All of us want more in life. We may want more employment or academic opportunities. We may want more friends. We may want more out of our romantic aspects of life. We may want more opportunities to travel. We may want a new house, a new car. We may even want a new life period. Yet, we sometimes get stuck in life’s monotonous moments. The question I want to pose is: Why do we settle for less?
Something I’ve come to see in my field of psychology-as well as reading studies from psychologists-is that self-fulfilling prophecies are able to influence where we are in life. According to Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc, from Positive Psychology, a self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as: “a belief or expectation that an individual holds about a future event that manifests because the individual holds it.” For example, if someone begins their morning being stuck in traffic, they could then make their prediction come true based on their attitude.
Self-fulfilling prophecies prevent us from seeing the positive, and keep us stuck in a negative mindset; we then dive into a cycle of monotony and unfulfillment and grow to believe that nothing in our lives could change for the better, even if we try. We may also begin to believe that we don’t deserve better for our lives, settling on mediocre things, opportunities, and people to surround us.
When we settle for less, we become negatively affected emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jeff Steinmann from Life Hack discusses that when we plant ourselves in mediocrity, we become more tired due to boredom and unfulfillment; we constantly say we’ll do the next big thing “someday” or “after” something else; we blame other people for our lack of success, and rag on those who are successful and joyful in their lives because we’re jealous of them; and we become numb to our own feelings and desires because we become secure in the mundane-when in reality, we should want something more for ourselves.
Ackerman goes on to note that those who have a negative sense of self will also find their careers or relationships to be failing, non-existent, or mundane. For example, a man may not put in the effort for a job he doesn’t see himself being promoted or succeeding in. Therefore, when he messes up on a project, he’ll believe himself to be correct: that he wasn’t worth promoting. Or, a woman could be stuck in a relationship that hit a bumpy road, and she’ll see it as failing. She’ll want to leave it because her mindset is the relationship is going to continue to get worse, and nothing she’ll do will fix it. These self-fulfilling prophecies forbid us from having the most abundant careers and relationships-and we allow ourselves to ruin our chances of success and joy.
We are sometimes so frightened of taking chances that we prevent ourselves from living the thriving, successful, and joyful lives we are meant to live. Adi Jaffe, Ph.D, from Psychology Today states that when we start to accept the “okay’s” in our lives, we lose the motivation to make those okay’s into something great. When we believe nothing in our lives will grow, we hinder ourselves from blossoming into the people we were meant to become. We hinder ourselves from entering the most productive career opportunities. We hinder ourselves from entering the most loving relationships we could ever have.
Fortunately, we are able to step out of mediocrity. We’re able to leave the mindset of deserving less than what we truly deserve. Jill P. Weber, Ph.D, from Psychology Today gives some advice on how we are able to stop settling for less:
- Stop rationalizing the poor behavior of others.
One of our biggest problems in settling for less is thinking we deserve toxic people. When we surround ourselves with negative, abusive people, we prevent growth in relationships that are able to be healthy for us; we even prevent growth for ourselves because we are so bogged down by their cruelty. Weber writes that when we accept others’ poor behavior, and walk away from them, we are able to have a healthier self-esteem and more energy to create or preserve healthier relationships in our lives.
2. Recognize that not getting what you want isn’t a personal curse.
In regards to the example I shared about the man and his career prospects, we need to remember that we will experience some failures in our career. However, not all of those failures are personal; they don’t indicate that we are unable to measure up. Rather, failures are lessons that are able to teach us where we need to be corrected, and where we are able to execute our strengths.
3. Don’t agree with what you don’t want.
Oftentimes, when we settle for less, we often say yes to things we don’t necessarily want or desire for ourselves because we fear we may not get other opportunities to be a little happy or lucky. Yet, when we always say yes, we don’t allow our needs to be met. We also don’t allow our identities to be reflected in what we say and do. We’re allowed to say no to certain things, and to say yes to other things. Weber encourages self-reflection: to look inward and to learn more about ourselves, as well as what we need and want from our lives.
Self-fulfilling prophecies are able to hinder us from the lives we truly deserve and make us settle for less. Yet, when we surround ourselves with positive people and learn more about ourselves, we will realize that we have the potential to do anything we set our minds to do; we will realize that we’re meant for more than mediocrity.