People who settle for mediocre lives also settle for mediocre relationships. I should know this better than anyone.
Until my mid twenties I had no dreams and zero aspirations apart from being taken care of. I dropped out of everything I’d tried—high school and college included. And when I went into a relationship, I brought my complacency with me.
I actually viewed relationships as a temporary respite from loneliness. Because I was so content to settle for less than I was capable of in life, I adopted the same mindset in relationships:
I don’t have to try. It’s just going to fail, anyway.
And fail they did. But even worse than the failing part was how completely miserable the relationships were after the honeymoon phase ended—all the power struggles, games, and bickering. Relationships are supposed to add to our quality of life and bring out the best in us. But it only works out that way when we’re consistent in bringing out the best in ourselves.
I learned about relationships the hard way
Unlike normal, functioning adults, I invested all my time and energy into relationships: pursuing them, maintaining them, etc. So when my last relationship ended at age 23, and when I knew beyond doubt that another relationship wasn’t going to fix things, I lost my whole identity.
This mental stress precipitated a complete collapse. I developed anxiety and depression, and my health degraded to the point where I had to move back in with my parents. I couldn’t take care of myself. I didn’t have a job. So I had a loooong time to reflect on what went wrong. But the answer I came up with was simple:
I just lacked ambition.
Instead of kicking ass and working towards goals, I was idle, distracting myself with social media and messaging, and looking for an even bigger distraction that seemed to give me purpose, and hope:
But those didn’t work. I wasn’t able to grow in the relationship because I myself wasn’t growing. So at age 23, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t even think about another relationship until I had an inspired and fulfilled life.
Easier said than done.
Coming up with my first goals
Once I cleared out the biggest distraction in my life—relationships—I needed something positive to take its place. I tried attending college for a few years, and went into restaurant management—but none of it meant anything to me. Then one day I realized that the only reason I was attending college was to argue with professors via email. I loved writing! And I realized that I could write every single day and be happy.
So that’s what I did.
I came up with the goal to write so consistently and to improve so much that I could support myself through it. Now that was me!
Once I achieved crystal clarity in my goal and my mission in life, I stopped missing my old girlfriends so much, I stopped regretting my singleness, and I started recognizing what an incredible opportunity I had to make something of myself. Because now I was changing! Now I was experiencing the personal growth that I’d never been able to find in relationships!
As I committed more to the writing journey, I had to change the way I lived if I wanted to become better. One of the major breakthroughs was eliminating my distracted lifestyle entirely.
Saying goodbye to all my distractions—big and small
About three months into the writing journey, having landed my first freelance gig, I looked back on my portfolio and thought:
“There’s hardly anything here!”
I called myself a writer, yet I was only writing a couple times a week. That wasn’t going to cut it for the success I had envisioned. So I started reflecting on my days with a journal to see what I could change to be more consistent, and to write better.
I noticed that if I wrote first thing in the morning, it was easy to focus on writing and learning about my craft for the rest of the day. But that morning writing session rarely happened, because my habit for the last five years had been to check my social media and messages first thing in the morning, which diverted my focus from what really mattered.
So I started experimenting with limiting technology until after 12:00…
Instant success! I started writing every day, and the volume of my work exploded. And the stricter I was on scheduling emails and texts throughout the day, the better things got.
(After going back and forth with Facebook for years—deactivating my account, and being super productive, then reactivating it and making excuses for my lack of productivity—I ended up deleting it entirely. And, short of being purposefully single, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.)
Picking up self improvement
Along with journaling I picked up meditation, affirmations, gratitude, visualization, and planning, and I developed a note taking system—all of which helped me to reach my writing goals and stay consistent. And in the process, I created a balanced life.
To keep myself from burning out, I started planning out my days to include fun things alongside my career ambitions. I began exercising throughout the whole day to give me energy and confidence. Before I knew it, I had written articles about how these improvements had changed my life, and my first coaching clients reached out to me!
By this time I was earning a dollar and up per word as a freelance writer and blogger and was also published on many of the top ranking websites worldwide: Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, AskMen.com. I was living my dream. But then my dream got a thousand times cooler when I discovered my passion of coaching.
One day, as I was meditating in the soft grass in my park, watching the clouds go by, and feeling grateful for my life and everything in it, I had an epiphany:
I am so thankful to be single..I am so happy that none of my relationships had worked out.
Because if they had, I would have none of the joy and purpose and momentum I own today. I’d still be little ol’ Dan, the hopeless romantic who lived with his parents and hated his life.
Now I’m 28.
I’m still single, but I’m infinitely happier than even the best times in my past relationships. Because I have my own life. I have my own business, and my own ambition, and my own growth—and no one can take that away from me! I’m still not ready to be in a relationship, because I have too much to do to think about being with another person. But when I am ready, I will bring a lifestyle of constant personal growth and satisfaction in what I do. And that’s what will make my next relationship successful. I won’t need my partner for the things that I lack, but for the love and joy and prosperity I am so eager to share with them. Which means that I’ll love them unconditionally. And that’s how you grow in love for a lifetime.
If you’ve had mediocre relationships, or undeniably horrible ones, like I did, then it’s time to light your own life on fire. Commit to being single for as long as it takes to be happy and inspired and successful by yourself. Work hard for an extraordinary life. And when the time is right, you’ll be ready for an extraordinarily successful and fulfilling relationship.