How to Stop Settling and Be Happier in 6 Steps


There’s a plague in our nation. It’s highly contagious. It’s actually presented at birth and spread by society. It’s a condition known as settling. It’s symptoms look like depression, feeling as though you want the day to be over with, wishing for a different life, feeling hopeless, and several more that are slightly less dramatic.

Settling is a remnant of fear. It’s predictable and secure. It stops us from having to discover the unknown. It stops us from having to consider what if. It also stops us from achieving more, doing more, and feeling more. It’s like someone stealing the rope ladder leading up to your tree house. You might need to get real creative about how to get down from there but you certainly don’t have to live up there until you're 42.

I wasn’t someone who was taught to demand more from situations or people. I’m a people pleaser by nature and learned at a young age to take the corner brownie even though I really wanted the center one. I learned to disconnect from my wants because I was told repeatedly that they weren’t important or that they weren’t going to be fulfilled. And after enough disappointments my fight died down and I was able to be grateful for what I had nothing more, nothing less. It started small and eventually grew into my expectations of people, “No, that’s okay that he couldn’t come to my game, again. I understand he is busy”. I became a chronic excuse maker for shitty people. I felt limited and trapped. I felt like this was it and I better suck it up and find a way to be happy with exactly what the world was giving me.

But IS this it? Good news! It’s not! As a society, we are convinced that we are to stay in jobs for 50 years until we either jump off a cliff or retire. We are convinced we need to be in marriages until literally someone dies. And we sit in mediocrity, contemplating why life is so fucking boring. Contemplating why there isn’t more. Well, guess what? There is! There is more. But you have to start changing the way you are doing things or you will never, ever see it. You have to be willing to not settle. You have to be willing to cut ties with those who can’t meet you half way. You have to be willing to take a leap of faith out of a job that’s sucking the life out of your soul. You have to be willing to sucker punch fear in the face and see what’s on the other side.

Not settling and facing fears are always like being accompanied by an old man with a hunch back making inappropriate jokes about your cleavage. It can be wicked uncomfortable. It's not easy or everyone would be doing it. Abandoning your need to settle isn't about easy, it's about saying, “Look Life, I fucking need more, ok? I need people who show up and give to me as much as I give to them. I need a job that makes me excited from the depths of my soul and feels fulfilling more often than not. I need to be living a life that is filled with passion because I know when I’m on fire with passion, I feel better. I am more myself and that’s ultimately who I want to be.”

So you might be saying cool, Nichole. That’s great advice but how do I STOP settling?

  • Take an inventory of your life. What’s working? What’s not working? Where are the areas that bring you joy and excitement? What are areas you dread looking at, thinking about, or talking about?
  • Make a list. What do you actually want? Not, what do you have? I want you to little kid dream about this. I want you to get ultra real with yourself about what your reality is and what you would rather have, even if you aren't sure exactly how you would get it. You don't need to know the how just yet. Sometimes a great way to start this is playing with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be nice…”
  • Check your excuses, then wreck your excuses. We make up some really sound reasons to stay in one place. We make excuses to avoid facing fears. It’s the excuse that keeps us safe and not moving. By checking out your excuses you can begin to challenge their validity. Maybe your excuse looks like, “I can never be as successful as her, I have two kids. I don’t even have time to breathe let alone write an entire book.” The reality is it might look different. It might mean prioritizing your time differently and planning more late nights, but it’s not impossible unless you make it impossible. Simply acknowledging this is an excuse can help you move through to the real fear.
  • Sucker punch your fear right in the face. Underneath the excuse and the ability to settle is a fear. It can look like “I don’t want to be alone”, “I’m afraid to fail”, or “I wont find better”. Play the What If game. “What if I do find better?” “What if I really enjoy alone time?” Begin to imagine the other, and likely more realistic, possibility. “What if being alone allows me to discover new talents and see a bit more of the world?” “What if I find a new job that not only pays better but moves me up the promotional ladder?” Fear is like that bully on the playground who mocks you from the top of the slide to the point you don’t even want to climb up. But if you pull up your sleeves and brave climbing to the top, there is always a chance the bully might push you down the slide, but there’s also a chance that he won’t. Maybe he will be blown back by your fearlessness and let you slip down that slide, hair swooshing in the wind, screaming “wee” the entire way down.
  • Figure out your why. Now that you’ve got a better grasp on what’s really going on you decide WHY it’s not worth it to let this fear stop you. Decide why you want more out of your relationship. Decide exactly what it is about working for yourself that is so badass. Write it down and remember it for the time that fear comes tapping on your window in the middle of watching a scary movie, making you pee your pants a little. Go up to it and remind it that it’s just a freaking overgrown branch and it has no business interrupting your movie.
  • Make some moves. Maybe this starts small like creating a business plan, putting it down on paper. Maybe it looks like seeing clients just a few nights a week or on the weekends. Maybe it looks like asking that person who’s half-assing your relationship to give you a little more and deciding what you’re okay with if they say no. Action is the important part. Action is what separates you from being the pioneer or the people on Oregon Trail who died of dysentery.

Listen to me, and listen real carefully. You deserve more. You deserve more love. You deserve more joy. You deserve to set your standards high. You deserve to expect that people will treat you with love and kindness. You deserve a text back. You deserve to fly high with the wind on your back (I’m not real sure what that means but I think I heard it in a song once and it sounds rather lovely). You can’t waste your life wishing it were more, because it can be. Right in this very moment it can be. So pretend you’re Usher and make some moves. You can have what you want. You really can. You just have to be brave enough to take the center brownie when someone is trying to give you a corner.