Are You Settling? And Is that So Bad?
The “S” word has such a bad rap. My generation–I think more than the ones before–has great pressure on it to never settle. We are to dream big, pursue those dreams, achieve them, then what? Dream bigger, pursue those dreams, achieve them. Then… I’m exhausted. Yet, the alternative is invariably worse: slowly forget your dreams of taking over the world while you were in college, your dreams of finding the perfect mate, of the perfect job that allows you to travel the world. Forget those thoughts and replace them with reality: the job offer down the street, the guy down the street. Settle into life, look up at the age of 35 with only faint memories of conversations in college you had with your friends about taking over the world. You’ve settled, yes. But is that so bad?
I ask this as someone who’s done both: I have settled and I have refused to settle. The latter typically gives me more of a sense of victory, but as I grow into my mid-twenties, the former is oh so realistic, commonplace and logical. People have kids, they have mortgages, and car payments, and lots and lots of school debt. At some point, settling is survival.
Not to mention time. It goes by really fast (Maybe I’m the first to have ever said that.) and doesn’t leave much room to not settle. Pursuing big dreams and waiting for them to materialize can take years. But that’s always the argument for not settling: life goes by too fast, seize the day. How tricky and two-faced I am just now realizing the “life goes by so fast” argument actually is.
Both sides of the spectrum–settling and refusing to–seem to be pressuring us at any given moment. And I would argue that more often than not, settling wins. So if settling is the majority of life, why do we hate it so and beg ourselves and others not to?
Why does settling continue to be my absolute worst nightmare? And why when I see others doing so, do I feel like screaming?
Surely something intended for us would not cause such an outcry in me. But maybe that outcry will quiet with time. I know it already has in some ways.
Can it get quieter? Should it?
As I’m growing into my mid-fifties, settling has another name: contentment. Not the contentment of having achieved all my dreams and having a perfect life or being a perfect person, far from it! It is the contentment of understanding how accepting “good enough” frees up a lot of time spent in emotional angst for more fulfilling and less-than-perfect relationships and pursuits. And when I worry that the perfect has eluded me, I remind myself I have all of eternity for perfect ventures and adventures. Else, what is heaven for?
really liking that last line:
I remind myself I have all of eternity for perfect ventures and adventures. Else, what is heaven for?
I propose we shouldn’t look at it as a divided path, but as a path where you choose to be happy and do what you like with no remorse. You love having kids and a quiet routine? Fine, do so, but be intelligent in it – having a smaller house you won’t be loaded in mortgage payments. You could work on your dreams from home. You find a way to make it work somehow (I did). You could also choose to visit the world, live your dreams than after do other dreams you’d love like having kids or settling at a paradise place. Just be sure to ask you, if I die tomorrow, would I still do the same choices again, that’s my way of finding my way 🙂
I just turned 50 and despite life being nothing like I had hoped or imagined, in many ways I’m happier than I’ve ever been. No I have not reached my goals, never got my MA, never got married, am disabled now yet I have a contentment recently that surprises me. Eph 2:10 has really changed my perspective – we are created for works that God knew in advance we would do. So I’m living God’s plan for me – he knew I would be at this place and time. I think that’s really the perspective to have that evens out the tension between settling or not. I believe we are to dream and then trust God with those dreams and press forward. Thanks for your blog and the thoughts they challenge me with.
