When did you get used to settling?

Ramit Sethi

Who here has settled for something? Your job? Been taken advantage of when you bought a car?

Your husband or wife?

The word “settle” is a totally loaded term in our culture.

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For example, how many women have friends who say, “Don’t settle! It’s better to be alone than to be unhappy with someone.” We accept that as true…but can anyone identify the invisible scripts in that advice?

We settle for a job. When you were 22, just out of school, would you have imagined you’d be working where you are today? What did you dream your job would be 10, 15, 20 years later? Did you settle? Why?

We settle on our health. (“I could never look like that…plus I really love pasta, ugh.”)

Don’t BS me. We’ve ALL settled.

It’s natural to settle for certain things. Guess what? I don’t care about finding the world’s best soap, so I’ll settle for the one on sale at the store.

But I HATE settling for the important things in life.

I HATE the idea of looking back and realizing — “Ugh, why did I stay in that relationship for so long?” Or, “If I had just quit that job 2 years ago, I would have been in a WAY better place.” You ever talk to someone who’s in their 50s or 60s? By that time, the thing they “settled” for has petrified into regret.

I won’t allow that to happen to you.

So today, we’re talking about settling. And later this week, I’m going to show you how to tackle one of those Big Win areas of life so you AREN’T settling any more.

TODAY: Tell me one area of your life where you’ve settled. It could be as minor as that so-so restaurant (“The line was too long at the place I really wanted to go to”) or as huge as the person you married.

I want to hear your story. Tell me about:

  • Something in your life that you’ve settled with.
  • Why do you think you’ve settled?

Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Frank Q. Rious

    I’ve partly made peace with procrastination.

    It’s so hard to be something I’m not. But at the same time it hurts to admit I can overcome procrastination only partly and only in the most important areas of life.

  2. Nik @ Midlife Finance

    I’ve settled in saving a large portion of my income for the year 2014. I do save a portion of my earnings the past few years, but I think it’s not enough, that’s why I decided to save a larger portion of my income.

    Another reason, I’m planning to get married next year. I think it’s a great decision for me and it will be of great help supporting the expenses for that wonderful day.

  3. AJ

    I have settled with the fact that there’s no significant other in my life for the last five or so years (and I’m still in my mid-20s, lol).

    The problem is that after settling, it’s even waaay harder to step out of the comfort zone and start doing the necessary things that seem unnatural/weird and completely overwhelming at first.

  4. Olga

    Very important topic you’ve raised today about settling. And I’d like to take it a bit further, if I may…

    Where is the thin line between not settling and not being grateful for what we have? Yes, it’s true that we very often settle out of fear, but many of us simply don’t appreciate things, take them for granted, and all the time want more and more. So how to recognize that we’ve settled and we really can do more, and that it’s not yet another aspect of our lives where we chase up illusions or ideas that are simply too perfect to be real?

    We, people, have that drive that makes us want more, do things faster and better all the time. And overall it’s great as we wouldn’t be where we are without it. But taken to the extreme, it can make us really unhappy. On the other hand, settling doesn’t make us happy either so how to find the right balance between the two ends of unhappiness?

    • JR

      Damn, I just have to say this is a great comment. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ideal and not be grateful for the things we’ve accomplished or the people that we’ve met.

  5. Ashley

    I had kids young, so I settled with going to school for something I didn’t really want to because it was easier and time-wise worked better for my family. I worry about regretting it in the future.

  6. Jon

    I’ve settled with my business income. I make a lot and instead of trying to figure out how to become a million dollar business am happy with where I’m at. Also I seem to have settled being a size 36 instead of 32 which is about 15 pounds difference.

  7. Kuldeep Singh

    I’ve settled on my laziness. I keep finding excuses for my laziness. All I want is to learn programming and I dream of a job in the greatest tech company in the world, and yet I don’t learn to program. I just got a job as a trainee in a company without pay for three months.
    Or, maybe I fear too much to take a step. I want to combine my talents to achieve my dream job.

