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The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,482 ratings  ·  123 reviews

We're all laboring under our own and society's expectations to be perfect in every way-to look younger, to make more money, to be happy all the time. But according to Tal Ben-Shahar, the New York Times bestselling author of Happier, the pursuit of perfect may actually be the number-one internal obstacle to finding happiness.

Hardcover, 246 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by McGraw-Hill Education (first published 2009)
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Mario Tomic
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This big idea of the book is to give you tool to get out of pursuing a life of perfection. The author also offers a more realistic alternative to a perfectionist, becoming an optimalist. Overall the book is loaded with great ideas and lessons on emotional mastery and happiness. My favorite quote is: "Perfectionism and optimalism are not distinct ways of being, an either-or choice, but rather they coexist in each person. And while we can move from perfectionism toward optimalism, we never fully l ...more
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Several interesting points about perfectionism. I liked the author’s views on the consequences in the individual’s relationship and society in general, e.g work, parenting and marriage. 3.5 stars

Favourite quotes:

“We now have a workforce full of people who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. Not a recipe for success in business, where taking on challenges, showing persistence, and admitting and correcting mistakes are essential.”

A new generation of children is being raised by adul
Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Good mix of information. A lot of references to sources I've read in the past - but good to see them reinforced again. Deals with the concept of failure and perfectionism and the preferred way to handle some situations. not life changing - but an interesting read that has made me think about myself a bit differently. ...more
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mariana Baglini
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say it's a masterpiece but I found it very useful as a perfectionist. I will definitely take many of the tips with me. ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
My boyfriend's father, after reading this book I presume, gave a copy to both my boyfriend and my boyfriend's brother and sister-in-law. I opened up this book and read one chapter, and knew I should read the rest. And so I did... and felt like I was reading a book about myself in many cases. Pursuit of Perfect is worth a second read... some parts were obvious, but other parts, especially the meditations at the end, might be really good for me.

Because I did an excessive amount of underlining when
Brian Johnson
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Perfectionism and optimalism are not distinct ways of being, an either-or choice, but rather they coexist in each person. And while we can move from perfectionism toward optimalism, we never fully leave perfectionism behind and never fully reach optimalism ahead. The optimalism ideal is not a distant shore to be reached but a distant star that guides us and can never be reached. As Carl Rogers pointed out, ‘The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ...more
Desmond Sherlock
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Ex-perfectionist, Positive Psychologist and now converted Optimalist, Tal Ben-Shahar's dissertation is about the "positive"s of his new status, as an optimiser of his time, energy and emotions and the "negatives" of being a Perfectionist. To me, his theory is simplistic, to say the least, using oodles of dichotomies like:
Positive or Negative, Good or Bad, Success or Failure, Appreciate or Depreciate, Mindful or Mindless
Happiness or Sadness, Acceptance or Rejection, Perfectionist or Optimalist.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
There is some good information in this book, but there's also some places were Ben-Shahar completely goes off the rails. It's like his research hit his personal prejudices like a wall and exploded in a shower of cognitive dissonance. For example, there's this bizarre political bit in the middle. It appears that he was unable to accept that both ends of the political spectrum have some ideas that work well with human nature, and some that require humans to fundamentally change. Therefore, in orde ...more
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice book on treating your perfectionism. It contains several nice receipts on changing your attitude to life and to your own achievements to make them make you feel happy and fully feel your life. The first part contains big theory-filled chapters describing origins of negative treats of perfectionism and related problems you can have due to them. They prove why you shouldn't reject any feelings and emotions even if they are considered as 'bad', 'wrong' or 'unproductive' (greetings to animation ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it did not like it
Starts off with an ok discussion of perfectionism but the author starts to include way too much of his political bias into the book after the first chapter or two. Way too much pro capitalist and pro corporate organizational behavior crap. Praises corporate capitalist leaders like Bill Gates and JP Morgan and argues that any criticism of their negative traits and actions is invalid because they did things that are significant.

This wouldn't have bothered me so much until the end of the book when
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Tal Ben-Shahar is one of my favourite authors on positive psychology and this book reaffirms it. According to Ben-Shahar, one of the major obstacles to becoming happier is because we aspire to a life that is perfect. There is a general assumption that truly happy people are immune from feeling sadness, fear, anxiety or setbacks in life. While positive perfectionism is adaptive and healthy, and motivates us to work hard, negative perfectionism is maladaptive and neurotic with an intense fear of f ...more
Dave Irwin
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I see how this can link with other books I have consumed over the past year but it just doesn't stick out in my mind as much. I enjoyed it but found I faded in and out of concentration a lot while I went through it. It isn't a bad book though. Basic lessons are that the stress of perfection negatively affects us more than we think it does. It adds stress and we should be aware of it while also acknowledging that it is a double edged sword. The pursuit of perfection can have its benefits as a mot ...more
Ibis Verson
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Very practical and concice. I strongly recommend it. Teaches you by example and scientific facts how to live and accept and imperfect life. As well as to manage your own perfectionism
Brian Sachetta
Jul 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” a few times and enjoyed it each pass through, so, after my last read of it, I figured it was time to try another of his books. That led me to this one.

Though I didn’t know what to expect out of it when I picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised in the end. I’d say that’s mostly because the author’s approach and advice are honest, compassionate, and grounded in reality.

Throughout the book, Ben-Shahar reminds us that the perfectionism many of us seek is not only im
Gonzalo Cordova
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, given the well-researched theory and its practical application. The Pursuit of Perfect follows the same structure Ben-Shahar provides in his other books: theory, application of the theory, and meditations. Also, every chapter ends with exercises to apply the lessons learned.

