Why You Should Settle For Second Best

We all have our dreams and goals. Sometimes they are a long way out of sight and we know, deep inside, it’s going to take a long time to get there. So perhaps it’s best to settle for something that’s less than perfect rather than struggling for something that may be unattainable?

The term ‘settling for second best’ has had a bad wrap of late. It implies failure: a weakness on one’s part to achieve some aspiration. To be sure, failure isn’t something anyone wants and having a sense of failure can leave a person feeling very unhappy about his or her life. But perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the term. And whilst we’re at it, take a more realistic approach to achieving our goals.

In order to get anywhere we must proceed on a journey. And before we set off we must plan the route, especially if the journey is a long one. But how do we visualize that route plan? If we think about it, we know that no one sees the plan as a whole, rather we see it as a series of stages: A to B to C etc. Therefore the route to journey’s end is not one single step but a series of smaller steps that will eventually get us to where we want to go. Also, because the journey has been broken into a series of smaller journeys, we can stop at any point along the way and rest. When we get to one of our mini end points we can think about how we got there and think again about the end of the journey. It’s at these mini end points that we have the time to think and, if necessary, to re-plan the route: perhaps the plan we had marked out wasn’t the best way of completing the journey after all, in which case, we can make new plans.

A good analogy is when we plan a long trip by road to somewhere we have never been to before. First, we get out the road map, and then we plan the various roads we’ll take, the stops along the way etc. Then we set off and in our mind we think about completing the first stage, getting to a major road junction perhaps. But how many times have you set out to go to somewhere, only to realise that the route you planned was perhaps not the best one: it looked good on paper but we didn’t realize about the road works! At these times you plan again and choose another step in the route. Also, how many times have you driven somewhere and not gone the intended route? Either because you took a wrong turn or because you made good time and decided to take a more scenic route.

Our journey of self-improvement is a longer and more complex journey than a road trip. The journey usually lasts a lifetime and will have an infinite number of options available to us. Therefore our plans will constantly be re-evaluated There will be many pauses along the way; some short some long. On our journey of self-discovery the stops along the way are just as important as reaching our final goal. These pauses are vital as getting to one, no matter how small a step that was, is a real gain.

But as I stated, we can rest at a pause for a long time: and we rest, re-evaluate and re-focus our dreams. Many a time, when we pause along the route we realise that the end we were aiming for is not the end we want after all. We look around and find a new ending. But wait: is the point along the journey always just an intermediate stop along the way? Sometimes, in fact more than sometimes, the step we have paused at turns out to be the end point in our journey. We hadn’t intended to stop here but somehow we are content to rest for a while and as time passes by, and we feel happy about our circumstances, we begin to accept that we have reached a place, that may not exactly be perfect but is damn near enough to makes us content. So by chance, or good fortune, we settle not for our far-flung dream but for a more realistic and attainable place, one that doesn’t make us deliriously happy but certainly makes us more content. W pause and watch other unhappy travellers rushing along at break-neck speed to a far distant land, whilst we have quite happily settled for second best.