  8. Carl

    Personally, I have been fortunate in that I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of situations in which I’ve settled (outside of trivial things like what kind of soap to buy or what movie to get from Redbox). I’ve certainly had days where I FELT like I settled in my relationship or in my career, but then a week later I get reminded that I’m actually the lucky one. Jobs and relationships have a lot of ebb and flow in them.

    When we first started dating, my wife was WAY out of my league (I was the reacher, she was the settler). Life happened and some days it feels like the tables have turned (roles reversed), however I’m sure in another few years it’s going to feel like the opposite again. Job can be the same way. I switched paths a few years ago and took a 25% pay cut. Some days that sucks, but then I remember the flexibility and freedom I have now, and I remember how lucky I am.

    All you can do is spend each day working hard to make other people feel like they’re lucky to have you around. Make them absolutely sure that they aren’t settling for you.

  9. Brian

    I’ve settled for not making enough money…hardly any by my area’s standards. I fixated on jobs that would let me work from anywhere because I wanted to travel and later got a girlfriend that I lived with in London and Sydney. But I ended up making next to nothing because deep down I didn’t think I could or that I deserved it. Now she’s gone, I’m back in the US, and I think I’m ready to stop running from my need to make more. I’ve made progress but I’m not where I want to be yet.

  10. Dave Lalonde

    If I could recall the most recent time I have settled for anything would be at a local coffee shop. My barista made me one of her special inventions that she was really proud of, but man! It tasted so horrible. I didn’t bother to ask for a remake because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She did ask me if I liked it, and I didn’t want to be mean so I just downed the coffee like a King.

  11. Richard

    I settled for my wife. At the time I didn’t have enough experience and didn’t really understand the long-term costs of some things. As I continued to grow the limitations became clear and I’m free now. Recently I came across a few stories from people in their 40s and 50s who just stuck with it in a similar situation and I’m really thankful that I avoided that. It’s been a challenge but that just pushes me to perform better and find a way to do it.

  12. Travis

    I can think of a few area’s that I feel like I have settled.

    1) My house: I moved from Michigan to Oregon last fall to be near family. After a couple months of looking for a place to rent/buy in Portland area we settled into buying a home an hr south in a town that we we’re unsure of . We have a great house in a nice neighborhood but don’t care for the city. I think we settled because we were frustrated in the search process to buy/rent in our price range and because we were going crazy living with my in-laws since they are accustomed to no kids/no real schedules (FYI we have three kids 5 and under and an old dog)

    2) I’ve resigned that I will not learn to program anytime soon because I don’t have the time or energy to devote to learning it. I’ve been “wanting to learn” for several years but found after my first sone was born that I just can’t seem to find the time (e.g. make it a priority) to do so. I’ve even attempted larning via Codecademy, Udacity, Coursear, etc but never really finish.

    3) My job. I work from home as a business analyst for a company in MI. Salary was just below average for Michgain and way below compared to Oregon yet feel stuck since due to decisions in #1 above the job prospects seem to be slim here which we knew when we settled for the house

    • Tim Barber

      Regarding number 2 – I hear you loud and clear there.
      I’m a game designer who hates programming. How does that even happen?

      But I will say – having tried Codecademy and Udacity as well, they are good but not great ways to learn how to code – and more often than not, the whole community aspect of both of those avenues just made me more self conscious rather than more eager.

      What worked for me – and I will not say that this is what everyone should do, just what I did – was go through the Head First Programming book. Head First series is great, really. It’s meant to be fun, light, and easy to remember, and I can vouch for that,

      If I can drag my right-brained, design-oriented, literary self through a programming book, then I think someone as insightful as yourself can make it happen. Heck, it might even help you with numbers 1 and 3 as well!

      If you would like help with it at any point, my email is listed.

      Take care,


    • Jade D

      On point number 2 – Tim’s given a great recommendation on the Head First books.

      And to draw from a different field, learning a foreign language, i’ve found it really helps to learn by doing, with instruction early on. As coding’s also both a practical and an intellectual skill, perhaps the same applies?

      Late last year the IEEE published a report on exemplary computer science college-level curricula; I’m replying to your comment because one of the exemplars for Java instruction is Portland Community College. Tuition’s not high, so that’s an option, if you have time for it?

