Last night, my husband bundled up our seven-year-old son in running pants, layers of UnderArmour, a hooded sweatshirt, extra thick socks, and even a winter hat for the short drive to a super cold spring track practice. When they returned home later for dinner, Tucker told me that he thought he’d run well……buuuuuuut, there was just this one kid he couldn’t catch.
He was frustrated, because he’d wanted to finish first, and this kid just kept beating him in every heat. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my husband smiling, until he finally interrupted to remind Tucker that this particular child, the only one to beat him, was three years older, and was not actually someone Tucker would be competing against in meets. He tousled our little guy’s hair, happy to take the pressure off, glad to have reassured him that he really had run well and that he certainly had a lot to be proud of.
And the story might end there, except that none of this rationale mattered to Tucker. What mattered to him was that there was someone out there, on HIS track, on HIS playing field, who was beating him. He was determined to catch up… and intently focused on what it would take to take the lead. He wouldn’t settle for reassurance; he wanted a plan.
I’ve got to hand it to him, because I think he’s onto something. How often do we use the same rationale my husband was (lovingly) offering up to let ourselves off the hook? How often do we let that same narrative stop us from pushing ourselves?
Beat that guy? C’mon he has a Harvard MBA and all the connections that come with it!
Outsell that woman? She has 20,000 Facebook followers!
He has more experience.
She lives in the right city.
He doesn’t have a spouse or children to worry about.
For heaven’s sake, she was on Oprah!
We see examples of people who’ve achieved the big goals we long to reach and instead of being inspired by them, instead of using their excellence to set the bar for our own game, we tell ourselves that it will never happen for us. That it would take a miracle. That they have something we don’t. And then we settle. We follow the leader, restlessly content with second place.
But here’s the truth.
Settling takes us out of our ambition, out of our vision, out of our power. Settling makes us feel small, and compromised…but since it usually also makes us feel safe, we do it anyhow. And when we choose safety over possibility, we stop before we even start.
So today, instead of settling for second place, let’s take the advice of one seven-year-old up-and-coming track star.
Questions: Is there a place in your life where you are settling? Why? Is there someone you admire but think you could never do what she has done? Are you subtly letting this belief stop you?