What if We Didn’t Settle?

A friend asked me an audacious (in a good way) question: “What if you only said yes to things that were a heck yes instead of settling for things that are mediocre?” My friend isn’t referring to every situation because to be an adult means sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Will I ever say “heck yes” to washing dishes or filing my taxes? Personally, I will not but I still wash dishes and file taxes. But other things? The way I spend my time? The people I hang out with? The dreams I have? It’s a good question.

My friend asked this because right now I do a lot of settling. I frequently say, “It’s fine,” or “This is good enough,” because I don’t believe what I want exists. Here is a small, but telling example. I have about a billion pairs of pants that all sort of fit. Maybe the length is fine but the hips are too wide. Or the hips fit well but the waist is too big. Why do I buy these pants? I settle for them because I don’t think I can have what I want. Lest you say, “You can custom-make pants,” I did! And even those don’t fit quite right! I gave up because it was too much of a hassle/expensive to get tailor-made pants retailored. But this is precisely the issue. At some point, I give up.


This could be my closet but it’s not because mine is worse. Photo by BBiDDac on Unsplash

Pants are one thing but dreams are another. I keep saying I want to be a novelist but then I spend my time applying for jobs I don’t actually want or paralyzed with self-doubt about my writing abilities. The refrain is, “I can’t do it! Novel writing is too hard! I’m bad at this!” But here’s the thing – the Divine Beloved placed this dream in my heart because I have a novel idea that wants to be birthed in the world, ideally through me. By applying for full-time writing jobs that I don’t want and don’t have the energy to do, I’m settling for a half-life where I’m bumbling around too scared to pursue what I really want, which is to make a living as a creative person.

My breakthrough, at the moment anyway, is to say, “Forget that! I’m writing a novel and it may be bad in the beginning but that’s what revision is for!” If I say I want to be a novelist, I have to actually write a novel. If I say I want a romantic partner I have to stop wasting my time with people I’m not actually interested in. Everything I want in life requires me to not settle, to not say mediocre is acceptable.

In my spiritual tradition, we say there are six secrets to success and the very first secret is firm determination or saḿkalpa. Some people interpret saḿkalpa as “intention” but that’s not how we interpret it. My teacher says, “This firm determination is the secret of success in each and every human life. Where there is no firm determination, one will never be successful in any arena of human life.”

He says that because without firm determination, you’ll do what I do and buy pants after pants that don’t really fit. Or you’ll live somewhere you don’t like because you’re scared nothing better will come along. Or you date someone because no one else is showing interest in you. Firm determination means saying, “I must do it! I must ____! There isn’t another option.” That’s not to say what you desire will come quickly, or at all if it’s not in your best interest, but if your will and the Cosmic will line up, you’re sure to be successful if you keep your eye on the goal.

I dream of a world where we focus our attention on what we really want. A world where we recognize the first factor for success in any endeavor is firm determination. A world where we understand the power of saying, “I must be successful” and we aren’t distracted along the way. A world where we stop settling for what’s merely fine.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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