Yesterday, I noticed a few grey hairs that weren’t there last year. My beard has been strewn with grey hairs for a while but my head was spared. That’s no longer the case. It reminded me that I’m turning 45 years old this week. In ancient Rome at 45, I would be near the end of my existence, that is if I made it past 10 years old.
That’s an eerie thought. But it does make a point. Things have changed quite a bit in a few thousand years. One being how many people are staying single longer, or not getting married at all. I happen to be one who is still on the fence. Unfortunately, my fence is starting to look more like a Great Wall, with me on the ‘single’ side of this wall. With every passing year, I’m reminded that (although I’d like to believe I’m quite healthy) my soldiers might be a little too weary to have kids in another decade or so.
If you know me, you know that the prospect of not having kids is a stress for me. It has really hit me in the past 5 years since my favourite little humans were born… Rori and Lincoln. I have fallen in love with my niece and nephew beyond that typical to an uncle (I think). I can only imagine how much I would love kids of my own.
This only makes the prospect of ageing that much more intimidating. So is it time for me to settle?
What Does Settling Even Mean?
The urban dictionary gives us a definition of settling that we’re more or less familiar with:
The act of giving up someone you love or something of value for less than desired, the act of not being able to satisfy your need or want and choosing someone or something of lower standard or value.
One aspect of this definition jumped out at me: giving up something of value for less than desired.
‘Giving up something of value for less than desired’
I’m trying to think of why I would give up something of value for something less than desired. I guess there are a few reasons I would do this:
- I don’t think I am able to achieve what I want… lack of confidence
- I don’t think I’ll have the time to get what I truly want… lack of time
- I’m not compelled either way… lack of conviction
Regardless of the reason, the decision tree seems to be pretty universal. We (at the time) feel that the benefits of settling outweigh the benefits of not settling. In most cases, this delicate balance is grossly influenced with the passing of time. While the scales are typically tipped to the side of not settling when we are young, when we start reaching middle age an exponential shift occurs, at times leading people to settle.
What Is Tipping The Scales For You?
Each one of us is a function of our past. Our experiences, genetics, major events. This creates our consciousness. Over time this consciousness shapes our entrenched set of values. These values help sway every decision we make, including our decision to settle. What do you value? Have you thought about ranking your values?
Writing down our values is beneficial for a few reasons. Most importantly, it will potentially identify (upon reflection) that our behaviour and decisions are not aligned with our perceived values.
I think there’s often a misalignment of what we want our values to be and what we end up valuing in life. This misalignment can be due to:
- pressure from parents or friends
- societal pressure to be a certain way, based on propagandised conventions
- the intoxicating nature of greed
- the perception that we only need to look-out for ourselves and aren’t connected to the rest of our family on this earth
So Back To Settling
I believe that arguing why people settle isn’t the discourse we should be having. I believe the greater conversation involves the disconnect between our values and our behaviours, and how this disconnect drastically changes as we age. I’ll offer to be the example. I would say that I value: respect, integrity, caring, family, my health, authenticity, and service to others (to name a few). Any decisions I make that are in opposition to any of these values should create mental, emotional, and potentially physical tension.
If I choose a career that sacrifices my health, family, and service to others, due to long hours, then I will be creating tension. I wouldn’t be at peace. This tension may not have as loud a voice in my decisions until this tension becomes unbearable (typically when we get older and ‘wiser’). The material benefits of a lucrative career may distract me or a while, but this dis-ease will never go away.
That is one example. Another could be settling down with someone that I feel is less than what I want. For whatever reason, the uncertainty we feel after this decision (i.e. choosing a life partner) is a symptom of a misalignment of our values and desires.
Priorities Change Over Time
Earlier I mentioned listing and ranking what we value. This is important because not only may our values change over time, but their relative importance may change as well. So I suggest revisiting this on a semi-annual basis.
Once we’re clear about who we are, then the decision becomes more of a binary decision than an emotional one. This may not seem sexy but it’s (in my opinion) reality. Dismissing this exercise as being too methodical devalues the practice of understanding what we value. There is no downside to this level of self-awareness. It simply helps us better understand who we are. It will help us make decisions that will allow us to approach our authentic self and live our purpose.
So Now What?
The ranking of my values have changed over time. Since my niece and nephew were born I have bumped up the desire to have my own family a little higher in the list. This change will undoubtedly tip the scales of my decision to create a family going forward.
I will never settle because that would imply that I’ll be making a decision against what I value. My aim is to be as aligned with who I am as much as I possibly can. So no, I won’t settle. I do however dream of a life with a couple of little humans running around and a partner that I respect and love. Maybe after a couple more recalibrations, I’ll get there. Maybe it won’t be as mechanical as that but I hope you get the picture.
Cover Image Courtesy.