The reasons why people settle for less in life is quite complex. On the surface, it may seem simple- that they’re stuck in a comfort zone but the reality is that for most people, they have found attempts to go after they want extremely disappointing and they’ve been hurt. We all have a built in safety mechanism- an inner voice that tries to protect us. Back in the days of sabre-tooth tigers and woolly mammoths, that voice spoke up to protect us from physical danger. It’s how we survived. Nowadays, we don’t those physical dangers however, but that voice is still there and it still tries to protect us from danger- the new danger being emotional- shame, embarrassment, what other people think, disappointment, failure and fear.
Can you relate to any of these scenarios and thought patterns:
- There are so many other people who are better than me. I’m not going to be able to do it perfectly so I better not try.
- What would people think of me or say about me if I was to take this risk. My family/friends/boss/colleagues/partner would think I’m an idiot.
- I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. I’m not wasting my time on that again.
- What if this is the best I can get, so I better just hang tight to what I have right now.
- I might try to do this, and fail. What would I do then? I’d be mortified and everyone would know.
- I don’t have the time, energy, resources to go after that. Now is not the right time, maybe someday….
If you’re desiring to date, meet new friends, leave your job, ask for a promotion or pay raise, start a business, start a family, set boundaries with friends and family- you start a dialogue in your head, you’ll start to think about it and the thoughts that you have will bring up certain emotions. If those emotions are fear based or you feel you may be putting yourself in a vulnerable position, then often we avoid following through on what we want to do. We don’t put ourselves out there, we stay stuck in our soul-destroying job, we don’t have the difficult conversations with people and what happens then is that we lower our expectations of ourselves in our own lives. Our standard for our own lives can drop gradually or it can be a drastic move after a major disappointment. We start to settle for less than because we feel we are less than.
We start believing that we can’t do or have the things we once dreamed about, that we aren’t as capable, as powerful, as special, as lovable, as smart as we once were. We start telling ourselves we don’t deserve it. This is also called learned helplessness and we become oblivious to the fact that the situation we’re settling for is a major compromise on our original dreams and desires.
How can you break out of this rut and start creating a more satisfying life:
How can some people bounce back from disappointment stronger and more determined while others let the disappointment define their future…. Is it because some people are better than others? No! It’s simply that they’ve learned a skill called Resilience. Could you do with building up your bounce-back ability? I think we all could! Here are my top 5 tips to build your resilience muscles:
Step 1: Understand and speak shame
Yikes, start with the hardest one but once you start practicing this, it will make the world of difference! When we’ve been hurt or disappointment, most of the time we stay quiet. We don’t tell people of our dreams and our desires. We brush them off with a laugh if someone asks. We deflect because we feel shameful or embarrassed. Even the word ‘shame’ itself can be a trigger.
Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
Whenever we experience something that we feel shame about, we want to bury it, hide it, let no one know about it but that’s not the best approach. “The less we talk about shame, the more power it has over our lives,” Dr. Brown explains in her book Daring Greatly. “If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees.”
If you share your story with someone you trust, in my experience, what you get is a hug and a resounding ‘Me Too!’. Once its spoken, there’s no shame, there’s no hiding, you’ve got your power back and you get to write a new ending to the story.
Step 2: Develop a growth mindset
Carol Dweck in her book ‘Mindset’ outlines two different mindsets- Growth mindset and Fixed Mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
People with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
A simple way of starting to develop your growth mindset is asking the questions ‘What did I learn from this?’ ‘ How could I improve on this?’ ‘What would I do differently next time?’
Step 3: Get Clear and Get Focused
A lot of the time, we settle because we don’t know what direction to go in instead. Take some time to really allow yourself to think about what you want and if you can’t define it in tangible terms, think about how you want to feel in a particular area of life and then work backwards’ What can I do to create this feeling in the area of my life?’. People who get what they want know what they want, they focus on it and learn what’s working and what’s not. Speak to a mentor, a coach, a career advisor, a financial advisor, a health specialist and get clarity.
Step 4: Practice Self-Care
This should go without saying but we all need reminding! Sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, proper hydration, time management, fresh air all impact our bounce-back ability, our optimism and our perspective on life. By practicing self care, you’ll also be teaching yourself that you are deserving and worthy of your own time and attention. You cannot pour from an empty cup so self-care needs to be a daily consideration in your quest for an incredible life!
Step 5: Take baby steps
One you’ve got the clarity on what you want, you need to start taking action. Often, we get stuck in overwhelm at this point because the task at hand seems huge and we’ve no idea where to start. Start by breaking it down into smaller steps, I’m talking really small steps that will enable you to start taking forward action while practicing the tips above. It will move you forward gradually, raise your standards gradually and change the course of your life gradually. Remember the tortoise and the hare, be the tortoise!