Is There A Balance Between Settling For What Makes You Happy And Always Chasing Better Opportunities?
I was on a call with an inquisitive friend of mine the other day and he was adamant about knowing what my goal in life was and whether or not I was settling or still chasing for better opportunities.
“Rachel, but what is your dream? What do you really want to achieve? What do you see yourself doing after this?” he inquired with a voice bordering a shriek. Fortunately, it took me only a second to reply.
“I have achieved it – this is what I want to do. I don’t wish to go up the ranks to do something that I find less fulfilling. I am doing what makes the biggest impact now,” I answered.
“Really? Are you sure?”
1. Settling vs. Contentment
A lot of people mix up the terms settling and contentment. Settling is being comfortable with where you currently are though you know you are not living out your full potential. Maybe it is too difficult or cumbersome to go all the way, so you stop and stay put as it is good enough. Contentment is being at peace with what you have achieved on your journey. You feel fulfilled, though it may not necessarily match with society’s standards of success. Settling may bring about regret in the future, but the fruit of contentment is happiness.
Now, here’s where I give you an example.
I write for a living and have been doing so since before I entered university. My aim was to dabble into different formats for different industries. However, there was a period in my time when I was just stuck in just settling. I had an office job with amazing colleagues and good pay. I was not in any way heading toward my dream of being a versatile writer, I was just okay with my paycheck, lunch breaks and counting down to the weekend. It was not until I revisited what I wanted originally set out to do that I realised I was settling!
In a series of not-so-calculated moves, I began to put myself on track to what I aimed to do. After one and a half years of being tossed about in the roaring sea of career uncertainty, I can say today that I have found contentment (with less pay though).
2. The Different Aspects Of Your World
Life is not a two-dimension colouring book. I revealed in the above point that I have reached contentment in terms of my career but that does not mean I have “arrived” in other segments. In terms of financial freedom and my dream of owning a full-fledged business – I still have a long way to go. Therefore, I will continue to learn and chase opportunities to reach these aspects of my life.
Most people lump contentment and settling as an emotion. “I feel content” or “I feel like I am settling.” First, you must ask the correct question, what is making you feel content? What is making you feel like you are settling?
I’m not much of a pragmatist, but I realise that separating it helps me understand myself better. Have you watched Disney Pixar’s Inside Out? If you did, do you remember the different sections in Riley’s head? That is the idea of how I segregate my worlds. (By the way, if you’ve not watched the show, please do, it is brilliant!)
3. The Different Seasons Of Life
Life is riddled with challenges and a new season may bring discontentment to what you were content with.
For example, you may be working with this company at a position you are content with for a few years. After a while, you see the dynamics of the workplace change. There might be toxic colleagues, change in company policy or maybe you’ve just grown out of your position – but these are tell-tale signs for you to chase better opportunities that will bring you contentment.
If you ever feel you are underappreciated, played for a fool or overworked to the point where you feel miserable doing a job you love, don’t hesitate to seek greener pastures. Your job should bring you fulfilment, not grant you a paycheck to seek therapy after you clock out. If you feel that where you are is a stepping stone to where you want to be, keep at it. However, remember to do a “contentment check” after a few months to get yourself accountable towards the position of contentment.
4. Don’t Let Social Media And Social Expectations Dictate Your Happiness
I have a hunch that I am not as happy as I want to be because I have allowed social media to dictate my happiness in many ways. It serves to distract me from my contentment, like a dog with a bone that looks into its reflection and wanting that bone in the reflection as well. Each person’s version of contentment is different from others. That is what makes each of us unique.
For example, you might see a friend launching a book, speaking for a TedTalk, getting married or moving to a different country for a job opportunity. You then look at yourself and wonder, “How come I am not as accomplished as he or she is?” Darling, go back to what you want to achieve for yourself and keep at it.
We must let go of the idea that we want the best that the world has got to offer because that is (in my opinion) a faulty ideal. Why? Because it sounds like greed, and greed will never be satisfied. When looking to find contentment, look within, not around. Chase your goal, not the hype.
Is there a balance then?
YES, there is!
But the scale is dynamic and will require you to recalculate your priorities as you go through life. Contentment is something to strive for, as opposed to settling. But if you tip the scale to acquire more, MORE and M O R E, you’ll find yourself running on a hamster wheel, always chasing sans satisfaction. Me? I suggest self-evaluation to reach self-actualisation.
I believe everyone should do self-evaluation. Think about what we think about, the values we hold, why we believe what we believe, our motivation and if our upbringing affects the way we consider our circumstances. It’s like having a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. I sometimes talk aloud to myself or journal. Bath times are amazing for introspection too.
When you do that, you get to know yourself. That, my friends, is self-actualisation. You don’t have to chase everything to get what makes you happy, you just have to be on the right track to what makes you happy.