Do a quick check on yourself. What are the ideals that you have adopted for your life? Most people adopt ideals of how they should live in childhood, and update them throughout their lives. However, they are never able to live up to their ideals. There will always be a difference between the ideals you have and how you are. Here’s why: Ideals are abstract concepts about how we should live. Plato called them virtues. Concepts are neither true values nor genuine aspirations. Instead, they are notions, theories, and generalizations that are used as a model of how to live, what to think, what kind of person to be, perhaps, even, what kind of work or career to pursue.
The term “ideals” can seem lofty, virtuous, even noble. It may give you a false standard by which to aspire, one that is often impossible and inconsistent with your deepest values and true aspirations.
Ideals vs Values
It is easy to confuse ideals with true values. An ideal is a picture of what you should hold dear. The fact is there is no particular way you should be, so concepts like these are based on the false notion that you must live up to idealized standards. Here is a common definition for the word ideal.
Plural noun: Ideals
A person or thing regarded as perfect. A standard of perfection: a principle to be aimed at.
A standard of perfection;
Synonyms: perfection, paragon, epitome, shining example, ne plus ultra, dream.
True values come from what you think is more important and what you think is less important. Ideals are models of “good” or “perfect” behavior. Values come from our critical choices in reality. You know your values especially when they are in conflict with other competing values. Let’s say that truth and kindness are two of your values. You go to a concert that featured your sister. Poor thing, she can’t carry a tune in a basket. After the concert, you have a conflict between truth and kindness. If kindness were the higher value, you might say, “Sis, you were great!” If truth were the higher value, you might say, “Sis, you were pretty terrible.” And if you could not decide which of these values were more important you might say something like, “Sis, for a person who can’t carry a tune in a basket, you were great.”
Choice vs Ideals
In our experience, when people have a choice as to how they want to live and what they truly want, they want some very good things. They want good relationships, meaningful work, good health, and a host of other very productive results. They may not know how to create such a life, but that doesn’t prevent them from wanting it. If you could have good relationships, meaningful work and good heath, would you take it? Of course you would. This is not adopting an ideal, but recognizing some of your true desires. Choice means you can do it, whatever the “it” is, or not do it. Ideals are not based on choices but on implied obligations of how you need to be. In other words, no choice.
Some people’s ideals were formed as children from the adults in their lives. For others, it may be rock stars, athletes, astronauts, actors and actresses, public figures, historical figures, and the list goes on. There are many models from which to choose. Yet, wherever the ideals came from, they function exactly the same way. “Here is how you must be.”
You may have adopted an ideal or two when you were young. You thought that it was important to live up to these ideals as if they were secret promises you made to yourself. Then, you measured yourself against them.
Many people have ideals of what they should have accomplished by the time they had reached a certain age. Others have the ideal of what adventures they should have experienced. Most people do not happen to accomplish or experience their ideals by the deadline, and they feel as if they had let themselves down. If you have this kind of pattern going on, step back a minute and review your fundamental assumptions. Why did you think you had to be, do, accomplish, or experience any benchmark by any age? You simply made that up. It is not steeped in reality. It is pure fiction.
So, here is a very simple yet life-changing principle: rid yourself of all ideals. The goal of life is not perfection. The blessing of life is the chance to be involved with life. The point of life is to live.