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The Myth Of The Perfect Answer

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
Creative Commons License photo credit: Misserion

Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’   – Kahlil Gibran

If you are like me, and reading this blog, you are probably looking for answers.

There seem to be so many questions, and not quite enough answers.  It’s easy to start thinking that if you can find the perfect answer, some of the questions will start disappearing.

Seeking is a good thing.  If you have an interest in self-improvement, you are always looking for new information, insights and practices that can further your personal development.  But what happens when the answers you receive are never perfect?  Would you pass up something that works for something that could be perfect?

When this happens, we can begin to seek for things that simply don’t exist, and bypass things that are good options for us right now.  Looking for perfection creates an impossible circumstance.  Theory and practice are never quite on the same page, but if we do our best to see that our beliefs work as best as they can in our lives we will do alright.

It is very tempting to think that if we can just find that “one”:  religion, political belief system, diet/fitness program, career path, relationship etc. that we will then be whole.  But, of course, then something would change in our lives and we would need a new answer.  😉

I find myself falling into this trap periodically, and I always feel better when I start to pull myself out of it.  It’s funny, because when you are looking for that perfect answer you can actually feel foggier than if you are living bravely between what may be and what is.  Letting go of that perfect answer is liberating.

Letting Go of the Perfect Answer

When an Answer No Longer Serves You, Change It – As our life circumstances change, the answers we need change also.  In college, my fitness routine was to go to the gym 5 days a week to complete a cardio workout and lift weights.  Now that I work full time and commute, that’s no longer the answer for me.  My current answer is to walk and practice yoga.  The answers change throughout your life.

Trial and Error – Maybe the only answer we have is to try things out and see what works.  What works for you the most at this point in your life?

Find Substance In The Tension – When we can’t translate theory directly into practice, we simply have to work with what we are given.  When you don’t have exactly what you need, you have to adjust to what there actually is.  And, you may just come up with a great answer.  For now, anyways.  🙂

The Best You Have Is Sometimes Just OK – Sometimes the best you can do is not that great, but if it’s all you’ve got, just go with it.  Living with answers that are just satisfactory is a part of seeking.  If you stick with it long enough you may find that this has encouraged your growth.

Not Everything Is Meant To Be Solved – We want to solve things.  But sometimes we are given a problem that we can’t seem to find a rational answer for.  In that case, seeing where the problem takes us is often the answer.  We usually want to lead the problem, but sometimes, let the problem lead you.

Do you find yourself looking for “perfect answers”?  Where has this lead you?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Positively Present September 14, 2009, 11:13 am

    I definitely find myself looking for “perfect answers” from time to time and one thing that really resonates for me in this post is the idea that sometimes there ARE not perfect answers. Hard as that is to come to terms with sometimes, it’s an important notion to keep in mind.

  • Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching September 14, 2009, 7:27 pm

    Thanks for this Amanda. My take on this right now is that I’m constantly changing in terms of what I need and want in each moment, as much as I may like to think that doing the right thing will bring me peace for life. And so all I can do is be aware of what I’m wanting right now, and the next moment, and so on, rather than seek the perfect and final answer.

  • Amanda Linehan September 14, 2009, 8:14 pm

    Hi Dani – Right, and if you can remember that sometimes there isn’t a perfect answer you don’t have to waste the time looking for one!

    Hi Chris – It’s nice to think that there may be an answer that would bring you “peace for life.” But, going from moment to moment is probably the best we all have.

  • Mark September 14, 2009, 9:48 pm

    Great post! There are no perfect answers, at least none that will stand the test of time for as we grow the answers change. The key is understanding the answers will change and that not only is it okay it should be expected. We can often measure our growth not only by how the answers change but more importantly by the questions we ask.
    .-= Mark´s last blog ..Allowing Others To Be – Not Forcing Our Beliefs On Others =-.

  • Ian | Quantum Learning September 15, 2009, 10:08 am

    Great post!

    I’ve often wondered what it is about questions – good, bad or indifferent – that seem to trigger us into searching for answers. Even when the question is pointless we still search and have this desire to answer.
    .-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..You make a difference =-.

  • Sara September 15, 2009, 7:25 pm

    Amanda — Ah…you caught me. Countless times I’ve searched for the “perfect” answer or solution and countless times I’ve come up empty. I finally realized that perfect doesn’t really exist because as you say things change.

    I really like your suggestions. The one that hits me between the eyes is “Not everything is meant to be solved.” I tend to be a very persistent person and will pursue things beyond what’s necessary. Whereas you are right, if I let go and wait usually the resolution will show up.

    Thanks for this great post:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Picture Story: Strange but true =-.

  • Amanda Linehan September 15, 2009, 8:35 pm

    Hi Mark – That’s right, when our answers change, we know we are growing. But, I think you said it best that the real growth occurs when we change our questions. Thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

    Hi Ian – Haha, yeah, we do tend to search even on the pointless questions.

    Hi Sara – Yeah, I also relate to that suggestion well. I think my problem solving ability is pretty good, but sometimes it can become a weakness when I rely on it too much. 😉

  • Walter September 15, 2009, 9:40 pm

    There’s no such thing as a perfect answer; you’re right about this. Answers to life’s questions are relative. It may vary from each person.

    But you know what I think? Answers should not be our objective in this life, instead we should have the wisdom of understanding. Answers have been around since the beginning of time, we just need to understand it rather than resisting it. 🙂
    .-= Walter´s last blog ..Deciding point: conquering limitations =-.

  • Barbara Swafford September 16, 2009, 2:43 am

    Hi Amanda,

    Great post. I love the ending where you say, “We usually want to lead the problem, but sometimes, let the problem lead you.”

    As for perfect answers, I think like you mentioned, we change, and with the change we experience, so do our answers.

    One thing I’ve found when I’m looking for an answer to something I feel is important, is sometimes I’m asking the wrong question. I also go through the “why” process. I’ll ask myself a question, answer it and then ask “why” (why do I want something, or why would I like to do something, etc). After I have my answer, I’ll ask myself “why” again. I’ll continue to do that until I get to the core answer. For me, I’ve found it very enlightening and have gotten to know myself and my motives much better.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..The 15 Minute Post =-.

  • Barbara Swafford September 16, 2009, 2:45 am

    Hi Amanda, it’s me again,

    I forgot to mention how much I love the photo you chose. Mt Hood is in my “neighborhood” and every time I see it, I am it awe. It’s a real beauty.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..The 15 Minute Post =-.

  • jonathanfigaro September 16, 2009, 1:44 pm

    It comes down to giving the best you can at that present moment. If you have given all your best then that is all you can do. And You best is great enough.

    Great post Amanda!

  • Amanda Linehan September 16, 2009, 8:26 pm

    Hi Walter – I like how you said that answers aren’t our only objective in life. It’s true. When we make them the objective, we miss things along the way that are important.

    Hi Barbara – I thought the picture was beautiful. How nice to have this in your “neighborhood” 😉 Good point about asking the wrong questions at times. If you are asking the wrong question, clearly the answer you come to will not be satisfactory.

    Hi Jonathan – I absolutely agree. When you can’t find perfect, you take what’s best.

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