As an alternative, Ben-Shahar carefully describes an optimalist as the healthy cousin of the perfectionist. His description about the difference between the two is written very clearly and sensibly. And for readers who may be in denial of their own shades of perfectionism, this discussion can become a light switch to an alternative path. After the defeat of my own perfectionism, I adopted my own optimalist position, which was a prioritizing system — a hierarchy of sorts — regarding how well anything that I wanted to accomplish had to be done. This became my own "good enough" benchmark, which relates to the good enough standards described by others and resembles Ben-Shahar's description of an optimalist.
My favorite section of The Pursuit of Perfect is in Part Two, Chapter Seven — Optimal Love. Cultures around the world have sold the illusion of the 'perfect love'. Many of our intimate relationships have sunk into despair by comparison. We simply fail to understand that, although there are likely many people in the world we can love, the successful and enduring relationship is between people who recognize and accept each other's flaws. Although a very brief chapter, it captures major thinking points for healthy relationships. As a relationship expert, I can really get behind this.
"While not all relationships should or can be sustained, while not all partners are compatible, the dissolution or deterioration of most relationships is avoidable. To realize the potential inherent in the relationship, it is necessary to accept that there are flaws in the partner and in the partnership." (p. 154)
I also found Chapter Two, Accepting Emotions, in Part One to be written with excellent clarity on the complex subject of emotions. When I work with clients who fear owning or expressing their emotions, I offer this thought, "Your feelings do not get you into trouble. Only your behavior does." Tal Ben-Shahar expresses it this way:
"Certain feelings are inescapable. No person is free from the experience of jealousy or fear or anxiety or anger. The real question is not whether we experience these feelings — we all do — but what we decide to do about them."(p.53)
The final section of the book is a series of 10 meditations. This is a quick and easy read section where readers can choose to focus on cognitive reflection or apply the lessons as a call to action.