Let’s say I’ve got a shirt. It’s a great shirt. In fact, I’d say it’s the best shirt ever.
And for me, that might be true. It fits perfectly. The color accentuates my complexion nicely. The material goes with the rest of my wardrobe, and it’s suitable for all kinds of weather. Perfect for someone who travels as much as I do.
If someone asked me which shirt was the best shirt, I would have an answer for them, but it wouldn’t be a complete answer. In reality, I would be telling them about the best shirt for me, not the best shirt in an absolute sense. Other people have different shapes, different complexions, different style preferences and favorite fabrics and lifestyles for which their clothing needs to be suitable.
To be completely honest, I would have to say, “This shirt is best for me, as my priorities stand today.” It’s truthful, but not captivating. It’s not a rallying cry for that shirt. It’s not likely to get anyone to try it on.
The same is true of philosophies, ideas, and methodologies of all shapes and sizes. When I or anyone else talks about some amazing way of working, or some remarkable lifestyle, or some exciting philosophical standpoint, what we’re really talking about is what works for us, our circumstances, our lifestyle preferences, our goals, and our personalities.
That said, speaking without some sense of certitude doesn’t inspire people to try new ideas on for size, and that’s a goal worth achieving. Hence, the number of absolute statements you’ll come across in a given day, all telling you about the best whatever.
My suggestion is to keep in mind that there are no absolutes in the pursuit of happiness. Then, go walk down as many different paths as you can. You can’t know which is the ideal route for your until you’ve traced out a decent map of your options.
It’s unlikely you’ll find a shirt in someone else’s closet that fits you perfectly, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to cobble one together from bits and pieces taken from several different wardrobes.
Update: February 20, 2017
I still find myself writing and speaking about this: that anyone who tells you their diet is the perfect one for every single person on the planet is either completely blind to other people and their needs, or trying to sell you something. The same is true of ideologies, music, and anything else. The “Best Album of the Year” is no doubt true for someone, but doesn’t apply to nearly as many people as the critic making that declaration flatters themselves to think it does.