Why You Should Never Settle for Okay

If you expect little more of yourself, you'll achieve little.

Posted Jun 21, 2018

Believe it or not, recovery isn’t just about avoiding the unhealthy “addictive” behaviors. It's about enriching your life, so you no longer want, crave, desire or need that which is bad for you.

You should never settle for "okay." Because if that’s where you settle, that’s where you’ll stay… the motivation to reach higher will wane and it’ll be difficult to get started again. And then, often resentments about “just being okay” will return and you’ll have to find a way to cope. Sound familiar?

Imagine this instead: a place where you are happy with yourself and your life and you’ve surrounded yourself with positive people who support you. If you imagine it and commit to the effort it will take to create this life, you can make it happen.

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For instance, Paula was an incredibly successful executive who came to see me to reduce her drinking. She had no desire to quit because she couldn’t imagine her life without alcohol. She took a short break from alcohol as we started doing the work and noticed an improved relationship with her husband and improved performance and satisfaction with work. During this time she started working out regularly, partially as a way to fill the time previously taken up by drinking and partially to deal with the extra energy she found she had. In the process, she started to trust and respect herself more. She hadn’t felt that way in years (despite her incredible success).

She suddenly realized that aiming for “okay” was setting the bar too low. When she recognized the improvements in her life and how she moved beyond "okay," she chose to stop drinking for good. She's been sober from alcohol for more than two years, and her quality of life has changed drastically. She smokes a little marijuana on the weekends sometimes, but that’s about it. Gone are the nightly blackouts, the embarrassing parties that ended with her passing out. Life is normal. She is finally happy.

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The road to recovery can be hard work. Why bother with all the hard work if you just end up feeling ”okay?” Isn't feeling mediocre or down about yourself the reason why you became addicted in the first place?

What if you were to look to the sky and reach for more?

Look to the sky

When I was released from jail, “okay” would have been a dream. Just being “normal” was going to be a victory for me at that point because of how far down I’d gone. I remember saying to myself, when I finally got out, that I would commit to doing anything that guaranteed me I wouldn’t be back there – clean toilets, stack shirts, mop floors – whatever. Average was fantastic at the time. But had I just stopped once I reached “okay,” I would have never looked up to the sky and done all of the work I did, stayed up late and studied, or filled out all of the applications that eventually allowed me to get to where I am now – a place I could’ve never imagined to be.

When you're struggling with addiction, and you face a setback, it's easy to feel like you'll never amount to anything. I know, I’ve been there. But, if you never set goals any higher than just being “okay” you rob yourself of an excellent quality of life.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Robert Merton coined the phrase ‘the self-fulfilling prophecy’ back in the 1960’s to describe how a belief, statement, or expectation, can alter actions and then come true. Even when there is no reason to worry, on a subconscious level your thoughts create your reality. And there is much research to support this notion.

You see, if you wake up and for no particular reason you feel it’s going to be a bad day, you probably will have a bad day. Unconsciously, you will behave in ways that confirm your belief, and the confirmation bias will make certain that your brain will pay particular attention to proof that you were right!

The placebo effect is one example of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe a treatment will work, then it is likely to have an effect. The Pygmalion effect, a central topic in my TEDx talk, similarly shows us that what we believe about others make their behavior more likely to fit our expectations.

So, your mind is a powerful tool in your life and in your recovery. If you believe you can be more than ordinary, then you will be one step closer to reaching that goal. And you will find opportunities to pursue and goals to achieve that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

From Recovery to Success

What about J.K. Rowling? Before she made it big time with her Harry Potter book series, she was clinically depressed and suicidal, divorced, living in government housing and struggling to pay her bills. Even so, she wrote book after book. She faced many rejections on the path to publication, but she did not give up. Not only that, she believed in herself and her stories, and she knew they (and she) were more than ‘okay.’ She’s now a billionaire.

Before powerhouse Oprah Winfrey made it big on her talk show, she had a drug habit and an awful history of childhood abuse. She didn't settle for an ‘okay' life. She dreamt big, and she made her mark on the world.

Thomas Edison is well known for “failing” at making a working lightbulb over 10,000 times. But he was famous for saying that those 10,000 failures were simply his way of finding “10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

Mind you; I’m not suggesting you aim for TV stardom or become a bestselling author! Just move those goalposts further afield and create your own reality. Imagine how easy it would have been for any one of those individuals to quit. No one would have faulted them with the odds stacked so high against them. But the world would now be a darker, boring and less inspired place without them. What can you create and make happen if you simply aim high enough?

How to reach for greatness

Discover how to reach beyond okay and seize greatness:

Self-examination

We care about how other people see us, especially when we don’t like ourselves. The first step to getting beyond ‘okay’ is to realize the parts of yourself you don’t like. Real examination might include clinical assessments, personality tests and deep digging into your past (we do all of that in each of the IGNTD courses).

Acceptance

Forget loving yourself. First, you need to be okay with who you are – the good and the bad. You can’t change what you’ve done or the road you’ve traveled, but you can come to accept the journey you’re on. Then you can grab the wheel and move life in a new direction. As I always say F*$% Shame – you have a life to live!

Get people ‘in your corner’

Often, the reason you don't like who you are is because of the feedback and energy you get from other people. Okay, you've reinforced some of these views because that's how you see yourself too. It's easy to get caught in this cycle of judgment. 

You need to make sure you have people around you that are on your side. People who are positive and uplift you, rather than put you down. When you have people around you who accept you and aren't trying to change you, it helps your success and your recovery process. Remember, if people around you expect more from you, it will reinforce your sense of belief in yourself! Find your tribe for ultimate success.

Take ownership

Change the way other people see you. This includes being honest with yourself and accepting the parts that you’re willing to change. Not hiding from them and pretending everything is okay. When you’re not honest with yourself or the people around you, it keeps them at a distance. It prevents others from getting too close.

Look beyond ‘okay' and set the goals higher. Begin from your own personal starting point. Simply mark your victory as the best outcome you can imagine at that moment and keep adjusting it as you go.

Final Outlook

In short, never settle for “okay.” Always reach for great, no matter where your “great” currently is. It’ll end up bringing you to the incredible goal you’re supposed to achieve, a place you probably can’t even imagine right now. Don’t worry about others. If you pay attention to your own progress, you’ll amaze yourself. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, in my own life and in the lives of many of my clients. There is nothing that kills hope as much as playing down your own expectations for greatness.

The drive for great is what brought Paula to decide to stop drinking completely. It’s what allowed her to bring her husband in for work, taking their marriage from barely-surviving to absolutely thriving. I challenge you to seek the same for yourself – whether it’s through the IGNTD courses (for relationships or addiction) or through another method, you can experience a life that currently seems unattainable if you just start out by believing it’s there and that you can do the work to achieve it!

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