Perfection Does Not Equal Happiness

Last night I was contemplating potential scenarios for our Hawaii trip, trying to pre-emptively make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

My dad wants to visit Pearl Harbour, Jared wants to surf, Kate wants to see whales, Megan wants to rent a scooter (God knows why)…I mentally created a schedule of activities, allocating cars and calculating distance between points.

I tried to think of what we could cook in our shared kitchen that would accommodate all taste buds and dietary requirements. I googled nearby restaurants to find one that would best suit the group.

Then it hit me.

You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness.


I’m telling you, it was a revelation.

Aran Islands
Boy, revelations feel good.

No one asked or expected me to become crazy planning woman. I just did it, thinking I could circumvent the inevitable conflicts that are bound to arise when you vacation with nine people.

That’s the thing about inevitable conflicts, though: they’re inevitable.

Our Hawaiian vacation might have a few bumps. People might get frustrated.

But it’s HAWAII! We’re hardly going to walk away going, “Well, that was a bust.”

This compulsion to achieve happiness by removing spontaneity is nothing new to my traveling lifestyle.

It’s like a sickness.

Every time Jared and I travel, I become obsessed with making the perfect choices.

Should I go with Lonely Planet’s ‘top pick’ for accommodation or TripAdvisor’s? The restaurant with a 78% rating or the one with 79% that’s a little more expensive? 79 is better, right? But what if the ratings aren’t accurate and I pick the one that isn’t as good AAAAAGGGHHH.

What if, what if, what if.

It’s such a waste of energy.

He doesn’t care where we eat, as long as we don’t get food poisoning.

That’s probably why he says, “I don’t mind. You pick,” because where we eat/sleep/play seems to mean so much more to me.

I get overwhelmed by the need to pick a place where we’ll both be paralyzed with happiness, eating the most delicious food or sleeping in the most incredible room.

What I should do is ask a few basic questions:

  • Is it in our budget?
  • Does it sound good to me?
  • Does it have reasonable reviews?
  • Can we walk there?

If I can answer ‘yes’ to all four questions, then that’s it. The decision should be made.

But that’s not what I do.

I change my mind 18 times as we’re walking out the door and after that, neither of us are feeling the happiness that I’m so desperately aiming for.

As I was writing this post, I saw a quote on twitter, courtesy of @heyamberrae and @Chrisguillebeau:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Whoa again. Revelation number two, in under 24 hours. I’m on a roll.

It is, of course.

Some comparison is necessary to make an educated decision, but it’s possible to go too far. The problem arises when you’re presented with, for example, eight rooftop restaurants, all of which serve, let’s say, hamburgers for $7.

But which one has the best hamburgers?

Which one has the comfiest chairs?

Which one has the most stunning views?

Carrot seller in Varanasi
Quick! Choose the MOST ORANGE carrot.

These unimportant factors make the decision pure agony for me. All of the joy gets sucked right out of the situation, because I have put myself in a position where I will never be satisfied.

Straight away, Jared sees what I am blind to: “They’re all the same. Let’s just pick one.”

“I know,” I say. “Give me one minute. I just need to check something.”

In this ‘one minute,’ I scan the guidebook, comparing Lonely Planet‘s write-ups with online reviews.

As we walk to the restaurant, I worry that I’ve made the wrong choice.

Even as I’m eating delicious food, I wonder which place we should try for our next meal. And don’t even get me started on what I should order.

I know. I’m a little bit insane.

But at least I’m aware of it now, which has to be a step in the right direction.

So in Hawaii, I’m going to be different.

I’ll have a good time without worrying about creating a good time for everyone.

If we go out to dinner, we’ll do it the old-fashioned way, without the opinions of strangers on the internet.

Because trying to plan for perfection does not lead to happiness.

And I have a feeling that this vacation is going to be pretty amazing.

Double rainbow Mongolia
Maybe even more amazing than this DOUBLE RAINBOW from Mongolia.



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  1. Hi there… I just have to agree with this post. I am an OC planner when I travel and I assign myself to be responsible for everyone’s enjoyment during the trip. But lately, I tried to be spontaneous and just relax, have fun and watch as everyone laughs at the mistakes we made along the way, that is while traveling. After which, we have a lot of stories to tell and anecdotes to share. Sometimes, I still can’t help it. Someone has got to do it, I guess. 🙂

    Again, enjoy your Hawaii trip and remember that it will be perfect because you are with the people you love the most!

    1. That makes me feel better! That’s exactly what I tend to do – assign myself to make everyone else have a good time. We’ve just finished day one in Hawaii, I didn’t try to organize anything, and it is going great so far. It’s great to see my family again, and being on a tropical island doesn’t hurt!

      1. Don’t worry about travel plan.(It looks like me. I always want to make a perfact plan for everything.) But I agree with you. Be free~~ Have a good trip in Hawaii with your lovlely family and Jared.
        Aha… How about Jared? Is he OK? I wish he would be better. Have a good time!!! 🙂

        1. Hello! I am trying so hard not to overplan in Hawaii. So far, I think it is OK. We’re having a great time and it’s good to see our families again. Jared is improving – I think the warm weather is helping!

  2. Because I am so bad at making quick (or slow) decisions, I have done a new thing with Cory. I will randomly assign two (or more) meaningless numbers to the things I am trying to decide between (14 is the black drawer handles and 36 is the silver drawer handles). Then I tell Cory to pick a number: 14 or 36). He says 36, not knowing what he just picked, and I stick with it! It makes decision making so much faster for me! It sounds stupid I know, but it works for me. We do the same with restaurants, movies, etc., when I feel equally unsure about two things. I thought this may be helpful, but now I realize, I’m so weird.

    1. Does it make me weird too that I think that’s the best idea ever? It’s all about sticking to your choices and not wavering. I’m using this next time I’m torn over a decision, which will probably be later this afternoon. Agh quick decisions are the WORST.

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