December is in full swing, and a lot of people are taking stock of their year. Some of us made huge strides—we got married, divorced, promoted, fired, started new ventures, ran marathons, had babies, and moved across the world.
And then some of us kind of did nothing. We went through the motions, didn’t take any risks, didn’t make any big sacrifices. We didn’t achieve any big goals. We phoned it in, got along, settled for a life that isn’t really what we want.
I define settling as inaction. It’s the inaction of not making changes you want to make because you’re afraid. When you settle, you don’t make a conscious choice that is in alignment with your values, goals, or priorities. You go along with the flow. You don’t act. You don’t change. You don’t end the relationship, quit the job, or change careers. You don’t have hard conversations. You don’t take risks.
Settling is comfortable, and that’s why we do it.
So why do we settle? FEAR. That’s the one-line answer: we settle because we are afraid. More specifically, we settle because of a fear of scarcity. We believe that there isn’t enough out there for us—that there isn’t a better partner, a better job, or an audience for our work. We fear there isn’t enough money success, love, or money to go around.
Settling is what you do when you don’t believe that you can create what you want in your life. You don’t believe you have control or agency over what happens to you, so you don’t step out and try. You sit still instead.
To stop settling, you have to change the thought patterns that are keeping you stuck.
First you must figure out exactly why you’re settling. What are you afraid of, specifically? If you’re in a relationship that isn’t really what you want, why are you staying? Are you afraid no one else would love you? Why? What part of you do you think no one else would love?
If you’re in a job that you don’t like, why are you staying? What are your beliefs about your ability to get another job and about what jobs are available to you? Get really clear on the exact thoughts you have about your situation and options.
Once you’ve figured out what your scarcity thinking is, then you can try to change it.
First, create a vision of what it is you really want. In your romantic relationship, in your job, in whatever area of your life you are settling in, and write it down. What does the dream look like?
Once you have that, make a list of what you’d have to do to make it real. Take the mental control and assume it’s a result you will create in your own life through your actions. What steps would you need to take to find the relationship or career of your dreams?
Now make a second list of all the reasons your brain tells you no. You’re not smart enough, or pretty enough, or thin enough. You didn’t go to college (or graduate school), or you’re not good with people—you’re too lazy, untalented, unlovable. Get it all on the list.
For each of these thoughts, you need to come up with a baby-step thought, something neutral you can believe, so you can start taking action. You want to create a little hope, a little motivation, a little action. You don’t have to believe it’s a sure thing you’ll get it yet.
Now, a warning: This is going to quite possibly feel terrible. When you stop settling and start growing, it feels awful sometimes, and that’s normal. Nothing has gone wrong. You were settling because it was comfortable. So growth is going to be the opposite. When you’re teaching yourself not to settle, it’s going to be uncomfortable. Just accept that. If this was easy, everyone would do it. If you want an extraordinary life, you’re going to have to become an extraordinary person, and the way to do that is by teaching yourself to stop settling.