“Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable, and imperfect nature of the world around us. Instead of searching for beauty in perfection, we should look for it in things that are flawed, incomplete. This is why the Japanese place such value, for example, on an irregular or cracked teacup. Only things that are imperfect, incomplete, and ephemeral can truly be beautiful, because only those things resemble the natural world.” — From Ikigai by Héctor García Puigcerver
We are prone to erecting roadblocks between ourselves and happiness. Perhaps we are enjoying a meal with friends, celebrating a recent achievement. A joke told by our friend about their workplace brings to mind a problem we are facing with our boss. This burden looms over the rest of the evening as we replay the argument, imagining all the things we should have said. The desire to edit our lives stems from the idea that they could be better, even perfect.
The promise we tell ourselves is seductive: “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion, buy a new car, or move to a different city.” We could also express that promise as: “I will not allow myself to be happy until my desires are satisfied.” But why wait? Because even if a genie granted each desire, we’d quickly return to our baseline level of happiness and still crave more. In psychology, this tendency is called the hedonic treadmill.
Desire draws us towards something just out of reach, shifting our attention to the horizon instead of our immediate surroundings. We can avoid all this unnecessary suffering by letting go of expectations and accepting the imperfection of the present moment.