“Maybe it’s time for you to settle down.” Those were my words to a friend who was seeking a bit of help with his unhappy life. It’s not that his life was an out-and-out disaster. He had all the trappings of contentment: A good job, a beautiful wife and family, a comfortable home, and a bright future. Still, he wasn’t happy.
Truth be told, this was no new phenomena. I had never known him to be happy for terribly long. He didn’t suffer from hopelessness, depression, or despair. He simply wanted something better. He was always chasing some utopia created in his mind – the “perfect life” he called it – never recognizing that the life he had was already pretty darn close to perfect.
My friend isn’t alone in his quest for a mythical Shangri-La. With places to go, people to see, kingdoms to conquer, mountains to climb, parties to crash, and horizons to reach, any advice resembling “settle down” is quickly disregarded by the strivers and competitors of the world. But settling might be the very path to the life they are seeking.
See, the person who always wants to be some place better, never lives right where they are. The person who is always looking for Mr. or Ms. Perfect is blind to the remarkable and beautiful persons that surround them. The person who never has enough, never gets around to enjoying what they do have. They never settle in to live, appreciate, or to love the life that they have been richly blessed with.
To this end, there is a familiar but enlightening parable about an American investor who takes a vacation to the Pacific coast of Mexico. One morning the investor meets a local fisherman carrying a string of the most beautiful fish the American has ever seen. He strikes up a conversation with the angler and discovers that the man has a simple daily routine.
He gets up early to fish, returns to shore to sell his catch at the market, goes home to play with his children, takes a siesta with his wife, and then strolls into the village each evening where he nips cerveza and plays guitar with his friends.
The American scoffed. “Listen,” he said, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I can help you. If you spent more time fishing, with the proceeds you could then buy a bigger boat. With the success of the bigger boat you could then buy several boats, until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing vessels.
“Instead of selling your small catch to the market, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, the processing, and distribution. You could move to the city, and leave this smelly beachside dock all together.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But seňor, what then?” The American laughed and said, “Here’s the best part! When the time is right you announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. Then you could retire, move to the coast, fish early in the morning, play with your children, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village each evening where you could drink cerveza and play guitar with your friends.”
No, this isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but there comes a point where one must accept the life he or she has in order to be happy. That’s not my attempt to squash dreams, to pour water on someone’s ambitious fire, or excuse a person’s refusal to make life’s necessary changes. Simply put, there is a big difference between grasping for a utopian mirage, and actually living out and working for a life that can be a peaceful, gratifying, fulfilling oasis.
That life – a real, satisfying, happy life – can be yours right here, right now, if you will settle down, settle in, and live it; because at this moment, you are already where you need to be. You might be the only one who doesn’t know it yet.