this is something i have fought big time.. at times i have wondered if i am just fighting with myself, or what my original goal was to begin with.. growing up, everyone moves at the same pace (for the most part) you go through elementary school, middle school, and then high school & then the majority of people attended college.. it’s like life is pre-set for you, and then you’re released after college & left with piecing together what was always encourage, and spoken of dreams with what the reality of life actually is.. it’s insane. as i have tried to figure this out over the last few years, I have realized a couple of things.. “not settling” doesn’t have to do with other people or even the things we think we aren’t settling for.. it has more to do with what we know in our gut is true, and walking away trusting God has something else.. 2 years ago, i turned down a major job, it scared me to death, but i knew i wasn’t supposed to take it. i had no tangible reasons, and I needed a job, but I knew I would be settling if I accepted.. my parents flipped a lid, and thought i was being judgmental or too picky.. i think what i realized was that I am wired differently than what that job required, and while I could do it – it wasn’t the right fit for me, and honestly – someone else could probably do it and actually enjoy it. I walked away from it, and a job fell in my lap that was so random, and looked from the outside that I was “settling” because it was more along the lines of an internship, versus a “director” position.. I learned a lot about how my walk with God looks, through this, and that settling for me is taking my plans into my own hands, out of fear He’s forgotten about me. it’s scary how easy it is to settle. it’s terrifying actually, and I think that’s because God has shown me that with whatever He has for my life, it’s so much more than what I can come up with.. it may not look like that to anyone else, but my walk with God isn’t like a group walking club- it’s me and Him, and I am the only one that will have to answer for it.. I feel like I am running around 1/2 the time, trying to figure where the boundary between completely insane, and trusting God is.. I am not an extremist, and had my life completely planned out.. However, by my first leap of faith not settling, God taught me His plans for me are wayy higher than my own, and because of that I will always fight not to settle for my own plans, or things I come up with out of exhaustion from hitting too many walls..
Emily, thank you SO much for this comment. It spoke to me on many levels. What could look like settling to the onlooker could actually be living life free in Christ for the person who looks like she’s settling. And I totally agree with this part: “I feel like I am running around 1/2 the time, trying to figure where the boundary between completely insane, and trusting God is” 🙂
This is a question I ask myself this question almost every day. I graduated in May with a BA in English-Writing and now I am faced with the first “settling” option: do I continue to search for the writing and editing job that I have used my time and energy preparing for or do I accept the collection of rejection letters, admit the economy is a mess, and settle for any job I can find, even if it means working retail? I don’t want to settle but it may be my only option.
just rereading purpose driven life by Rick Warren and the day about surrendering. settling could be surrendering those dreams to allow what God wants. maybe even the suggestion of the word settle shos we haven’t really surrendered, because to surrender is to be glad with that choice or future because that’s where we belong. but at 23 I’m not so sure I’m the most qualified to have an opinion. I can say I used to dream big and now I don’t. but mainly because I realized my dreams aren’t necessarily Gods and his are better
That’s a great point. Settling v. surrendering. At 25, I also don’t feel qualified to provide an answer. I think it can go the other way though: being fearful of the possibility that God’s will for our lives is uncomfortable, so we settle for comfort. I think that’s what where my fear lies as far as settling.
As someone at 66 who is on the downhill run and gaining speed, if “settling is your worst nightmare,” you have a very good life.
Thanks for that perspective, Dee. I guess settling is a very first-world term. Most of this world’s population doesn’t have time to worry about settling, or even have a concept of settling. Hmmmm
This really is an excellent point Dee. Andrea, loved the blog! I would agree that thinking of “settling” as a global concept helps put things in perspective. The fact that we are afforded opportunity to dream big dreams with the reality of being able to achieve them is a blessing in itself. One we should be good stewards of considering many in the world are mainly concerned not with settling but surviving.
I’ve struggled with this very thing – settling vs. striving, dreaming big vs. contentment. I’m trying to learn that there’s room for both – some things can just be “good enough,” while I don’t want to settle in other areas. And I still dream big, but I’m also trying to be content with what I have, where I am, etc., right now.
It’s a tough question and such a relevant one, Andrea – thanks for bringing it up.
I loved Dee’s comment, in fact I have enjoyed reading all of these comments. Life is a process and I think God is in the process and meets us there. It’s a lifetime thing and it’s what keeps us on our knees seeking him. If you are in your twenties, expect more of the same for a long time. Contentment seems to come when we except that life’s endless decisions and God’s deviation from our plans are, in fact, the Christian life.
This subject is so perfectly relevant to my life and my thoughts at present. When I felt I was settling, I let certain parts of my life go. I went after the career, my dream job. But now what? I didn’t settle, I did everything I’m supposed to do, and now here I am. I’m happy with my career, but therer are pieces missing. What do I do next?? Should I have held on to that part of life I thought was “settling”?
