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As a coach (and in general, to be honest), I have a bit of a rebellious streak. I’ll admit that I actually prefer to work with clients who are really unhappy.

There’s something really powerful about misery and other heavy feelings like anger, resentment, frustration, and resignation. When you’re down in the dumps, you’re typically motivated to not feel that way, preferably as soon as possible.

Misery can equal someone who’s willing to take action to change their situation; it can mean that their circumstance is easier for me to shift, because they’ve got everything to gain and a “why not?” kind of attitude.

Unhappy people typically aren’t in denial, either. They’ll readily admit what they’re not satisfied with.

Unfulfilled, unhappy, miserable people are usually the same clients who turn out to be fulfilled, happy, and bursting with energy after a few months, because they finally admitted how they didn’t want to feel and elected to change it.

BEING MISERABLE IS A BREEZE COMPARED TO SETTLING FOR A MEDIOCRE LIFE

In a weird way, it’s the people that are doing “just OK” that can be much harder to help.

Maybe you know who I’m talking about …

They’re the ones who don’t express much one way or another. When you ask about their job, you hear a, “Eh, it’s OK,” or “It pays decently.”

They don’t really know what they want, and they might try to figure it out “one day,” but for right now they’re too “busy” to bother.

They’re certainly not miserable, but they’re also not happy. You get the sense that they’re in the passenger seat of life, being driven from one milestone to another, not really questioning much about the journey (or what the ultimate destination is).

They live in a perpetual comfort zone, and can’t work up the energy to take risks. The potential trouble of disrupting the status quo is too much to bother with. Things could be better, but they could also be worse, so why risk it?

WHAT I WISH I COULD SAY TO PEOPLE LIKE THIS

I can’t help but cringe when I encounter and hear about people in this position.

I wish I could tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they should be terrified of living their entire life in a perpetual state of toleration and settling.

Unhappiness and misery light a fire under your ass — one that propels you to take action and go after what you really want. For most people I know, that means some variation on passion, fulfillment, and a life well lived.

When you’re “not great but not terrible,” there’s very little to motivate you to go after what you might secretly want.

Years of your life can be spent settling, tolerating, and rationalizing, all of which slowly wears down into stagnation.

Settling leads to, “Eh, I’ll maybe go after that tomorrow.” Misery leads to, “I need to go after that today.”

And today is the best time (in fact, it’s the only time you ever have) to go after something more.

I DON’T OFTEN BEG, BUT I’M IMPLORING YOU NOW:

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat, upset the status quo, or dip your toe outside of your comfort zone.

Fear, risk, and unhappiness might feel big and powerful and overwhelming, but they don’t last very long (and there’s a big reward at the other end).

The real risk is wasting years of your life settling for “good enough” … and realizing at the end that there’s no reward waiting for you.

I know that’s not particularly upbeat or cheerful, but I’m not a rainbow-and-butterfly kind of coach. I’m a realist who wants you to figure out your passion and not throw your life away by settling into stagnation.

This is why we re-imagined the Passion Plan, FYI. We realized that if we wanted as many people as possible to not settle, we had to offer them coaching in a way that was actually doable and affordable. We’re proud of what we’re giving you.

So, over to you: Has this struck a chord, or made you think of your unhappiness in a different light? Let us know in the comments!

Much love,

Rachel (& Kristen)

4 comments | add a comment | Share this > Tweet this > Email this >
  1. Fear, risk, and unhappiness might feel big and powerful and overwhelming, but they don’t last very long (and there’s a big reward at the other end). —- there’s no reward. If you deal with this now, then you get … what… usually nothing or more of the same. What a great insight.

  2. Amen to not settling! As I read your post something struck me. In general I’m an upbeat person. But I realized this is because I tent to face things that make me unhappy head-on. I prefer to take action and move on quickly. It feel so much better than pushing whatever it is down and hiding behind a mask of happiness. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Being direct and taking action are MUCH healthier ways to bounce back from feeling unhappy than trying to push down the feelings or rationalize them away. It’s awesome that you already do this naturally, Sally!

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