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Thanks to the recommendation of my bestie, Shadiah, I recently read Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. I had not been as excited and exhilarated by a dating book since I read Why Men Love Bitches for the first time (and anyone who knows me knows that is saying a lot). In short, the author, Lori Gottlieb, makes the argument that women should date with an open mind, realistic expectations, and purpose while they are in their twenties and early thirties rather than arbitrarily eliminating eligible men for reasons that have little to do with whether they will be a great father and husband. Basically, she asserts that women who hold out for the perfect guy end up with no one at all as the dating pool for women drastically dries up once you hit 35–and that it doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a 10 if men your age are not interested in dating and marrying you. In short, you can only be as picky as your options.
I had never taken the time to seriously think about this idea before:
Being too picky and having unrealistically high expectations could mean you end up with nothing at all or with a situation far less desirable and delayed at that.
In western culture, we are taught that “settling” and “good enough” are bad words. You should never settle when you can have the best! You should never accept something that is good enough when there is the potential for excellence and greatness!
This kind of thinking may have worked to help Americans break free of British rule, but how is it helping us today in a world where we not only have enough but way, way too much of most things that we want and need?
After reading The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in the Age of Less, I am beginning to think that we would be better off moving toward a notion of “enough-ness” rather than one based on grandeur, opulence, and excess.
I have always been prone to having lofty goals, audacious dreams, and outrageous beliefs about what I am capable of doing–and that is part of what makes me Kaneisha. However, now that I have been out of graduate school for almost a year and been in a serious relationship purposefully aiming for marriage, I have become very aware of how quickly time can pass and how important it is to pursue your goals with purpose, a healthy dose of realism, a respect for the neverending procession of time, and a willingness to sacrifice something you enjoy in exchange for something greater that you love.
While I still feel young, hopeful, and full of potential, I also know that I need to be clear on what really matters to me so I can focus my energies intelligently. I don’t want to wake up in ten years and wonder where the time went. I want to enjoy my life now, and set myself up to enjoy it in the future. Therefore, I am going to be purposeful about determining what is “enough” for me so I can stop and smell the roses rather than trampling over them in the chase to the next best thing.
- Getting to work for myself as a writer and entrepreneur is enough for me. I know that I haven’t done my best to be the absolute best dating advice writer and businesswoman I could be. I have been undisciplined, inconsistent, and unfocused even if I have been moderately successful thus far in supporting myself. Part of this is sheer laziness, but another part of it is a begrudging part of me that thinks, “But I should be on television having my own talk show! The world should be reading what I have to say!” I know I probably sound like a megalomaniac, but those are the kinds of self-sabotaging thoughts that have kept me from pouring my all into my writing and into my business. However, I then thought about how I would feel in five years if I kept tip-toeing along in my blogging and my coaching without any real progress or growth as a result of my feeling of entitlement that I should be doing something “greater”. I would be extremely disappointed–and likely unable to even continue working for myself if I want to be able to have and help support children. If I don’t do my best at the fortunate career setup I have right now, I may end up with no career at all.
- A modest lifestyle focused on creativity, lifelong learning, and spending time with family and close friends is enough for me. I love bourgie travel, going out to eat at expensive restaurants, and would enjoy taking myself on a $10,000 shopping spree for a new wardrobe. However, I’m not interested in trading in the “life energy” required to pay for those things. I would relish earning millions of dollars from my writing and coaching, but if working crazy hours and being attached to my smartphone comes with that, I’m just not willing to do it. If I keep trying to have my four-hour workweek work style combined with a high-powered corporate salary lifestyle, I’m going to get squeezed to the zero point. My pickiness about what kind of work I will do, about what kind of hotel I will stay in or restaurant I want to go to for dinner, etc. could mean I end up unable to work for myself at all, to travel at all, or to go out to eat at all. I do believe that I can consistently make great money working for myself, but like I said before, that’s going to require that I actually do my very best at what I have been given rather than holding my breath for something better.
Just like the women in Marry Him who stopped looking at their boyfriends through the lens of the many ways they fell short of perfect and started viewing their men through the many ways they were perfect for them, I am starting to have that same appreciation for my work situation and even my precarious financial situation. When I put on the gratefulness goggles, I see everything entirely differently:
My highly cyclical coaching business means that I get to focus and hustle on bringing in business for six months while demand is high, and then relax for a month or two and take a mini-retirement. After that, when things get really quiet in admissions consulting, I can focus on writing my next book. This would likely lead to me making $50,000 a year compared to my classmates who are earning at least three times that much. However, it would mean that I could bang out books and be the prolific writer that I want to be. My writing may not pay the bills in the near future, but my work will be out in the world ready to blow up when someone is looking for what I’m offering.
Having a modest lifestyle means that I won’t get overwhelmed with the cycle of working to pay bills that I wouldn’t have if I weren’t working so much (The New Good Life breaks down just how expensive having a high-powered, highly demanding full-time job can be). It means that I’ll find creative ways to enjoy the small things rather than constantly using money to entertain myself. It means that my friends won’t be deterred from hanging out with me, because I always want to have a $40 dinner.
I’m not saying that I want a small life or that I am deceiving myself into thinking I don’t want to be rich and famous. It’s that I’m seeing how quickly time passes and I want to enjoy the great things I have now rather than lament that they aren’t perfect, keeping my life on hold until some distant someday on the horizon.
As Voltaire says, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Perfect often never comes, but good is usually right in front of you–if only you will see it and appreciate it.
What areas in your life are enough? What good things in your life are right in front of you and possibly slipping through your fingers?