the resolution
laugh it off

don't settle for anything less than butterflies


The other day I was perusing the bookshelf in my bedroom at my parents' house and I came across the book How to Be Happy, Dammit: A Cynic's Guide to Spiritual Happiness. I instantly recalled getting this book from my best friend in college, an overly obvious assertion on her part that I was in need of an attitude adjustment. I picked it up off the shelf and flipped though it, thinking about how ironic it was that I hadn't even read it when she gave it to me. I'd loved the cover, with it's bright orange background and it's neon green flower. I'd loved the images and the design of the book, I remembered that. But I knew that I hadn't read it. I guess, like so many things in life, I wasn't ready for it then. But I am now.

I took the book home with me and read it in an evening, curled up in my bed with a notebook and pen in hand. I just knew it would have some good ideas in it, and I was right. Over the next few weeks I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of references to this book. Right now I want to share one of my favorite passages, called "Dope on a Rope":


This criminal had committed a crime. He was sent to the king for his punishment. The king told him he had a choice. He could be hung by a rope or take the punishment behind the big, dark, scary steel door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he asked, "Out of curiosity, what's behind that door?" The king laughed and said, "You know, it's funny. I offer all you guys the same choice, and nearly all of you pick the rope." "So," said the criminal, "what's behind the door? Obviously, I won't tell anyone," he said, pointing to the noose around his neck. The king paused and answered, "Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope."


Do you take the rope? More often than not, it is our own fear -- not external obstacles -- that stop us from going where we want to in life. Are you staying in a relationship because you are afraid of being single? Are you staying in a job you hate because you are afraid of being jobless or taking on a new job? Are you living in the same town because you're frightened of starting over somewhere new? We all do this, stay where we are certain and feel safe, because it is easier and it is something is known. We would often stick with a painful, unhappy known than risk something that is unknown.

But how can we truly be happy if we're doing this? Sticking with the known for fear of the unknown is settling. Do we really want to settle in our lives? One of my favorite quotes comes from the mouth of Carrie Bradshaw, a character from Sex and the City. She says, "Some people are settling down. Some people are settling. And some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies." Take a moment to think about your life. Are you settling in any major areas of your life? If so, why?

In a recent session with my therapist I was grasping to understand why I'd always gone back to my ex-boyfriends. Maybe it would be a long while before I did or maybe I'd find a new one in-between, but I'd somehow always go back, no matter how bad I knew the relationship had been. "Why do I do this?" I bemoaned, looking at her desperately for an answer, any answer. She looked at me and replied, quite simply, quite honestly, "You do this because it's comfortable and familiar." She was right. I liked the comfort. I liked knowing what I was getting into (even if it was bad news). It always seemed more appealing to me than trying to out in the world and meet someone new.

Of course, this pattern was extremely unhealthy for me. Things had ended with these guys for a reason. I had moved on. And then I'd come back for comfort. I was settling. It was that simple. Because of this, the passage from the book really hits home for me. I've been taking the noose and, in the process, rejecting freedom. The unknown is a scary, scary thing, but that's what's so wonderful about it.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to settle for what seems easy (after all, the things that seem easy are usually the ones that end up being the most difficult in the long run). Like Bradshaw said, I want to be one of those people who doesn't settle for anything less than butterflies. Life -- all aspects of it -- should bring you butterflies, that excited little feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're nervous and happy and looking forward to whatever it is you're about to dive into. I have to admit, all of the aspects of my life don't quite give me that butterfly feeling, but I am working on making changes and I'm striving to live a life that is far from settling.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Great post; it sums up my attitude towards life. However, I think everyone needs a little comfort and familiarity in their life, albeit positive.

Great story! To be completely honest, sometimes I do take the rope and sometimes I don't. It depends on the strength of the fear.

Wonderful post! How do you know when something really is good enough? There has to be something short of perfection that is fulfilling. I know I have left positive situations (jobs and relationships,) because I thought there was something better for me. The old expression about the grass being greener sometimes does apply. When is appreciating what you have appropriate and is not just settling? Do you try to make your current situation better or do you invest your energy elsewhere? I agree with Mark; there is nothing wrong with a little comfort under the right circumstances. Some people benefit from having some stability to lean on in their lives. The proper stability may provide a helpful foundation for which to make positive changes in your life.

