Unlearning the Habit of Settling
The tale of a conscious choice to never settle
When I was 10, I thought I had it all figured out. My mother had given me a path and I diligently followed it until I was 24.
That path was go to school, get a job and continue to work until I’ve reached the top — all the meanwhile tasked with finding a secretly rich boyfriend who didn’t drink or smoke so that I could get married, have children and live happily ever after.
I think I was too young to recognize or accept that my mother lived in a Crazy Rich Asians kind of dream.
When I was 24, I finally rebelled in the worst imaginable way — I moved out.
Fast forward a few years later and I’m sitting at the dining table with a computer nicked named Potato due to its age and speed, living on my savings whilst trying to achieve my desire for freedom.
Growing up, I fell into a habit of settling for the dreams created by others. There was certainly a split personality thing going on. I would do everything I could to please everyone inside my little world. It was easier to be gently miserable than to play the hard game of life. But the one thing no one told is me that misery compounds over time.
There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. — Nelson Mandela
By complying with what was expected from me, I felt very much like just a shell with no substance. The imposter syndrome eventually grew into a big giant shadow that followed me everywhere. I grew anxious, fearful that someone might see through the thin facades I created to hide the weak person that made me.
Eventually, someone did.
On paper I was impeccable — scholarship student, quad majors (yes, it’s possible) graduate, rising star at work and a bank account that made other 24 year olds jealous.
The thing with the imposter syndrome is that it’s a psychological manifestation that occurs when an individual doubts their achievements. There is an internalized fear of being ‘discovered’ as a fraud.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that the strongest moments of feeling like an imposter was when I was waist deep chasing something that didn’t matter to me.
I felt the dead weight of dragging myself through the water. There were moments where I felt like I could just let myself sink and call it quits with life in general.
I had accepted my existence and hated it. I hated myself. I hated my existence. I hated everything.
Then I stumbled on Harvard Commencement Speech that made me pause.
There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. — J.K. Rowling
I’ve always been a fan of Ted Talks.
I think a part of me yearned so much for a different life that I secretly went in search for another authoritative source to validate my desires. Growing up knowing only how to serve and please the dreams of others, I needed someone to tell me to go chase my dreams. I needed someone to tell me to go and serve myself.
Since no one in my real life would tell me that, I looked to strangers on the Internet. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t the only insane one. I wanted to be sure that it’s possible. I binged vicariously through the motivational words of Ted Talk speakers.
Until I found myself watching a guy named Larry Smith.
No matter how many times people tell you, “If you want a great career, you have to pursue your passion, you have to pursue your dreams, you have to pursue the greatest fascination in your life,” you hear it again and again, and then you decide not to do it. It doesn’t matter how many times you download Steven J.’s Stanford commencement address,you still look at it and decide not to do it.
When I moved out, my entire world changed but not really at the same time.
It was a new environment with a new person to try and please. My habit of making everyone but myself happy was an unconscious and unrecognized act of self sabotage.
Habits exists in our subconscious and are automatic responses that are sequenced together to produce a regular and expected outcome. Habits are also easy and act as the default in our day to day existence.
I remember watching Tony Robbins infomercials when I was a kid and he said something along the lines of *do* *what you always do and you’ll get what you always get.*
I thought that by moving out, I was making change but little did I understand that I just replaced my life for the same. I had a habit of compounding misery rather than compounding happiness. It was the only kind of life I knew how to live.
Growing up, I often wished that there was someone to convince me that I could be anything I wanted.
Growing up, I only had dial up and Google didn’t even existed yet.
During the early 2010s, when motivational quotes were rife on Facebook feeds and every corner of the internet, only one managed to stick and made an impact.
Be the person you needed when you were younger.
I’ve tried and failed multiple times to be that person.
I failed because while I knew who that person is, I simply didn’t know how to be that person.
It wasn’t until I had my baby and lost my job that I truly understood the person that I needed. The planets were aligning and giving me all the opportunities to pursue my dreams and show my child that anything is possible.
It’s not about building a legacy.
It’s not about getting rich.
It’s about finding and doing the things that makes me happy and leading by example.
Habits are easy. Settling is also easy.
The habit of settling for something less than what I know I’m worth and should be doing is also the best path towards misery.
It doesn’t contribute to my existence and only works towards sapping my energy.
The older we get, the more prone we are to settling for things that will inevitably make us miserable. We fall into routines that we grow to hate. We continue to work deadbeat jobs. We make excuses to justify why we do the things we do.
When we settle, we postpone the life we can potentially have to another day. We do it over and over again until there are no more days.
We are the culminations of choices we make. I never want to be that bitter old person who looks back and puts blame on everyone else except myself.
Not settling is about taking ownership. It’s about living the life I want on my terms. It’s about unlearning the habit of settling for less of what I can be.