The Art of Not Settling
There are many moments in our lives when we are forced to settle for something, oftentimes it is only temporary and typically it is by our own choice--even if at the moment we may feel as though the choice is out of our hands.
Settling can happen on a small or a large scale.
For example, when we are at a restaurant and they inform us that they’re out of whatever we ordered forcing us to select something else. A larger form of settling that can impact your life in a bigger way would be what many have experienced-- like staying in a career or relationship that either doesn’t make you happy or doesn’t foster your growth. Lastly, there is settling that happens almost in a phased approach, such as when you buy your first home--typically starting with a starter home, but knowing that you’ll eventually level up in a few years
There is a particular moment in my childhood that I can still recall where without really realizing it, I was taught quite a valuable lesson in not only settling but also in short-term gratification. I can’t at this moment recall my exact age, but I’m guessing that I was about 4 or 5 years old, at that point I was still an only child and can honestly say that I was not at all lacking in attention, toys, or anything else as I was lucky enough to have had a great childhood yet, just like all kids sometimes I wanted something that my parents didn’t agree with or felt I had enough of already.
In this particular instance, I wanted a new Rainbow-Brite doll. Although it’d been around for a little while, the animated series was still popular and well, I wanted one. I found one while out holiday shopping with my parents for presents for our extended family and I spent the rest of our time trying to convince my parents to purchase it for me. They kept telling me that if I waited until the next store we were going to they would buy me a bigger version of the same doll. I was not having it. For starters, I wanted that one at that moment and secondly, I’d been fed that line before with no fulfillment of the promise so I was not going to fall for it. Also, it was rare that I wanted anything so much that I’d demand it. Eventually, I finally broke my parents down and they purchased it.
We then got in the car and arrived at our second stop. Then, the unexpected (for me) happened, at that store we really did find a MUCH larger version and not only was it at least four times larger than the one I’d purchased earlier, but it also came with a storybook. My parents decided they would purchase one for one of my cousins and when I asked if I could return my other one and instead get one of these, they did not budge and their response was that “No, you made your choice at the last store.” I decided that trying to plead my case of how they had used that line before would probably not really help me in this situation so I accepted my reality of now being stuck with this much smaller doll knowing that a better one existed out in the world.
Eventually, I got a better one yet this lesson stuck with me.
In this age of convenience, we’ve all been guilty of fulfilling our short-term or immediate wants, and now with consumer tools like Klarna, Afterpay, and PayPal’s Pay in Four or Paypal Credit it makes it even easier for shoppers to act on impulse.
While some smaller in-the-moment decisions don’t have many lasting repercussions, some of those larger “life” decisions where we’re settling do take their toll. For example, I have a friend who wanted to pursue a career in broadcast news, at the time she was able to find a job with a local station in a medium-sized town and eventually worked her way up the rungs to a more prominent on-camera role and just like most newscasters do, achieved a small level of celebrity if only in that city. She was always afraid to leave the role for fear of what I guess I’d call going back to being a small fish in a big pond as she enjoyed the perks that came with everyone recognizing her from that local station. Yet, outside of that city and neighboring towns, no one knows her name nor face. However, she wasn’t quite fulfilled as her days consisted of reporting mostly local happenings that had little impact on the rest of the world--not at all why she first pursued broadcast journalism.
I encounter plenty of people in this same boat, especially when it comes to branding, and those who become so fixated on the opinions or with resonating with a few hundred people or those who only work in one market or geo/country, etc.--because those people often become their sounding boards or measures of success or that’s where they have a base. Yet, they forget about their potential reach of millions and without realizing it handicap themselves tremendously when instead of just local or niche audiences they could achieve more global recognition. It is typically due to immediate gratification and the fear of sacrificing the short-term for the long-term. Other times it isn’t even their mental blockages or desires to resonate or please a few people or communities, but it is sometimes relationships or friendships and social niceties that keep one limited. Either way, they never achieve their true potential.
This has become a conversation as of late as some of our Consciously Studio Gen Z team works on the Elev8 project where they are having many conversations with professionals across various sectors and learning all about their life and professional journeys.
In the end, we should all still live in the moment for that’s where much of the fun lies but also have an idea of where we want to end up either personally, professionally, or otherwise. The clearer you are on where you’d like to end up, the easier the path to getting there becomes, for you’ll be more easily able to recognize what is not conducive to the long-term and to what fulfills you as a person.