Is Settling A Good Life Lesson?

The other day, I was driving with NHL. We were on our way to get some food for Thanksgiving and NHL was talking about one of his passions: video games. Ever since the Nintendo Switch was released, NHL has wanted one. This desire only intensified as he watched some videos on YouTube showing Super Mario Odyssey being played on the Switch. Now, I’ll admit, the game looks amazing. The worlds are open and varied and the game mechanic of taking over your enemies to solve puzzles is inspired. That said, though, the price is steep. The game system itself costs $300 and Super Mario Odyssey costs an additional $60.

The price isn’t deterring NHL. He’s pledged to save up until he has enough money to buy a Switch and Mario Odyssey. There’s only one problem with this: He doesn’t really have any income. He’ll get some money for birthdays or Chanukah, but that’s about it. It would take him years to save enough for a Switch. By then, there would likely be a new game system that he really wants.

As an alternative, I suggested buying a used copy of Super Mario Galaxy 2. He had recently taken it out of the library and played it a bit so he knew he loved it. In addition, it’s a Mario game so it could scratch that particular itch. No, it might not be as good as Odyssey on the Switch, but it might be good enough.

“That’s a horrible lesson to teach me!” NHL shrieked in horror.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Settling,” he said.

Now, it’s true that you should always reach for your dreams. If you want to be a writer, go for it. If you want to act, go on auditions. If you want to start your own business, by all means pursue it. However, sometimes, you’ve got to realize when a desire is unrealistic. I would love to take a week off of work every month and fly to Disney World. The main problem, though, would be the cost. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have twelve weeks of vacation time a year. I simply couldn’t afford to fly down to Disney World every month. So what do I do? I settle. We can go to Disney World for a week every so many years. In the meantime, we can find other activities that are fun but cost less.

I told NHL that, sometimes, settling was not only an acceptable lesson, but a good one. It’s nice to have dreams and pursue them, but it’s also good sometimes to be a realist. There are times when you need to realize that what you desire is out of reach. When you come to find that out, you can either keep trying fruitlessly to grasp at it, mope about being unable to attain it, or set your sights slightly lower.

This “settling” doesn’t even have to be a permanent detour. It could be a temporary step that eventually leads to your dream. When I published my first novel, I didn’t quit my job to pursue a dream of having a best selling book. I could have quit and spent all my time writing. My second novel definitely would have been done faster. However, sales of my novel haven’t reached anywhere near enough to replace my full time job. Had I quit my job to write full time, we would’ve gone broke before my novels took off. You could say that I “settled” by not pursuing writing full time. That might be true, but I’m also keeping the stable income while working on my writing. If the writing takes off and I can live off of it exclusively, great. If not, I still have the pleasure of writing.

I’ve always thought of myself as an idealistic realist. I have ideals and want to pursue them, but I temper those ideals with the facts of the real world. This keeps me grounded and stops me from following my desires when it would cause ruin. NHL might have thought that “settling” was a bad lesson to teach, but I think it’s imparting a little real world into his idealism. Saving for the Switch is nice, but perhaps he could get more enjoyment – for less money – if he used his spending money elsewhere.

What do you think? Is settling a good life lesson or was I imparting a horrible piece of guidance upon my son?

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