribe to work toward creating peace on earth “as it is in heaven.” In my view, that means that heaven is already around us, as long as we surround ourselves with The Sacred.

          • Ambaa

            Oh, I see. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize!

            People I grew up with used to say that even if the world is in the Kali Yuga, we can always be in the golden age ourselves.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Nothing to be sorry about, Ambaa. I felt, though that I should explain where I am before I get lost in Hindu terminology.

          • Sri

            Yes, the veil is often so thick. When we run behind desire it becomes even more thick.
            People are more concerned about their body and thinks only about the days we are living in this body is real. They think nothing beyond. Our intellect, mind and the thought ‘I’ are all inclined to work for pleasure, money and fame. It is even difficult to visualize how to look inside when we say others to look inside.
            We have intellect, mind and the thought ‘I’ which we can use it as tool to go beyond intellect, mind and the thought ‘I’ to reach Atman (universal soul – where there is no ‘I’, where there is no limitation, infinite bliss). When you come back from that super consciousness to normal plane consciousness, you know that you are God and everything in this universe is God. The thought ‘I’ hold intellect, mind and body together. Atman is beyond ‘I’. It is said in Buddhism as nothingness. Though there is nothing for yourself , it is full of consciousness.
            As far as we go behind earthly desires we are travelling in opposite direction. It helps us get pleasure, money, and fame. However people are fortunate, there is a lot of chance that they may die unsatisfied. Satisfaction, happiness and infinite bliss are inside.
            It is the toughest work to leave all the desire of the world especially for householders. The easiest path is Bakthi (devotion- Love towards God). Even people having hungry spouses or wet babies in the background can spend a few minutes for sincere prayer or meditation daily. This will keep their spiritual level high and to maintain it. At a point of time we may feel our worldly duties are over, you are free to practice anything. Even 1 second is enough for realization. But, for that 1 second we may have to practice or wait for years.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Thank you, Srikumar, for this beautiful meditation on what it means to embrace the purity of The Sacred Spirit.

            The tragedy for many householders is that they have nobody to take their responsibilities from them so that they may enter this meditative state. Parents are not taught to be true partners, and communities don’t embrace all families as if they are all one family.

            Where are the wise elders who will hold the babies while the parents meditate?

          • Sri

            A small fire can end up in destroying a huge forest. Spirituality is a fire; that will end up all the earthly desires and will lead you to eternal bliss. You have the fire inside you. You will find a way of your own, as if a river finds its own way to the ocean.

          • Y. A. Warren

            This is true. I, however, have learned from experience that I must guard myself around those on fire with spirits that intend to overtake my own and squelch it.

  • Y. A. Warren

    If your husband is into “self-cultivation” he seems to me to be a very unusual male. In my experience, as a white woman and citizen of the southern United States of America, it seems that men are taught early that they are what they are and we simply work around who and what they are. Women are incessantly fussed over to “make” them a certain way. We carry this “need” for “self-improvement” with us throughout our lives. Men simply turn on the TV set until the crises either require action from them or they pass. Hint: mold in the bathroom is not a crisis that needs their action (unless you turn off the TV; thereby, creating a crisis). A dirty diaper is not a crisis that needs their action until it explodes or falls off of the baby’s butt. Bad hair day? Put on a hat. It’s all easy-peasy to them, and can be for us, if we let it.

    • Ambaa

      Yes! I really hate that we are taught this way. I think it is terrible that men are raised to be babies and women to hen-peck them.

      Luckily my relationship is nothing like that (despite me being “trained” to be a wife from an early age).

      My husband is most unusual. He is often teased for being feminine, when in fact the qualities he is teased about are compassion, kindness, care, thoughtfulness. He is the most gentle of men. He is a natural caretaker.

      He also thinks about Truth, meaning, and spirituality just as much as I do and we have wonderful conversations about it.

      The Gods provided me with a truly exceptional man and all I had to do was be patient and wait for him (but that was not easy!)

      But what that means to me is that there isn’t really a “men are like this; women are like this.” Despite many men behaving in one particular way, it is not the way they all will or have to. There is always variety and there are wonderful exceptions to the rule.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Blessings to both of you and your marriage.

  • bill wald

    Type A personalities are compelled to improve. I’m a “good enough for government work” person who found my brier patch and stayed under it for 30 years. My two best friends (who have never met) try to improve me but, as Popeye noted, “I yam what I yam.”

    I have also lost all interest in trying to improve the rest of the world . . . except for the grand kids. My “milk of human kindness” ran low decades ago. Still, stirring the pot is amusing and my time is cheap.

    • Ambaa

      That’s interesting! I’ve never thought of myself as a Type A person! lol. In many things I am a “that’s good enough” person and that’s how I accomplish as much as I do. For example, writing novels. I have friends who have spent twenty years trying to perfect one novel. I recognize that it can never be perfect and so I get it as close as I can and then let it go. The “It’s good enough” has served me well for the most part. Not so much in my current job, but it’s kind of that 80/20 rule people talk about.

  • Brad Choate

    Indeed Dear,

    I have thought about this question a
    lot. I remember when I was living in Ohio and loosing weight, using
    my planner, climbing a corporate ladder, and planning to move. I
    talked with my friend Brian about this very topic. We both shared a
    belief that we are already home, which is to say that things are
    perfect the way they are. Still I felt a drive to perfect further.
    I was wondering if there was an end to this drive. We talked for a
    while and I believe we came to an answer that satisfies the seemingly
    contradictory statements of “I am already perfect” and “I want
    to be better.”

    So, I think of it this way: I am
    perfect, and my desire to be different is also perfect. For example.
    My desire to be married. I was single at the time, and I wanted to
    share my life with a woman who I loved and who loved me. It would
    have been inauthentic of me not to work for this desire. So I did
    work toward meeting my love, but I kept in mind two things: one that
    I am content where I am, and two that I am not attached to the result
    of my search. So I looked, and did loose the weight, gain
    confidence, climb that ladder move to Maryland, all in the pursuit of
    love, but I was content at any given point to simply be where I was.
    When I met you I was content to have met my soul mate.

    Some may ask how I could be contented
    but also want. I would say that my working diligently toward a pure
    goal based on an honest desire is contentment as long as one is
    detached from the fruit of the work. I believe one can have this
    state of mind if one keeps an eye on the ultimate reality of oneness
    and an eye on the conventional reality of the 10,000 things.

    So, I believe this applies to my
    spiritual practice as well. I’ll use an old alchemical allegory to
    illustrate: I am led, but I am to be gold. Led is perfect, gold is
    perfect, my desire to be gold is perfect, the path is perfect. I
    will work contentedly toward this end. Even if I die led. Have I not
    lead a perfect life? That is how I believe one can be perfect and
    still strive and act.