There are two types of situations where I see people most likely to put their life on hold and wait for “the right thing” to come along and make them happy. One is in their job, and the other is in their relationships, most often romantic relationships. These are two of the most important parts of our lives, and two where we can find the most fulfillment.
Maybe it’s because there is so much to be gained by satisfying work and deep, close relationships that people will stake so much for the sake of an ideal, but they set themselves up for two pitfalls. The first is that they live a less fulfilling life in the short term, and the second is that their choices are then skewed by a sense of something lacking, a need to fill a nagging, painful gap. Then they settle for less, and rationalize questionable and unproductive choices.
I’ll focus on relationships here, and illustrate these points with a story.
Natalie is single and in her thirties. She wants to marry and have children, but her relationships have not been lasting. When she meets Fred, she recognizes that they have some things in common. She pushes aside her doubts and the feeling that she is demeaned by some of his remarks. She wants a relationship so bad that she stays in one that clearly isn’t right, until she finally gets tired of Fred’s attitude and can’t tolerate it any longer.
When she breaks up with him, she has mixed feelings because she is, once again, alone when she wants a partner. Also, she is more skeptical than before that she will ever find a good man. My fear for Natalie at this point would be that she is even more likely to rush forward with a man when warning signs start popping up.
There are people like Natalie (or her counterpart, Nathan) that will go from relationship to relationship and end up frustrated. Their problem is made worse by not having a full life. That is, the rest of their personal needs are neglected, and they don’t fill their lives with hobbies, friendships and other pursuits that would, overall, make life good. They start grasping at straws, tolerating bad relationships, for the promise that they will somehow work out.
But what if Natalie or Nathan had a full life? What if they were active in their communities? Building their careers? Pursuing things like personal training, a hobby, or focusing time on nieces and nephews? The satisfaction that these things may give reduces the temptation to rush into a bad relationship, convincing themselves that it is workable when it is not. Feeling fulfilled means that they don’t need just any relationship to have have a good life. They can choose to move into a relationship – or not – from a position of confidence and happiness. That relationship will enhance an already satisfying life.
But the unfulfilled person, focused on “the right thing”, is often blind to what is around them already that can make life good. Their lives are on hold, waiting for that one relationship to come along. This is why I often suggest to such people that they start building a full life now, and move into a relationship only when it shows real promise.
If you are like Natalie and Nathan, stop for awhile and ask yourself what you can do now to make your life full and happy. Look at your options and the neglected areas of your personal development. Think about the dreams that you have put aside for the future, and start working to make them happen now. Remember that often the best way to get yourself ready for a good future is by making the best of your life right now.