Are you settling?
Do you notice how often people settle for what they think they can get instead of going for what they really want? How often do you see people plodding along in their jobs, or the same relationship, and it’s obvious they don’t enjoy what they have. And how often do you see people stop short of happiness and settling for things that are barely “good enough?”
There are a couple of reasons we find that people settle for less. Usually it’s either out of fear or because they are disconnected from their values.
When fear is the cause, it can be: fear of failure, fear of loss of acceptance, fear of the unknown, or the big one: fear being disappointed.
Fear often leaves people cynical and resigned that things could ever be better, and doubtful that they can have what they truly want. But recognizing that you’ve become cynical can be a good thing.
A quote by Benjamin Zander, the author of, The Art of Possibility says it beautifully.
“A cynical person is just a very passionate person who is trying to avoid being disappointed again.”
How deeply do you care?
If you think about it, you would have to value things greatly and care very deeply in the first place in order to become cynical. Apathy simply wouldn’t generate the kind of energy that truly cynical people seem to have.
This disconnection from our values and these weeds of fear take root in the garden of our lives at a very young age. They are fertilized by a life of being told how to think, what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and bad, and what’s appropriate and inappropriate.
Before long these weeds start to choke out our hopes and expectations. Were further disconnected from what we value by being rewarded for obeying and punished for disobeying. It is through this process that we learn to settle for less and less.
What is true for you?
Authority figures tell us what is THE TRUTH and we learn to believe what they say – OR ELSE. And somewhere along the line we take these truths on as our own.
We aren’t arguing against the value of cultural wisdom or tradition. We are simply pointing out that there are negative effects when we’re not taught to think critically or to determine for ourselves what is important to us.
Since we aren’t taught how to determine what’s most important to us, we easily become disconnected from an internal sense of our own values. This prevents us from discovering what we value, moment by moment in our daily lives. This makes it hard to cultivate the life and relationships we truly want.
And though we become experts at griping about our situations, we never become skilled at examining our underlying beliefs that keep us in these situations. We never learned to stop and ask, “What is important to me in this situation?” or, “What do I value here and what do I really want?”
We’ll make a rather bold assertion here: the majority of a person’s internal distress comes from being disconnected from their most deeply held personal values, and then behaving in ways that are out of harmony with those values.
What’s the Cost of Disconnection from Your Values?
To see how this might play out, we’re going to use an example that is typical of people we’ve worked with. Pat’s been going to work day after day, week after week, dreading every minute. The only options she sees are either to quit or suffer. You can easily see how settling for this job could leave her feeling frustrated.
But how she feels about her job affects more than just her own sense of well being. How do you imagine she acts with the people at work, and how might it impact the way she is with her family and friends?
Do you imagine her frustration and irritation might cause her to complain about her situation? Has anyone ever complained to you about their dissatisfaction and hopelessness? How did this affect you?
When someone settles for less it affects everyone and not just the person doing the settling.
But what prevents Pat from looking for a solution instead of just plodding along in the same old routine?
As we said before, one reason we end up settling for things we don’t enjoy is fear: Fear of failure, loss of acceptance, fear of the unknown, or fear of being disappointed. We also implied that Pat’s distress might be caused by her disconnection from her most deeply held personal values, and then behaving in ways that were out of harmony with those values.
If this is true, how might getting clear about her personal values help her break out of this pattern of settling for less and propel her into action to go for what she really wants?
How Might Getting Clear About Your Values Help Your Situation?
Awareness of our personal values gives us an internal landmark or reference point that we can use to guide our actions. With this internal landmark we can guide our actions so they are in harmony with what is most deeply important to us — who we really are. So let’s examine what Pat might value that is missing in her current job situation and generating her complaints.
Well, she might deeply value connection and community, but she doesn’t really know her co-workers very well because no one talks about anything other than work.
She might also value contribution, but she never hears form her boss that her work is contributing to the organization or the people it serves. She may also be missing a sense of creativity and freedom that would contribute to her own growth.
Just by identifying how much she values connection, community, contribution, creativity, freedom, and growth, she has already gained enough clarity to see her job and herself a little differently.
Change your perspective change your life!
This change in perspective provides some distance from her dissatisfaction and shifts her focus of attention from her complaints. And as we say, what you focus your attention on grows.
It’s now possible for her to realize that there are things she values that are just missing at her job. With this clarity she can now come up with ideas about how to experience what she values at her present job.
Were not implying that she will be able to create everything she values in her current situation, but until she knows what she values, and how these values are missing in this unsatisfying situation, she will never know what to ask for to get what she wants.
But identifying what she values is just the first step. In order to make a difference, she needs to translate these values into concrete actions that will result in the experiences she desires.
To create more connection and community, she might organize some weekly activities with her coworkers, such as a discussion group during lunch or regular recreational activities after work.
To meet her need for contribution, she might ask her boss to tell her how her work contributes to the organization and the people it serves. And to meet her need for growth she can also ask for support in identifying new ways that she could contribute more successfully.
To meet her need for creativity, she could ask her boss and coworkers if they were interested in hearing her ideas for the growth of the company.
Taking these actions could also contribute to her sense of freedom.
In short, when she is clear about what she values she can begin to take responsibility for creating the kind of life she wants.
What Would You Gain From Consistent Alignment With Your Personal Values?
Clarity about our deeply held personal values creates the possibility of consistent, internal alignment. With this internal alignment we can then share the vision of what we want with others, and begin the process of creating alignment with them about that vision. We can explore whether they share these same values and are interested in experiencing them more fully.
The process of creating alignment with others about our values and vision makes reaching agreements with them, and achieving results together, happen much more quickly and easily. When you create power with other people in your life this way it opens up the possibility for greater success and satisfaction for everyone.
In our example, Pat has discovered the key that will release her from a future of confusion, complaining, and hopelessness. Now she can begin to have the life and the relationships she truly wants.
So, if you’ve been giving up on what you really want, just remember that what you focus your attention on grows. Once you’re able to focus on what you truly value in any situation, and then come up with actions that create exactly what you want most, it’s all down hill from there.
Beth and Neill