Almost a decade later, two words uttered by a dear friend would continue to resonate and shape the way I view opportunities and relationships. He was 100 percent right -- why do we settle? For stability? Out of fear? Past disappointments? Whatever the reason, by not settling you honor yourself by staying true to your dreams and preserving the integrity of your purpose. Doing so may cause anxiety or worry, but in the long term will bring you closer to living the life you've imagined. Being practical and risk averse may postpone these decisions, but you owe it to yourself to try, in both relationships and career endeavors.
Let's start with your career. Remembering that life is short, a topic that has been famously discussed by both Jobs and Bezos, puts into perspective what's important and redefines what you can do now to prioritize that. By looking at your future self at the end of your life you can reframe your goals and begin to disregard the worries and fears that limit the passions of your soul. The reality of death and the weight of regret can help clarify the decision(s) you must make.
From an interview with Forbes, Bezos explains it like so when he decided to pursue Amazon:
The framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was what I called - which only a nerd would call -- a 'regret minimization framework.' So I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, 'OK, now I'm looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.' (If I did not start Amazon) I knew that that would haunt me every day."
And Jobs explained it this way in his commencement address to Stanford University:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
And a female perspective from Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In: "Fortune does favor the bold and you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try."
The purpose of not settling is to allow yourself to flourish in ways you know you're capable of and to take risks that, while potentially uncomfortable at first, will uplift your spirits and fuel your passions. Be authentic and honest with yourself about the life you want to live.
Let's discuss the more complicated topic of not settling in relationships, both platonic and romantic. When a friend or significant other does not reciprocate in effort, commitment or thoughtfulness, it is likely time to reassess and perhaps move on or re-prioritize. When you settle for a friend who is not a good one or a significant other who can't offer what you need and/or deserve, you will feel that something is missing -- that something is what you've chosen to overlook for the sake of maintaining the relationship. If it doesn't feel right, then it probably isn't, and that's OK. Perhaps it's timing or simply compatibility -- not everyone will be on the same wavelength as you.
Fortunately, you can make the choice to not settle for a mediocre relationship. Don't get me wrong, it's not about selecting self-serving relationships but rather it's about choosing honest, genuine ones with people who value you as much as you do him/her. We should celebrate each other and not tolerate negativity. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be happy and free than frustrated in an empty, unfulfilling relationship. Ladies, let's make choices to respect ourselves and our dreams by not settling.
To borrow the words of Sheryl:
I hope you find true meaning, contentment, and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you -- yes, you -- have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it.