Three Reasons We Settle for Less Impact Than We Need To

From the back of the car my 7-year-old daughter asked, “Daddy, can we go to Rome, Italy.”

Me: “Wow. That would be fun. Why do you want to go there?”

Her: “This book says they have a hotel made out of garbage!”

Me: “So that is what you would like to see in Rome?”

Her: “Yes!”

It occurs to me that we could fly her to Rome (this is all theoretical of course). Get in a cab at the airport, drive directly to the hotel made of trash, look at it for a little while, get back into the cab, ask the driver to take us back to the airport.  She would fly home, go to school, and tell her teacher that she went to Rome and saw a hotel made of garbage.  She would likely be unaware that she had missed the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Sistine Chapel.  Because she doesn’t yet know what those things are, she’d be perfectly content to settle for simply seeing the hotel made of trash.

Settling is something we as humans do all the time. In the movie Zootopia, Judy the Bunny came from a family of carrot farmers.   Her dad summed it up nicely when speaking to his daughter about her dream of becoming the first ever bunny police officer: “Ever wonder how your mom and me became so happy? We gave up on our dreams and settled … That’s the beauty of complacency.”

We usually settle for one of three reasons:

  1. We try hard. We wait long. We then give up and settle.
  1. We look down the path before trying or waiting, decide it’s not worth it and settle before we even get started.
  1. We settle because we never knew there might be something better worth trying for or waiting on.

My daughter would have been in that third category regarding this hypothetical trip to Rome. She would have been settling, but not because she gave up on something or wasn’t willing to try but because she simply didn’t know there was something better available to her.

When it comes to child advocacy, church ministry, movement-building, and caring for kids from hard places, its very likely there are things each of us are settling for because we just aren’t aware that there might be something better. Someone out there has insight that would make us a better leader or significantly improve the work we do. Someone else knows something that would make us a better parent. The tricky thing is that we often don’t know what we don’t know. Our best defense against this, of course, is to be a life-long learner. Learning is not about filling our minds with facts but rather filling our minds with possibilities.  The people we talk to, the books we read and the questions we ask all help us to keep possibilities open for growing and improving the work we do on behalf of kids.

Here are a few questions for you and your team:

  1. What is something we are doing better now than we did a year ago?
  1. What key insight did we gain or lesson did we learn that led to us doing better at that particular thing?
  1. What are currently my richest sources of learning and growth? Are there others I’d like to seek out?