As an executive coach, I see more than my fair share of people settling for less than they deserve. Not that you can control everything that happens in your personal or professional life. But if you suspect there’s more you can do, have, or become, ask yourself if you’ve experienced any of these signals that you might be settling.
1. You have a dream spinning around in your head, but you never seem to take any action toward it. 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 head long after the music stops playing. You try to ignore it, but it’s always there, drumming that beat in your head and heart.
2. You’ve got a shrink-to-fit personality. You have big goals, but you tell yourself they’re just not realistic. Instead, you just keep plugging away at this safe, boring, little job. Or playing small rather than risk ruffling anyone else’s feathers. Or worse, failing at something. It’s like those amusement park Whack-a-Moles, if you just stay safely underground, no one can ever smack you.
3. 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 love my creature comforts as much as the next gal, but they’re no substitute for purposeful work or meaningful relationships.
4. 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 dumb luck. You tell yourself that they have all the advantages that you don’t. Even if some or all of those are true, so what? By convincing yourself that if only you had all the great stuff those successful people do, you’re letting yourself off the hook from facing the reality of your situation, whatever it is, and doing the work.
5. You’re a perpetual blamer. 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. You can find a million excuses for not getting what you want, but you know that the only one to blame is you.
Take heart. Awareness that you’re settling for less could be the start of something more!