Compromising Is Not The Same As Settling: A Lesson On How To Find Happiness

Image via Unsplash/Chris Liu-Beers

Aim for nothing but the best in life — this is the mantra we all have been told to repeat and live by. As a generation that grew up with almost limitless freedom, resources and windows of opportunity to fulfill our larger-than-life dreams, we’ve never had a reason not to want the best. Hell, we’ve come to believe that it’s practically owed to us — and that’s where we’ve often met our downfall. In love or at the office, our elders and our peers preach one thing: Don’t settle and don’t compromise, because you deserve nothing else but to be happy. But somewhere amidst the way of all those pep talks and self-esteem-boosting conversations, we’ve come to muddle the definitions of “compromising” and “settling” into one, implying that they’re mutually exclusive. At some point, the generation of plenty has come to believe that to compromise for anything than what we believe is “the best” is settling, giving up, saying we’re not “good enough” for the best. But in a time when divorce is the norm and egos are more well-fed than people, why is compromise such a cop-out concept? In the quest for happiness, compromising is definitely not the same as settling — and this is an invaluable lesson everyone needs to learn to actually find what they’re looking for.

It Takes Two To Tango

The most common topic for people to confuse the matters of “compromising” and “settling” is undoubtedly love. On one hand, sure, it makes sense; who wants to be told to compromise their dream of the perfect guy or girl? No, hold out for the one who not only gives you butterflies but also diamonds; wait for the one who’s not only beautiful but also a brainiac. It’s perfectly all right to have a dream and aim high when looking for a partner, but at some point we’ve turned the “Find someone who deserves everything you have to offer” advice into “Don’t settle for anyone who doesn’t meet at least your top 25 requirements.” Now, if those requirements are things like, “Has to have a job” or “Can’t be a closed-minded prick,” then OK — totally understandable. Naturally, though, the most obviously desired traits are a given; our “requirements” have led to the creation of these outrageous embodiments of our own ideas about what constitutes perfection.

For example:
The guy for me is at least 6 feet tall, drives a luxury car, travels the world and has a career which will allow him to retire by 40. He’ll have to accept me for me, because I deserve someone who will put up with my bad moods and occasional shopping splurges. I’ll call the shots, but he has to be a man, too. I want to do what I want, but I also want him to want me to do what I want. Also, he has to love my family and friends and hang out with them all the time. I can’t deal with annoying in-laws though, so don’t even bring that up!

The perfect girl has a bangin’ body — none of that flappity-flap going on. She’s got to be able to give me what I want in the bedroom, and she needs to know how to cook and clean. I need a girl with her own life, but she needs to make time for me when I want to see her. She needs to have a job, but she can’t make more money than I do. She can’t be too close to other guys, and I don’t want to deal with her family drama.

Sound ridiculous? Yes. Sound familiar? Probably also a yes. These are just examples of what constitutes the “perfect,” or in other words, “best,” partner. The truth is that no matter how much we paint a picture of the ideal partner, we’re not at Subway, people. You don’t get to put together the guy or girl of your dreams starting with the bread and ending with the dressing. Life doesn’t work like that, and love certainly does not. It’s OK to compromise a little for love; you should compromise for love because that’s the only way it’ll work once you’re together.

Compromising for a guy who doesn’t make a six-figure salary but has undying ambition and work ethic is hardly settling for less. Compromising for the girl who has a complicated past but a heart of gold is more like bartering for goods and getting the better trade. To find love, compromise is a must not only because you’re never going to find the “perfect” person of your dreams anyway, but because the perfect person will have a combination of qualities you could’ve never imagined in your dreams — and there’s no settling in that.

It’s Not The Job, It’s The Work You Do

We dream so big as children that when we grow up, we often find ourselves during moments of failure looking back with nostalgia to a time when everything seemed possible. Dreaming is great; it’s absolutely the driving force of success and accomplishment. But sometimes our dreams can grow into monsters, reminding us of what could have, would have, should have happened, and there’s nothing healthy in that. Dreams, just as our values, change and evolve over time. At some point, the mansion and expensive car just might not be what’s important to you anymore, and you may realize that your dream of becoming a hotshot executive at a Fortune 500 company was mostly fueled by your dream of attaining wealth. So is compromising that dream for a good job — where you do a good job — settling for less? Absolutely not. Your work should bring you fulfillment, not your job title. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll realize that early in your career and find yourself compromising your more superficial dreams for the ones that will matter to you when you’re 80, when you’ll sit around and wonder if you did good work, not whether you had a good job.

Happiness is not a straight, neatly paved road, so why assume there’s only one way to find it? Happiness, just like love and success, is a forked path, and no matter which way you go, you can always find it. It’s your choice, not your fate. Compromise is a beautiful thing and something that only comes with maturity. It’s not saying that you can’t have the best in life; it’s just realizing that the best might not always look like what you imagined it to be. So it’s about time that we stop feeding this generation with the idea that compromising for happiness is the same thing as settling for it, because it’s the one thing that’s keeping us from finding it.