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Why Do We Settle for Less?


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by Caroline Myss -


As someone in the healing arts, I am always engaging in conversations with people about the challenges confronting their lives. Difficulties enter our lives through any number of doorways—illness, job loss, accidents. The possibilities are endless, as we all know.

Often, we feel powerless over the dilemmas we find ourselves in, causing us to hit our inner pause buttons and ask, "How did this happen to me?"

Obviously, we don't have control over all the events of our lives, but upon reflection, we discover that we do exert quite a field of influence because we have the power of choice.

There is no such thing as a small choice—not really—not if you truly reflect upon the short- and long-term consequences of even one choice, whether that is what you choose to eat or what you choose to say or not say to someone or whether to follow your intuition and phone an old friend.

Every choice matters, and deep in our intuitive gut, we know it—which explains why we anguish over making choices ranging from what to order on a menu to who we should be with in a relationship.

When it comes to the choices we make in our relationships, however, my experience with so many people is that they admit to "settling" for someone who is not really what they wanted, but at least they are not alone.

I receive at least five calls each week on my weekly radio show from women and sometimes men who are desperate to figure out a way to fix a relationship that is simply not holding together.

You don't have to be a medical intuitive to recognize that these callers are not being driven by love but by the fear of being alone and that they will do anything just to avoid an empty house—or an empty bed.

For these people, their choices can only lead to that inevitable moment of heartbreak when they will find themselves asking,” How did this happen to me?" How? By settling for something other than what you really want.

But here is where this dynamic gets "spiritually sticky": Whether you "settle" for less than you want in a relationship or in any other area of your life, the knowledge that you have compromised your heart and intuitive truth will consciously or unconsciously lead you to sabotage your own choice.

If you hit your inner pause button for just a second right now and reflect on this, you will connect with the truth of this statement.

Why would you sabotage your own choice? 

Your actions may not be conscious, but no one can live with the pain of self-betrayal and not find an outlet for that pain. That pain may get routed into an addiction or into depression or into anger at the other person for becoming a constant source of disappointment, but that pain has to go somewhere.

In a very real sense, this negative behavior is actually a form of survival in that a part of your psyche is deliberately trying to break out of a situation that you cannot survive in, much less thrive in.

Your conscious self may be too frightened to take charge of such bold steps directly. Therefore, you take these steps covertly through anger or food addiction or becoming more withdrawn and depressed.

If you think the resolution to this pattern is easy, think again.

Settling for something less than what you want is something you can't avoid, because always getting what you want is impossible. You would become an uncontrollable narcissist living among a society of narcissists.

So how's that for a dilemma? 

Given that, how can you make choices that are not self-sabotaging or narcissistic but truly reflect your inner guidance?

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The Difference Between Settling and Choosing
1. First, it's important to understand that the subtle difference between "settling" for something and "choosing" something is that settling is a passive choice that lets you off the hook in terms of taking responsibility for the consequences. 
If you feel you settled for something, you could tell yourself you did so because of pressures weighing upon you or fears—in other words, "you had no choice," but your gut will never really let you off the truth-hook. 
Making a choice, though more intimidating, puts you in the driver's seat of your own life and the consequences of each of your decisions. 
We have an inherent understanding of this, which is one reason we so often avoid making choices. We do not fear our choices; we fear managing the consequences of them by ourselves. 
Yet, in spite of the fear of the consequences of a personal choice, you will always find it easier to live with than settling for a situation in which you feel compromised. 
2. Second, as a personal exercise, take note of how often you have "settled" for things in your life as opposed to chosen them, whether that is a relationship or not. Was settling for something driven by the fear of survival or the fear of nothing else (or no one else) coming along? 
Was a decision to settle for something driven by lack of resources? And is your situation different now? More to the point, are you different now and capable of challenging fear-driven choices? 
3. Third, take time to reflect upon what really matters in your life. Though all choices have the power to shift the direction of your life, some choices are far more significant. 
Ending the chaos created by settling for the less authentic choices begins by discerning the difference between what you want and what you need in your life, whether in relationships or other life choices. 
Following what you want is often a path filled with disappointments because it operates on a pain-pleasure scale, easily tipped and easily broken. 
The path of what you need, on the other hand, is a far deeper soul path that often anchors us in challenges that serve as depth charges. 
Through these challenges that seem to eclipse our wants, we so often discover our greatest talents and inner resources precisely because the path of what we need is the one demanding the most of us. 
Ironically, it is the path of what we need that leads us to that place of saying, "I would never have chosen this, but I am so glad I'm here."
Being able to say to yourself, "I may want to do this, but I need to do that," is an indication that you are shifting a value system to one that is far more in harmony with your inner life.

Such an approach to your life may not make your decisions easier, but inner clarity and wisdom most certainly will make navigating your life a much more fulfilling experience.

A wisdom jewel: 

It's better to want what you don't have than to have what you don't want.


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