In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to run into a few people I haven’t seen in many years. In that same span of time, my family and I were out to dinner one night and had a conversation with our waitress that had some of the same signs I heard and saw while reuniting with those people I hadn’t seen in so many years. What were those signs, you ask? The signs of settling.
What is settling? Settling is what happens when what we desire to be in our lives and dream will take place in our future is shelved for a later date because of our present thoughts, feelings, and circumstances. It’s the decision to live for less when your heart is crying out for more.
What does settling look like? Well, I asked that question of my Facebook friends this week and got the answer, “Sometimes it’s more of a feeling of being comfortable where you are and the fear of the unknown at the same time.” I think my friend is right. There’s a tangible level of comfort that begins to creep into our lives when we’re settling that avoids the risk involved in going after the life of our dreams and keeps us craving its certainty instead of challenging ourselves to grow beyond what we perceive are our limits.
All of my conversations with these former friends and a new acquaintance had things in common. And all of these things added up to what I’ve come to know as the heartbreaking signs of settling.
So, what exactly are the signs of settling? Here are a few things you can look and listen for:
Settling has a voice. Whether we like it or not, our heart’s desires come out in our everyday conversations. Our conversations are not only framed by the actual words we speak but in much larger part by the tone we use to communicate those words. If we’re living in alignment with what we truly want for our lives, then what you’ll hear is a harmony between someone’s words and their vocal tones. If we’re not, then you’ll hear something dissonant.
For example, while our waitress was getting ready to take our order at the restaurant, my eight-year-old daughter noticed that she was pregnant. My daughter exclaimed, “Ohh, you’re pregnant! How exciting!” To which the waitress replied in a hushed and almost embarrassed tone, “Yeah, I’m due in five weeks.” My daughter, undaunted by the obvious tone of her reply, asked her excitedly, “Is your husband excited, too?” To which the waitress says, “Well, this is our second child. So, I’m not sure he’s that excited this time. He’s my boyfriend. We’re not married…yet.” Everything about this young woman’s tone of voice and choice of words was communicating that she was settling.
Did she desire this path for her life? Probably not. Did she like what was happening? Obviously not. Did she feel empowered to do anything about it? Not from the sound of things. See, settling has a voice.
Settling has a face. Along with our hearts crying out for more through our voices, the looks on our faces can tell an even larger part of the story. When we’re happy and confident in what we’re doing with our lives, then our faces tell others those exact things. Our eyes are making contact with our listeners and our facial muscles are relaxed. But when we’re uncomfortable with what we’re sharing, our eyes begin to squint and wander, our lips become pursed, and our muscles become tense.
In one of my longer catch-up conversations with a person from my past, I was able to ask a question about what they were doing with their business that they had just begun the last time we had seen one another. Their reply was full of painful looks as they explained why their business “didn’t work” then and why they are “happy” now to not be doing what they were once so passionate about. In this case, the practiced words and upbeat tone were betrayed by this person’s facial expressions.
Our faces have a way of telling others what our words won’t. If someone is settling, you’ll be able to see it in their face.
Settling has a posture. Posture is such an interesting word, isn’t it? For our purposes it means the attitude and approach that someone utilizes when talking about certain aspects of their lives. It can be either positive, negative, or neutral and usually changes depending on the topic of conversation. Some common positive postures are growth-oriented, bright-sided, and lessons-learned types of people. Some common negative postures are defensive, excuse-making, and victim-oriented people.
In one of my quicker run-ins with a person with whom I was once really close, before I could even begin to ask any questions about how people in their family were doing or how their lives were going these days, they began to take a defensive posture by sharing that the lifestyle arrangement that they didn’t like many years ago when I saw them last was the same reality they were still living today. They just kept talking on and on about all the reasons why they hadn’t really been able to change it and how they were still hopeful that “someday” they would be able to live how they really wanted. What a bummer.
Of all the symptoms of settling, this one may be the most alarming. Negative posturing tends to take place only when we have really settled into the comfort of the life we didn’t really want to live but now find ourselves chained to. We find ourselves over-explaining things to others in order to justify the reasons that we are where we are. Do you want to know why?
Because, at the heart of settling is self-betrayal.
Self-betrayal is when you know what is right to do in your heart, but you don’t do it. Instead, you make excuses for your lack of action and begin justifying your decisions with things like, “It’ll be okay, someday” and “I’m sure he/she will change their mind soon” and “After we do this thing, then we’ll be able to live how we want.” Self-betrayal boxes up your dreams and holds your greatness hostage. It keeps you looking forward to tomorrow when what you needed to break free was action today.
Back to my Facebook friend for the last thought. She mentioned that when she felt like she was settling she had to “decide that she was worth it” and take steps to get out of her rut. If you’re reading this today and you’re seeing the signs of settling in your life, then please summon the strength and courage from within you today and value your life and the contribution you could be making to the world around you at a higher level and say, “I’m worth it!” Then, start taking the steps you know you need to take to get yourself out of that well-worn rut.
Never settle for less when your heart is crying out for more!
You’re worth it. I know it. Let go of less and grab hold of more today.