      Also, in July there is a Open Source conference being held in PDX – if you’re able to go to any of that you should!

  13. Sam

    I’ve pretty much settled on the fact that love will come to me. I’m tired of pursuing it. I gave up on years ago. I’m attractive, and I make good money but I always find excuses on why I can’t approach someone. It has probably cost me in the long run, but I’m still happy with my current life.

  14. When did you get used to settling? – I Will Teach You To Be Rich | Bridges I Burn Light the Path

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  15. Robert

    I’m guilty of settling for girls that can’t aren’t right for me. I’m not for the easily offended, the cripplingly insecure. I make jumps in my mind that people can’t seem to keep up with, so jokes I think are brilliant can fall flat.
    I think I’ve settled because I’m not yet the man I’m capable of being. Thanks to your blog, I’m self-assessing and improving like a madman, but there is so much I know I can improve upon. I haven’t identified the Big Wins as far as personality goes. I guess I settle because I’m in the process of getting my shit together.

  16. Tim Barber

    This is apropos – I’ve been thinking about this for months, and since this is the year of Unapologetic Mastery, I kicked off my January with a “inner culture of achievement” strategy.
    You have some kind of crazy knack for getting in my head at the exact right times – back in January, your post about overcoming negative self-talk coincided perfectly with my own little mini-movement.
    And now this gives me a chance to look back and see how I’ve done and where I’ve fallen short, exactly when I need to.
    At least stay out of my head between 7PM and 9AM – that’s me time.

    I have DEFINITELY been settling on my health. I’m incrementally phasing out my sweet tooth, but I’ve rationalized away far too many days at the gym.
    I’ve also settled in my guest posting efforts for my blog. I am confident in my expertise, but reaching out to people whose work I’ve been admiring and reading for 3 or 4 years to ask if I can cut in and talk to their fan base has a tendency to make me feel like my work is covered in warts.

    Thanks for your efforts to help us fix our inner game, Ramit (and IWT team!)

    – Tim

  17. Chas

    I settled for being part of the general labor force in order to pay the rent and utilities and service my College loans. Higher Education wasn’t the Golden Key I thought it would be to free me from the Rat Race.

  18. Emily

    I am settled with my partner, my house, and my job. Conventionally, I would be striving for a partner who earns the same as me, a much bigger house, furniture that did not come from Freecycle, a flashy car and a “career”. But in fact I already spent my twenties striving for my personal ideal partner, house, and job, and now I have them I am damn well going to settle down and enjoy them.

  19. InvestAsian

    I’ve settled with being easily bored. See, I’m the type who gets bored easily. I can’t live in one place, or even one country, for more than five years or so. In order to make it work, you need money.. and the only way to get money to support this lifestyle is through online entrepreneurship, since getting work permits and residency for a new country every five years is unrealistic.

    So far, it’s working well. Although I’m still looking for it to work even better.

  20. wt

    I became a Dream Job student after failing to make full-time at an engineering startup company. Spent 6 months talking to several tens of people before I found a promising job opening at an investment firm that was a good fit for my engineering and quantitative skills. The networking I did as part of Dream Job got me as far as the interview… then I blew it because I wanted the job so much and got so uptight.

    I was devastated. To make things worse, I had to go back and apply to all the engineering companies that my Dream Job research told me was *not* a good fit for me. None of them wanted me, so the jobs that I thought I could return to in case Dream Job didn’t work out weren’t there anymore.

    14 months of unemployment later, I settled for a mediocre engineering job that was close to home and had decent pay. I was tired, disappointed, out of money, and didn’t want to spend another 6 months talking to another group of people to chase another “dream job”.

    1.5 years later, my mediocre engineering job is a dead end. All my contacts at the investment firm have been promoted, one of my cousins got into med school, and I am stuck rotting my brains out.

    This dream job business feels like BS.

    • Ramit Sethi

      WT: Did you ever write into my support team or the Dream Job LinkedIn group for help? I want to help, but I need to know if you’re having trouble. Check your inbox.

