Two Compelling Reasons to Stop Settling for Less

“The biggest human temptation
is to settle for too little.”
~Thomas Merton~

Whether referring to career, relationships, or general life, we all have undoubtedly received this admonishment: Never settle for less. If asked why, the most likely answer would be, “because I deserve more.” However, from a semantic standpoint, there are even more compelling reasons to stop settling.

Consider the word settle in its literal sense:

  1. To come to rest
  2. A gradual sinking to a lower level

Maturation (growth) requires a conscious effort of managing progressively complicated challenges. Settling for less can lead us to live in an unconscious manner – as if sleepwalking – accepting the safety and comfort of routine over the discomfort of actively venturing into uncharted territory (fear of the unknown). In other words, choosing to settle for less can cause stagnation, thus impeding our own progress.

A second consequence of settling is personal regression. Settling can be a symptom of unwillingness to progress to higher levels due to a fear of failure. Choosing to accept less is not only a choice to remain at a certain level, but it can also unintentionally cause us to regress to earlier stages of development, often expressed through a preference to remain engaged in low-demand relationships and activities.

Stagnation can be likened to being stuck in traffic, not able to move forward or backward, while regression can be compared to the atrophy that occurs when a muscle is not being used.

Mentally, physically and spiritually, we need to flex our muscles for growth. Normally, growth occurs as a result of overcoming progressive levels of resistance. The more we flex, the more competent we become; and the more resistance we undertake, the stronger and more developed we become. Mastery of a lower level will normally trigger progression to the next higher level. But when we settle for less, we are essentially choosing to remove resistance (challenge) from our lives, which is essential for growth. Stagnation halts progress, and regression causes us to gradually lose ground.

In every aspect of our lives, we really do ourselves a disservice by settling. Although settling may feel comfortable initially, eventually dissatisfaction and/or apathy can set in. At the very least, we need to feel a sense of satisfaction to remain sufficiently motivated to continue in a situation. And at the other end of the spectrum, passion is what propels us to higher levels of achievement and fulfillment.

So, if you’re feeling “stuck” or unchallenged, perhaps it is time to consider the areas in your life in which you may be settling for less, and make the changes necessary to reestablish active engagement and growth.

Personal Reflections:

  • Do you recognize any areas in your life in which you are settling?

Published by A. Irvin

Dr. Angela Irvin is a clinical psychologist and mental health educator. Her clinical specialties include forensics, trauma, and personality-related issues. She is also an expert on cultural facets of mental health relating to race, gender, and class. As a mental health educator and writer, she emphasizes research-based information that promotes holistic wellness.