Ben-Shahar addresses the concept of perfectionism in this book. The author explains in detail the dual nature of perfectionism, one positive side grounded in reality (optimalism) and one negative s
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great Book! I really loved it. The main theme of the book is to live like Optimalist. In our world most of the people chasing for perfection But Tal Ben Shahar mentioned that don't chase for perfection chase for optimalism.

Author: Ex Perfectionist now truned into Optimalist i.e Tal Ben Shahar. He is a great and successful teacher in positive psychology. In this book he mentioned his simple theory, I.e.

Good or Bad, Positive or Negative , Success or Failure, Happy or Sad, Be an Optimalist.

Want to
Katya Korolyova
Didn't finish. Obviously. This is some pro-capitalist propaganda delivered by means of the softest persuasion that no one is perfect. No one deserves to die of starvation or water deprivation while others use money as a paperweight. And it's not about someone else's money. It's about the system not working. Some advice was pretty useful, it is that I cannot read this book anymore, taking it as soberly as I wish I could. Let's not be political, but still, we are, even in the most detached areas s ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
I liked the part where he references Classical Philosophy, esp. his view of identity in Platonic and Aristotelean thought. I'm not a philosopher, so I wouldn't know how much a philosopher would agree with the views in the book, but they resonated as I had just thought of something akin to what Ben-Shahar wrote, a day before reading it in the book. It was validation or confirmation that I wasn't alone in thinking along those lines. Other than that, the idea of optimalism seemed to fade away a bit ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a secondary referral: meaning I heard Kevin Worthen quote from it and decided it might be worth looking into.

This book had it all... in the simplest language possible.
It talked about recovery from grief, how to avoid perfectionism, how to live with anxiety and where it comes from. I loved it. And would definitely recommend it highly. A simple read that contains enough truth to feel like you have something to chew on for the next couple of days.

Fun Fact: It was first published under "Be
Ryan S
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
It took me a lot longer than anticipated to finish this book. Mostly because of the so-called "Time In" sections, where the author asks you to reflect on a question. Reflect I did, often I even wrote in my journal about it.

But let me go back to the beginning! Prior to reading 'Perfect'--this is what I've been calling the book, since it's much shorter than saying it's full name--I thought of my Perfectionism as a positive character trait; as of something that made me who I am and that gave my wor
Evan O'Shea
Everything described in this book was beautifully accurate with respect to how a Perfectionist thinks.

However I didn't walk away with any concrete lessons on how to combat the paralysis that comes with perfectionism. Yes, there are many ways Ben-Shahar advises you to combat it, but the fact that I finished the book without remembering any of them means that none of them spoke volumes to me.

Advice that is basically "change the way you perceive challenges" just isn't practical enough for me to p
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, for those who struggle with perfectionism, and that's a lot of us who beat ourselves up for our inadequacies and mistakes. I chose this for a summer reading book for high schoolers, and many of them recognized themselves in the book and were relieved to read that the path to reaching their goals does not have to be one of perfection in all things! Tal Ben-Shar is one of the leading experts in positive psychology and brings this expertise, along with his personal experience to ...more
Michelle Nguyen
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first 40 pages are absolutely imperative information that really revealed a lot about how I see myself and my understanding of the world around me. The book does offer a lot of great advice and comes up with concepts proven with anecdotal experience. However, it becomes diluted in the middle--this book could have easily been a long essay, and gotten the same ideas across. While it was a great conversation to have, it should not have spanned an entire book. Just read the first half and you ge ...more
Tomasz Sz
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very good book - shows mechanisms of perfectionistic thinking and how to transform those tendencies into healthy way, which Tal calls "optimalism". It seems to be a great position for people who are focused on high achieving perfectionism, I think that I miss some parts for people who are creative and kind of meticulous in their perfectionism, but maybe I'm just clinging to details. It's useful - that is important, but it is not life-changing I guess. I like the author's healthy attitude to life ...more
Sandra Niko
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
It is one of the books that came to me at the right time in the right place. I had some issues with perfectionism lately up to anxiety and panic attacks. There were a lot on stakes and a lot more that I created in my mind, this book helped me to rethink and to come back to the real me.
I realize how hard it is to be perfect all the time with all of the hopes of others on your performance. But understanding your limits and giving up sometimes in some spheres of your life is okay. It is actually p
Anne Ku
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent! I knew that being a perfectionism would one day have negative consequences but I didn't know what or the extent of it until I listened to the audiobook. The author coined the term "optimalist" which is a better goal than perfectionist. He also talks about the correlation between perfectionism and fixed mindset; optimalist and the growth mindset. Great examples. ...more
Katy McKellar
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book completely and totally validated my perfectionism and helped me find new ways of thinking and challenging how hard I can be on myself to be successful. I will go back to it in the future when I need reminders of how to treat myself with patience and care I am moving forward as an optimalist and I have already implemented many strategies and practices from the book into my life!
Michelle Vandepol
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Practical research-backed strategy for anyone who wants to put distance between themselves and the pursuit of perfection. Written by the Harvard psychology professor of the popular Intro to Happiness course. Journalling prompts, examples, and personal narrative make it memorable & readily applicable.
Jeanne T
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Some insightful points about avoiding perfectionism, although most of the points mentioned are pretty commonsense. A lot of the advice are things that I already know yet find hard to implement. I do like the application part where the author discusses optimal parenting, work, love etc.
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Tal Ben-Shahar (Hebrew: טל בן-שחר‎, also known as Tal David Ben-Shachar) is an Israeli teacher and writer in the areas of positive psychology and leadership.

Tal Ben-Shahar taught at Harvard, where his classes on Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership were among the most popular courses in the University's history. Today Tal teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

Tal receiv

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