  21. John

    I settled on a job. I took a position when my son was born with a retail company i would not go shop at. It was supposed to be a seasonal position through the holiday time until the start of the year when most IT positions in this area are filled (very government heavy area with job posting cycles tied to annual budgets). Almost 5 years later i am still there. I have a job offer just waiting on finalizing a start date to get out of that place. Once i do i will never go in there again.

  22. Lilly

    Hey, great post. Well right now I have settled for living in my parents basement and I am 35!! I had a few adventures that didn’t work out as soon as I’d hoped so I just put my tail between my legs, sucked it up, paid the debt and now have saved a deposit for a property. It is temporary – yes a temporary humiliation. I am nearly at my goal.

    I had a job with obnoxious people, low-average pay but great conditions and experience. I was made redundant recently and am temping doing data entry – but, don’t write me off, I’ve accepted career will zig and zag through life and when it is going high, ride it, and just suck it up and ride it out when it is down. I have a phone interview for my dream job on Thursday!! Whoo hooo.

    I have settled on my figure as my mum cooks for me a lot and is a good cook – ahhh, I cut down all day but am a few kgs above optimum.

    I have also settled with love – he has gone for work in another country and I am alone. The people I know at the moment are NERDS _ I can no longer settle for them, game of thrones NERDS, 40 year old virgins etc, so I just spend time alone studying.

  23. karen

    I’ve settled for just about everything in life, choice of college, major, job, living at home maybe because it was the default, easier, more practical, less expensive, needed the money/job. or don’t want the confrontation of haggling. I have a lot of regrets because I think I could have had a more adventurous life and i see other people that are so happy with their lives and i just simply am not. I feel like I just choose everything by default or all my choices just aren’t 100% mine. Not helping is that I also get guilt tripped sometimes when it comes to the job, i.e. be grateful you have a job. Not that I am not grateful for all that I have but i have found that when you settle for things you did not want one tends to unconsciously sabotage their choices. There is a difference between settling and choosing wisely. We don’t always get what we want (that would be silly) but we often should be making decisions that help us give us what we need.

  24. Settled

    I have to agree that it fels OK to settle for the small things in life (like soap brands) but to settle for the big things is like giving up. You know deep inside that you’re doing it even if you put on a brave face.

    Being unsettled is equally uncomfortable but infinitely more rewarding.

  25. Tim

    I’m in my early 50’s and can empathise with a lot of what is being said here, failed marriage, earnings no greater than they were 20 years ago etc. But my point is that if a person is happy and content with where they are in life, what is wrong with being settled in it?

  26. Ben Austin

    I’ve settled on the fact, that there are no free rides and there is no magic pill.

    For the longest time, I hoped that there was some sort of magical solution that would allow me to achieve greatness…. After I tried everything and it didn’t work, I had to settle on “working my ass off and grinding it out”.

    I settled because I tried everything else and then finally realized that I had the answers to my questions the whole time.


  27. Someone

    I am a subscriber, so will use a rarely used email address. And this is going to be a huge rant.

    I have settled for an average, middle class life outside of India. Not much money, not the best mate to have…

    Sometimes I ask myself, why I could not go back in time, and slap the silly moron who decided to marry. Or the idiot who decided to have a child.

    I wish I could have traveled out of India earlier. I was too coward, lazy or did not want to think about it.

    I wish I could have pushed myself too hard. After 10+ years in IT. I still need to ask some people for help. Why did I not try before trying to fix it myself? Why did I not attempt newer, cooler technologies? Why I have to ask everything from others?

    I really really wish I were the expert. I have stopped giving excuses or have started doing things instead of simply giving up, but still it hurts. Why I did not try earlier? Why did I not push myself too hard before ?

    I hate being the average, middle of the run person. Why am I not the expert I want to be? Even after 10 goddamn freaking years?

    I took a less crowded field, and I had degrees compared to other people in this field; why did not shine than them? Why did I just stuck with people whom are just bothered about themselves? Why did I let the manager bully me?

    People looking down at me, I have no intention to correct them; if they are doing dick wavering and penis measurement, I am not in for that Thank you very much but why am I not better than them? Why am I not ahead of them? I am for a small, tiny group of people an example, but I am just another IT guy. Why I am not the IT guy?

    Why I have given up on the receding hairline?