Is Accepting Your Lot in Life Considered Settling?

Or is it the first step to true contentment?

“Everyone here seems so unfulfilled,” a coworker confided in me while we were eating lunch outside the office last summer.

She wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t necessarily view it quite so simply. Slightly younger than me and green to the industry, I felt qualified to give her a reality check. Not that I like shattering the dreams of others, she just didn’t seem like the type I needed to bullshit.

“You’ll settle one day,” I retorted, with a confidence I rarely muster. I must have really believed in what I was saying.

“I will never settle. I have too much I want to accomplish.” Subconsciously, her words were an attack on my ego — like I’d given up on a dream. Of course, as mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve never really had a dream for myself, so it was easy to dismiss this.

“No, you’ll settle. Everyone settles,” I repeated, this time being borderline arrogant about it. I didn’t really give it too much thought at the time. It just seemed like a general truth. See, I had just gotten engaged, I was the most senior member of my peers working on the biggest project in the company, and life was stable.

I was also freaking the fuck out inside.

Engaged?! Am I even ready for that commitment?! The senior member on my team?! But there’s no promotion in sight and I’m only the senior because everyone else got better jobs! Working on the biggest project?! Nowhere to go but down now! And stable?! STABLE?! Are you fucking kidding me? 30 years old without a single damn idea of where I wanted to take my career, or if I even really liked my career to begin with, and you call that stable?! Even if I did want to do something drastic like quit my job and soul search for a few years, I can’t, because did I mention, I’M ENGAGED?!

On the outside, however, my life was calm, relatively stress free, and on a track without any real turbulence — a set path with no resistance or friction. Looking ahead, life seemed like nothing but daily doldrums mixed with the minutiae of adult responsibility. No real surprises in my future. I had spent a good portion of the last few years trying to accept that maybe I wasn’t a special little snowflake that would leave a mark on the world. Most likely, I was just an average, unremarkable human hoping to find peace in the mundane. So yea, I was settling, just like everyone else, and to my coworker, that meant acquiescing to a sad existence.

It didn’t take too much self reflection after our little chat for the walls to break down and the self doubt to start creeping in. I was so comfortable in my cushy job for so long, doing the bare minimum and accepting what I had viewed as mediocrity, that I had turned off that part of my brain that was hungry for something more. Yes, I wasn’t fulfilled, just like everyone else in the office, but my work-life balance was fantastic, and my overall stress levels were low. Hell, my assignments were even interesting every once in a while. Shouldn’t that be enough?

I guess not. I am always looking for the next thing, the next goal, the next project to focus on. I let complacency take hold and I had completely lost sight of my drive.

When does someone hit the point in their life where they finally say, “this is who I am, and I’m ok with that?” The teacher with no desire to work their way up to principal. The cop who patrols the same beat for 40 years and then retires. The mechanic that never opens their own garage. Do these people ever feel like they’ve “settled?” Are they regretful and miserable? To be perfectly clear, I am not implying anything negative about those jobs, I am just trying to draw a parallel with my own career, and pose the question “when will I accept my position in life and simply be content with it? More importantly, when will that contentment be enough?”

It would be easier if I had a specific goal or knew what I wanted to do with my life. An endgame. My coworker has a goal for herself, which is something I am incredibly jealous of. But I think that difference between us is what perfectly exemplifies our opposing views on the matter. To her, doing anything that is not in line with your specific goal is a waste of time and potential. It’s basically giving up.

I’ve decided to redefine what “settling” means to me, and it’s simply not taking action when restlessness sets in. That’s it.

The majority of people work jobs outside of their passions or interest, but it’s completely unfair to consider that settling. Settling is not waking up and being grumpy you have to spend your day in an office, that’s just life. So as someone who quickly gets bored with the status quo, any moment of stillness is my version of settling. Which is why the conversation stayed with me for so long. I was still in life and stuck at work. I’m now slowly wiggling myself back into motion.

Part of it is a simple attitude change at the office. I’m trying to appreciate and take advantage of the opportunities offered to me, along with making some of my own. More importantly, while I’m becoming more passionate about different hobbies in my life, I’m also changing my belief about whether or not you have to fulfill your passions within your job. I love music, but that doesn’t mean I was meant to be a musician. Video games are super fun, but I’d rather admire great level design than toil over creating it myself. I’ll run a marathon, but I’m not looking for sponsorship. As long as work isn’t keeping me from enjoying these things in my spare time, then I think I’m doing pretty great. Not to mention the realization that my incredibly supportive fiancé is a partner in my quest for fulfillment, not a responsibility that is limiting me.

So yea, work might not be my dream or my passion, but so what?

I’m not quite at the point of accepting my place in life, and I’m not sure I’m the type of person that ever will, but I’m for damn sure not settling. At least not by my own standards anymore.

Supplemental Reading

Love What You Do, Even If You Don’t ‘Do What You Love’
Do What You Love’ is good advice to help people find what they initially want to do, but not everyone is looking for The Ultimate Fulfillment in a job … we’re not all going to grow up to be pro snowboarders, famous actors, or adventure photographers, or anyone else we think is “living the dream.” Ninety-nine percent of the working population has a “real job,” and no one should feel self-conscious about that.

Supplemental Listening

Radiohead — No Surprises

I’ll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide

No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises, please

“Searching For Something” is one man’s struggle to find purpose and passion in life. It is a self help blog written to guide and advise one person: its author. It is not written from the viewpoint of a professional or expert. The hope is that some readers can relate to the feelings expressed and find peace knowing they are not alone. Discussions welcome.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.