by Ginny Kravitz, Deputy Editor
Barely Getting By
Remember your first job, first apartment, and living paycheck to paycheck? In the beginning, just being able to make rent and survive in the real world feels like enough — and it is, until you learn that there is something more beyond merely surviving.
Even as a career matures and a certain level of financial success is attained, there are events, crises, and circumstances in life that can put you back in survival mode at any given time. Sometimes it’s necessary to be in that mode temporarily because anything more is just too much to conceive of or work toward until certain things are addressed and stabilized.
The danger over time, however, is to allow getting by to become a way of life.
Years ago, a career counselor had me develop her version of a zero-based budget. The purpose was to identify the amount you need to earn in order to cover expenses and be “at zero” vs. in the red. That’s not the target, though, just your minimal requirement. It’s the place you start from, to have a handle on what’s necessary. Next, you increase that minimum requirement by at least 10% to arrive at your target salary level. A great rule of thumb, but do most people round up or round down when calculating what’s possible?
Perhaps money isn’t your particular challenge. You might be rounding down and settling for just enough by:
- Working at a job that kills your spirit;
- Feeling fatigued too often with low energy as your norm;
- Accepting dullness or decline in your relationships;
- Delaying the pursuit of what you want out of life
Settling Isn’t Gratitude
Why would anyone plan to just get by? A few reasons, yet I can think of a rebuttal for each:
Who am I to want more? There are so many people worse off in the world.
Yes, all the more reason to become all you can and contribute all you can.
Fear of failure, avoiding disappointment.
Risk is scary and failure is humbling. Regret over what might have been is worse.
I should just be grateful for what I have.
Yes, you should be! But raising the bar doesn’t cancel gratitude.
In a culture of excess, it’s good to realize what is enough. The bigger house, the bigger job, and the flashier car aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Making conscious choices and having your priorities straight is a good thing. Settling without even thinking about it is not. Settling by default is a spirit-crushing, self-defeating, potential-robbing bad habit. How’s that for a description?
Plan For More
Get into the habit of aiming for 10% more. You might even find you’re ready to add twenty-five or fifty percent to that minimum requirement. Expect more, ask for more, picture more, and prepare for more. Do more to make it happen. The declaring and the acting go hand in hand.
This Week’s Call To Action: Notice where you’re settling and make the decision to go for more. When you name it for yourself, even before anything changes, it’s a defining moment.
“The biggest human temptation in life is to settle for too little.”