Is your life all it could be?
That’s a tough question for any of us to answer. We don’t get to know what would’ve happened had we taken another path to get to where we are today.
Still, life at its best is an adventure. And settling for less than we are capable of, whether because we are afraid to try something new or just because we are comfortable, is a dangerous thing to do.
If you’re worried you’re settling for less than you could – whether it’s at work,in your personal life, or your romantic relationships – you need to address this tendency right away.
And here are some habits you’re going to need to leave behind if you want to achieve more in life.
1) Avoiding risk
In many ways, settling is something people do to avoid risk.
After all, the world is full of danger. There’s no end to the different ways things can go wrong. It can often seem safer to stick with what we have than to branch out in search of something new.
But that’s how people end up settling for less.
Here’s the thing: risk is unavoidable. If you want to grow, you have to take chances. No seed becomes a tree without weathering many storms, and no person achieves anything without taking some risk.
What if Marie Curie had remained a teacher in Poland? We might never have benefited as society from her work on radiation.
What if the Wright brothers had been satisfied with train travel? Maybe we wouldn’t be able to hop on a jet for a vacation today.
What does this mean for you?
Well, you don’t have to be a famous scientific pioneer to benefit from taking some risks.
Whether it’s moving to a new city, taking a job, or starting your own business, risk is how people grow and achieve the lives they always wanted.
Stop saying no to the adventure of life, and you’lll no longer be settling for less than you could achieve.
2) Wishing the time away
I hated school.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice. I had to go there.
And I was so miserable, I kept a chart on my bedroom wall of every day I had left before I could graduate. Each day I would cross off another box as a visual reminder that I was one day closer to freedom.
Going to school is a legal requirement. Working a job you hate is not. So if you find yourself wishing the time away, staring at the clock and feeling hours pass like days, you’re probably settling for less in life.
Here’s the thing: As far as we know, you only get one chance at this life. So to spend your limited time on earth wishing the hours would move faster is more than a waste of time. It’s a betrayal of everything life should be about.
If you find yourself watching the clock and wishing it was the end of the day, month, or year from now, it’s a good sign you’re settling for less than you’re capable of.
3) Envying others
To some extent, we are a society built on envy.
Every advert you see in a day – potentially hundreds of them – is designed to make you think you would be happier with more.
This is a natural human impulse. That’s why it’s so powerful.
However, envying others can be extremely damaging to your personal growth. Especially when envy tips over into outright jealousy.
Envy can make you settle for less in several ways.
For example, it may make you believe that you will never be able to achieve what other people have. The big house, the new car, the beautiful partner. When it feels as though you’re a million miles away from what you want, it becomes a lot easier to settle for what you don’t..
On the other hand, envying others can give you a distorted impression of what you desire. If you focus on the things you are told to want rather than the things that actually speak to your heart, you are more likely to settle for a life that doesn’t suit you.
And that can be made worse by…
4) Listening to others too much
Let me be clear: I’m not saying you should never listen to other people. Especially people you admire, or people who have your best interests at heart.
But it’s important to remember that this is your life, and nobody else’s. Other people – parents, friends, partners, even your coworkers – may have opinions about what you should do and what would make you happy.
But they aren’t you.
If you want to take a 9-to-5 job, buy a house in the suburbs, and raise kids, good for you! But a life that for some people is a dream is for others a nightmare.
Don’t settle for the life other people tell you you should want, even if they want the best for you. Trying to please others is a surefire way to find yourself settling for less.
5) Using escapism to distract yourself
TV. Movies. Video games. Alcohol. Drugs.
Sometimes, we all need an escape from the stresses and frustrations of day-to-day life. And the world has never had so many different ways to distract us from our goals.
A little fun and escapism is never a bad thing. But in the long run, these diversions can end up costing us everything.
After all, a prison with windows is still a prison.
If you don’t want to settle in life, be careful what you use to distract yourself, and how much you rely on it. Because if you’re not careful, those little distractions can keep you stuck in a life that doesn’t suit you.
Think about it: if you were living the life you want to be, why would you ever need to escape?
6) Delaying your dreams
There’s always a reason not to do something. Especially something that scares you.
But if you’re not careful, what started out as good reasons not to pursue your dreams can end up being justifications for settling for less.
I was planning to move to France in 2019. I even traveled to the country to look at houses.
Then Covid 19 make travel impossible.
I wasn’t able to proceed with my life-changing plan. And so I stayed where I was, working a job I didn’t particularly like, waiting for the pandemic to be over.
And as time went by, I found myself losing the energy and drive to move on with my plan.
Fortunately, I was able to keep pushing. The Covid restrictions were reduced, but I still had to wear a facemask when I finally got off the plane to start my new life in France.
Delaying your dreams until everything is perfect is the ideal way to make sure you never achieve them.
Things will never be perfect. Do it now, or never.
7) Blaming other people
Just as it’s easy to find reasons to delay living the life you want, it’s also easy to find people to stand in your way.
Some people will tell you not to pursue your dreams directly. Others will simply be critical and pessimistic about your goals. And sometimes, people will be supportive, but you will hesitate to do what you want because of the effect it may have on them.
But remember: the people that really love you want you to be everything you have it in you to be. No one who loves you would ever want you to settle for less.
8) Putting others down
Along with blaming other people, you may find yourself putting others down if you worry that you’re settling.
Here’s why: when we settle for less, we can often feel resentful of the path our lives have taken. This can lead us to tear down others to convince ourselves that everyone lives an unsatisfying life just like we do.
Except that’s not true. Some people really do live out their dreams.
If you find yourself constantly criticizing others, look inward. Is it possible that you’re projecting your own bad choices and mistakes onto them?
Or are you trying to convince yourself that people who didn’t settle for less don’t really have it that good, and that you are right to accept a life you didn’t choose?
Either way, it’s a bad habit, and a dangerous sign that you’re settling for less.
9) Chasing perfection
This final point may seem paradoxical. After all, isn’t it a willingness to abandon the quest for perfection that has people settling in the first place?
But even the best life isn’t perfect. While it’s important to know when you’re settling and do something about it, it’s also important to understand that every choice you make limits every other possibility open to you.
In his book On Settling, philosopher Robert Goodin makes the point that every day, in hundreds of ways, we settle for something that may be less than optimal.
The art of living a fulfilling life may come down to balance. Knowing when to settle and when to move on is a skill that can take a lifetime to master.
But it’s a skill well worth acquiring.
You were made to move. And while settling may seem safe, in the long run, it’s far more dangerous than taking a risk.
Take it from me: the life decisions you aren’t sure about often end up being the best ones you ever make. So if you find yourself practicing these behaviors, it’s time to make a change and stop settling for less.
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