I loved the idea of '.. you gotta have butterflies': don't settle for anything less. Life -- all aspects of it -- should bring you butterflies, that excited little feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're nervous and happy and looking forward to whatever it is you're about to dive into.

We can bring butterflies into our lives by having a passion, developing new skills, constantly learning and improving .. the butterflies can be there for us ..

Really good post - thank you
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Great story. I'm not sure if I pick the rope every time, but I know that I sure like the familiar. Sometimes I wonder if this is the biggest reason I can't lose my last 10-15 lbs...something is holding me back, and every time I get close I completely self-sabotage and go on a chocolate bender!! Am I too afraid of my "hotness"??? LOL!

Great post, great story!

It does come down to fear. ACIM (I think) says fear is opposite of love. The good news is we can release fear!

Wow. what a lovely post! I just clicked through to your blog from Icing and I love it, I've added you to my Google reader :)

Beautiful story and punchline.

Rope or door to the unknown? ... I guess some people are more risk averse than others and some folks make the most of change, while other avoid it and break themselves in the process.

Great story and lesson, thanks for sharing! You got a lot out this, it is not in our true nature to settle, this is why we feel so off when we do.

First visit to your blog - I really enjoyed it. Especially like the recent post regarding the dope on a rope. Thanks!

Amen to never settle on less than what you want.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Butterflies, Karen Salmanson, Sex and the City and your blog all in one dollop - that's a delightful recipe ;-)

This is a perfect post for me right now. Trying to grow the courage to choose freedom... Thanks for this!

Heathcliff - You are so right about "the grass is always greener." It does always seem like whatever situation you're not in is the better situation (or, at least, it's more appealing). I'm not sure how you know when something really is good enough, but I have a feeling that when it happens, you'll know it. For the most part, I think people know when they're settling, but they just choose to ignore it. Or, if they're aware of it, they refuse to deal with it because it's too difficult. The key is to be aware (be present) and to be proactive. If something feels like settling, change it. Always easier said than done of course...

Hilary - I'm glad you liked the post! And I really liked your suggestions about how we can have butterflies in our lives. So true!

Kirwin - I feel like that might be true for some people (though I can't speak to your situation). They are secretly scared of being something better than what they are now so they find ways to hold themselves back. You raise a good point by noting that it's not always a situation or another person that holds us back. Sometimes we are the ones who need to give ourselves freedom.

Kaushik - Thanks! I've never heard that before but that's very interesting to think about fear as the opposite of love. That totally makes sense!

Vixel - I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :) Thanks for coming by the site.

Mark - I agree. Some familiarity and comfort can be absolutely wonderful in life. However, there's definitely a difference between enjoying the familiarity of a situation and falling back on it because it's easy.

Roger - I think you pretty much summed up what I do too. Sometimes it's the rope, sometimes it's not -- but I'm really working hard to be brave and not to settle for what's easiest. As you mentioned, the strength of the fear really can impact the choice I make.

Hilda - You're welcome! I think we all have the strength within us to choose freedom. It's not always easy, but if you choose it, I think you will see how worth it is. :)

Giovanna - I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Settling is a waste of time and it never brings about positivity. It's not worth it!

Dustin - Thanks for coming by. I'm glad you like the blog and the dope on the rope post. I think it really says a lot about how people let fear hold them back in life.

Mark - I definitely got a lot out of the story and I really think it helped me to see how much fear can hold people (and me) back from what will really bring happiness to my life. I think you're completely right when you say that we feel "off" when we settle. We just know something isn't right and we should listen to that instinct.

J.D. - You make a good point here. Some people are more adverse to risk than others and, likewise, some people try to make the best of change instead of running from it. Some of it depends on personality. Some depends on attitude, which we have control over.

Excellent post! I like the "Dope on a Rope" story. Keep up the good work! A.

Anita - Thanks for the encouragement. I've been working really hard on this blog and my blog posts and it really means a lot to know that people appreciate it. :) Thanks!

This is excellent. Learning to balance risk and comfort is something I seem to struggle with all too often. The devil I know way too often wins out.

Thanks again.


Jack - So glad you enjoyed this post. I agree that finding balance is so important (though not always easy to do!).

inspiring! Just what I needed to hear. :)


Fuzzy - You're welcome! :) I'm so glad this post resonated with you. It's one of my favorites!

The comments to this entry are closed.