Stretch, Don't Settle

Whether you're looking for a romantic partner or searching for your next job opportunity, we're essentially talking about supply and demand. Having something to offer (aka being "marketable") is obviously important, but so is what we are thinking about our situation. One of my clients is a 47-year-old man who is changing jobs and my 20-year-old niece is single and looking for her next boyfriend. I'm struck by the similarities in their unconscious beliefs about themselves and the world, even though their age, gender and what they are seeking are different.

In my experience, people don't tend to get what they want. They also don't tend to get what they need. They tend to get what they expect. If they expect to struggle to find a job and once they do, feel overworked, underpaid and resentful, this will most likely happen. If they anticipate finding plenty of dateable partners on Bumble that look attractive and sound interesting, that's what they will probably find. This is not just a matter of optimists vs pessimists, but also how we train our brain to keep looking when we don't immediately find what we are looking for.

There are three ways that we can improve our chances of finding what we really want and not just settling. Personal growth work can take time, but we can begin installing new beliefs and practicing them until they become our new norm whenever we want.

Once we realize that it feels far better to choose than to accept what comes our way, we begin to feel more empowered. Here are the three things that make the biggest difference, in no particular order. Spoiler alert: I'm mostly science, with a side of woo. While the language I use might sound a bit spiritual or woo-woo, I can assure you that these concepts pass the neuroscience test as well. I am a total brain geek, as well as a practitioner of mindfulness and meditation. If I am a fan of something, you'd better believe it is a #winning combo of both.

Growth mindset vs fixed mindset

In her landmark book, Mindset, Stanford professor Carol Dweck explains in detail the difference between people who strive and those who settle. Those with a growth mindset are continuously looking for ways to learn and improve and are willing to take risks in order to grow as a human being. While some humans are more growth-oriented by nature, all of us can learn to improve in this way.

A fixed mindset resists change and is afraid of the future. Since we can't stop change, we become increasingly fearful. Anything outside our comfort zone becomes a threat and our life grows progressively smaller. One way to start expanding your mindset is to be willing to take more risks and to see failure as a learning experience. Baby steps are ok, and starting small feels safer, so you're more likely to continue. Being willing to take chances and accepting that rejection is part of the process is crucial to getting what you really want. Asking the person in front of you at the bank if you can go ahead of them would be easy for some, but excruciating for others. If it registers at least mild discomfort with you, you could use it as a step toward making friends with risk. As you get more comfortable with small risks, increase the level of discomfort and you will grow, guaranteed.

Abundance vs scarcity and the law of attraction

Do you tend to see your glass as half-empty, believe that there isn't enough for everyone to have their share and see yourself as not enough in a variety of ways? If that's the case, you have a scarcity mindset. Those who have an abundance mindset believe that there is plenty for everybody and that it's our negative self-talk and limiting beliefs about self-worth and prosperity that keep our piece of the pie artificially small.

This concept is related to the Law of Attraction which holds that human beings are composed of energy and that we can magnetize and attract what we need from the universe by focusing on what we want rather than what we lack. A good place to start is to train your brain to look for evidence of abundance all around you. Finding a penny on the ground counts and so does scoring a parking space close to the store during rush hour. Keep your eyes open and be grateful for the small experiences of abundance and you will attract more. Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that all you have to do is notice abundance and the universe will automagically deliver a fabulous job or partner to you. What I am saying is that you will raise your vibration so that better things can come your way instead of blocking them with pessimism and negativity.

Active vs passive

Some people are so anxious about wanting something they don't have that they'll leap at the first thing that comes their way, whether it's a good fit or not. Others will talk themselves into something they know it's right for them, rationalizing the decision once they've made it, to save face and avoid searching all over again. Part of the problem is that many of us are just too passive. It's not exactly laziness, it that we don't understand the actual amount of effort necessary to get what we're looking for.

When it comes to job searching, if you limit yourself to applying online only to companies with a posted opening on a job site, you will be waiting a long time for a mediocre opportunity. Not following up, not writing a cover letter, not understanding the importance of being eager and enthusiastic during an interview has killed many otherwise decent prospects. Always have questions for the other person, whether they are an HR manager or a first date. Show openness and curiosity if you actually are interested and if you're not, don't even go.

Low hanging fruit might seem enticing because it just drops into your basket, but once you take it home, you realize it's overripe and barely edible. Don't wait for something to come to you. Go after what you want. Sure, you might be rejected. It's not personal. It's just life. In fact, the more you can think of the whole thing as a game, the more fun and excitement you'll have. Thinking of your job or partner search as a game will help you understand the benefits of making the first move. If the other person makes the first move, you are reacting, not acting. This limits your choices and can put you on the defensive.

Act first, be willing to fail and expect to win in the end. Believe there's plenty for everybody and that you are drawing exactly what you need to you energetically. Reach for what you want, don't settle for what you think you can get. Stay in the game until you win. If you haven't been satisfied up to now, you haven't expected enough. You know what to do, now do it.


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