Some years ago, I was shopping and came upon a beautiful red dress. The color, style and length were perfect. But the store didn’t have it in my size. It did, however, have the same dress in navy, which I wasn’t crazy about. Then I noticed a pair of blue shoes nearby that complemented that blue dress. (I didn’t love those, either.) So what did I do? I bought both. I was afraid I wouldn’t find anything else, so I settled. (It won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve never worn the dress or the shoes.)
You’ve probably heard the saying “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Here’s a question: Why put up with any devil? Why not give ourselves only good things? When we believe we cannot have what we desire—when we lack faith in ourselves and in the goodness of life—we settle for less. We decide that whatever is in front of us is better than nothing. But believe me when I tell you that better than nothing isn’t good enough.
I often see people settle for less than they deserve in personal relationships: accepting bad behavior, excusing broken promises, accommodating people who take more than they give. Why? Because doing things we’ve grown accustomed to is familiar, comfortable.
Which is why sometimes it can be tough to gauge whether we’re settling: When we tell ourselves that things are fine, we soon forget that they could be better. Here’s how to know whether you’re putting up with less than you deserve:
- When you have to work yourself into a state of excitement rather than naturally experiencing joy and passion, you’re probably settling.
- When you bargain with yourself about what you can do without rather than feeling gratitude for what you already have, you’re probably settling.
- When your focus is on the time and energy you’ve invested in an endeavor rather than the love, joy and gratification you’ve gained, you’re probably settling.
- When you’re making excuses about why you should stay put rather than going for what you truly want, you’re probably settling.
- When you spend more time complaining about what you have than appreciating it, you’re definitely settling.
But there is a lesson to be learned in everything. When we realize we’ve been settling, we discover what we actually believe. We learn that we perhaps think ourselves undeserving of happiness and find how susceptible we are to outside influences—because often we settle when others convince us it’s the right thing to do. Most important, we learn that we are not standing fully in our truth. Armed with this information, we can make new choices that support our desires—by beginning to believe that we can have what we really want.