Are You Settling For Second Best?


We often hear the term “settling” regarding romantic relationships. Did you settle for your significant other because you didn’t want to be alone? Did you settle because it was simply too frightening to go out and find someone new? Or did you settle because you didn’t want to put yourself under the microscope and see what you needed to fix?

            But settling can happen in any part of your life: work, family, health, finances. Not that you can control every event. Bad things really do happen to good people. But if you know there’s more you can do, have, or become and you don’t strive for it, then, perhaps, you deserve what you get it. Harsh, I know, but that’s the reality. Ask yourself if you have ever experienced any of these signals that you’re settling.

Seven Signals That You’re Settling

1.     You have a dream or goal stuck way in the back of your head, but you never seem to take any action toward it. Maybe it’s changing careers, starting a business, having a child, or running a marathon. It’s like an earworm, also known as stuck song syndrome or musical imagery repetition (and, no, I didn’t make up those terms), that catchy melody or unforgettable lyric that you can’t get out of your mind long after the music stops playing. You try to ignore it, but it’s always in the background, drumming that beat in your head and heart.

2.     You’re living the someday syndrome, keeping your goal in the later-on-in-life category. Guess what? You don’t know how long you have on this earth. Do you really want to wait around to see if you manage to squeeze in something you know in your heart of hearts is truly meaningful to you?

3.     You’ve let the green-eyed monster of envy and jealousy take up permanent residence in your gut. When you see other people succeeding, you find some way to attribute it to their education, money, nepotism or just dumb luck. You tell yourself that they have all the advantages that you don’t. Even if some or all of those beliefs are true, so what? By convincing yourself that if only you had all the great stuff those successful people do, you’re be successful, too, you’re letting yourself off the hook from facing the reality of your situation – whatever it is – and doing the work that will get you where you want to be.

4.     You’ve got a shrink-to-fit personality. You may have big dreams, but you tell yourself they’re just not realistic. Instead, it’s okay to keep plugging away at this safe, boring, little job. Or to stick with playing small rather than risk ruffling anyone else’s feathers –or worse, risk failing at something. You’re like those amusement park Whack-a-Moles: if you just stay safely underground, no one can ever smack you back down.

5.     You’re a substitution junkie. Rather than get your high by fulfilling your dreams, you become obsessed with food, alcohol, television, news, social media or other diversions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a food and wine person of the first order, but I don’t kid myself that earthly pleasures (including TV and movies, two more of my favs) are any kind of substitute for purposeful work or meaningful relationships.

6.     You’re a perpetual blamer of others. If you can’t have what you really want, it’s somebody else’s fault. It’s your boss holding you back. Or the government, the job market, your childhood or spouse. You can find a million excuses outside yourself for not getting what you want, but you know that the only one to blame is you.

7.     You’re hope-starved. Rather than feeding on positive ideas and inspiring people, you let the negatives of the world – and there are plenty of them – become your constant diet. You tell yourself that you don’t have what it takes, you don’t know how to get ahead, you don’t have the right skills or certifications, you're too old, too young, too dumb, too smart, or too whatever. The truth is, you’ve let your positive vision of the future get buried under other people’s negative rubble. It’s time to start digging out.

Awareness that you’re settling for less than you deserve could be the kick in the rear end you need to start focusing on what you really want. And even if you don’t particularly feel like you’re settling, let’s see how the practice of mentally connecting our present to our future can help us realize our vision.

Libby’s new book is available on, and anywhere books are sold. Order your copy now!