I love this comment, “Just be sure to ask you, if I die tomorrow, would I still do the same choices again.” What if the anser is no?
I’m trying to trust and be patient. I do know that He has a plan. I’m just terrified He’ll forget or leave out a piece I want most. But I should know better.
And very true, if “settling” is the biggest worry I have, I am truly blessed.
Thanks for sharing!
I’m in the process of feeling the pressure of having to make another major decision in the coming months, and the last thing I want to do is “settle.” But “settling” for me at this point would be not “settling” in everyone else’s minds. As I’ve gotten older though (all of 28), I’ve realized that sometimes God uses the not “settling” periods to prepare us for the “settling” because sometimes He changes the dream.
Well, one thing is for sure; when you’re out rock climbing and 400 feet up settling is definitely the last thing on your mind. 🙂
Times I want to be aware of settling in my life:
1. When I’m shaving in the morning, want the best blades available.
2. If I were an architect and/or a builder I would want to know everything there is to know about settling.
3. If I were a mother hen sitting on the nest I would like to have very good settling skills.
4. If I were a road builder I would have to have an intimate knowledge of settling.
5. If I were a clock repairman or watch repairman I would want to have a very steady, settled hand.
Times in my life where settling isn’t so important:
1. Eating Ice Cream. I’m not settled with just one bowl, love the stuff like life itself.
2. Eating a good enchilada, nothing better than an excellent enchilada with hot sauce and a fried egg on top.
3. Changing the baby’s diapers. No settling there, let’s get it done and get out.
4. Looking at the night sky on a beautiful summer night or even spring/fall or winter night. Couldn’t settle for just a moment’s view, seems like I have to have a life time view of the beauty of it all.
5. Seeing a fawn take its first step in life (or any quadraped), how wonderful it is to see that.
6. My living relationship with my creator and master will never be settled. He is day by day transforming me more and more to be like him. Ephesians 5:1 Be Imitators of God… I will never be settled until I can be an Imitator of God. A mature and a knowledgable and a wise and a loving and a WILLING imitator of God.
I am like Andrea when she talks about getting frustrated at friends for when she thinks that they are settling. I agree, it seems so clear in my head when I think other people are settling whether it is for a job or getting married to a person because they have hit their mid twenties. I am getting ready to turn 25 and I am extremely afraid of settling. I am afraid of always staying in the my same Kentucky town and the same church and just settling for an engineering job that is I would think of at the moment as mediocre. I have dreams of moving out of Kentucky and having a great job when I finish grad school work soon. It seems like to me everyone tends to stay here there entire life and marry young and I view that right now as settling. However, how do we know that is settling? Maybe that is the dream and path that God wants them to take? Maybe our dream and path is just different? I just know I have to trust in God like it says in Psalms 37:3-4. If we trust in God, do good, and take delight in God, than God will give us the desires of our heart. It is scary though because I always want to do what is best and make sure I am not settling for something that is not God’s best.
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[…] a specific list of things I do know for sure. For example, as sobering as this is, I am certain most people settle in some way or another in their lives and I am certain this is OK and even a necessity. (As a […]
I found this part very interesting: “…Pursuing big dreams and waiting for them to materialize can take years. But that’s always the argument for not settling…”, I´m in my early 30´s and I´m one of the few of my friends who´s not married, who has not kids and who has done much of what all of them wanted to do (travel, study, and have time for myself, etc.), of course many of them did not do it because they settle early.
To do that I still live with my parents (yes I still live with them!!! hahaha, it is a refuge every time I came back from living in other cities or countries). But in the last couple of years I decided to settle, It´s a sacrifice (no more travel, get used to save some money, etc.) and lately I found very encouraging achieve goals for myself in the process of settle.
From my experience I would say that settling is a good process and doing it make you proud of yourself and give you another perspective of life. Just be careful not to leave circumstances and others to make that decision for you about when is the right time, there is not rush to do it and do not wait too long either.