Settling has a bad reputation– it implies you’ve given up, chickened out, coulda shoulda woulda had more but took less.
There’s another way to look at it. For those of us who are not highly motivated by achievement there’s a lovely place called contentment where desires are satisfied and pleasures are many.
If being the best, the most, the number one whatever is deeply important to you and part of what gets you up in the morning this won’t make a lot of sense to you. But maybe it will help you understand a loved one who “isn’t living up to his potential.”
I honestly don’t care about fame. Yes I want to reach as many people as I can who might benefit from my message, but I have no interest in hobnobbing with industry leaders or stars of any sort (possible exception of Paul McCartney).
In my teens I wanted to be a great actress and go to the Royal Academy. I majored in drama and found that I really didn’t like other actors so I quit. I didn’t take it up again until later in life when I found great satisfaction performing with committed amateurs in community theatre.
I have a friend who tried to make it in New York and didn’t succeed. Now she performs regularly in a small city, on stage and in chic (for New Hampshire) jazz clubs. I look at her and see success, but she feels regret and disappointment. What a shame. A slight shift of perspective and she could have fulfillment.
I’m blessed with a partner who writes wonderful songs. I wish his music was more widely appreciated but I have the pleasure of arranging and interpreting them for the first time. We will never fill a stadium but a room full of enthusiastic listeners scratches my itch.
A wise friend once advised me to identify the qualities you’re looking for, not the form. For example I want the fun of collaborative music-making– not thunderous applause or paparazzi. Having a home in Italy may impress someone, but I’m more interested in what comes with it— like dinner with the coro after our concert at the Serata Medievale, or popping down to the bar for a cappuccino on the spur of the moment. It’s the experience not the label.
A couple of cautions about contentment:
- Check often to make sure that fear is not holding you back.
- Don’t get bored. Stretch and do things that scare you a little.
- Be vigilant to identify the cause of any disappointments and do something to turn them around.
- Make sure you are saying, “I’m the most fortunate person in the world” at least three times a week. If not, ask yourself what do you need to feel fulfilled?
For those of you who yearn to strive, to reach higher and achieve greater. I wish you well. But if you’ve been struggling with someone else’s definition of success take another look at what would give you joy.
Small is not necessarily less.