To get what you really want, you must say "No" to what you don't want. Simple, but not easy.
I've settled for less than I really wanted many times in my life, and each time my awareness of just how much of myself I gave up to accept that "OK" job, buy that "OK" car, enter that "OK" relationship that was less than I really wanted came much later, when it was too late to do much about it.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, what could I have done differently? Honestly, probably nothing. I had lessons I needed to learn, a journey I was destined to take that led me to find the love of my life and the life that I love.
What did I learn from making all those choices that seemed right at the time?
Here's a few things-
Every choice has long-term consequences that are predictable if you're paying attention
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
I listen to my fears and doubts way too much
My choices and results are a direct reflection of how worthy I feel and how well I'm taking care of myself
When I defend against what others say about me, they're always right and I'm always wrong (damn!)
Life doesn't work the way you want, need or expect, it works the way it works
Is it possible to catch myself settling before it's too late?
Yes, I just have to listen to the garbage I tell myself; such as:
* I don't want to be alone
* I REALLY want a relationship
* I'm tired of looking, I might as well choose this one
* I won't find anything/anyone better
* I'd rather have this now than risk nothing later
* I don't deserve true happiness
* 80% is good enough
Examining these statements now it's easy to see they're all FALSE. Looking back, I knew I was telling myself these things, but my awareness was dim enough, and my self-esteem low enough that I allowed them to dictate my choices.
What could I have done differently?
Simple. Require 100% and not settle for less.
All the times I talked myself into accepting 80% prevented me from finding and experiencing 100%. This hit home for me when I broke up an 80% relationship and then met the woman I was destined to marry just a few months later. It's like I finally passed a cosmic test of some kind.
Two years after finally finding my soul mate, the biggest secret to finding true love that I've learned is to love myself enough to fiercely go after 100% of what I really want and truly believe that it's possible.
Fiercely believe "I deserve to love and be loved."
Fiercely believe "Seek and ye shall find."
Fiercely believe "Build it, and they will come."
And, fiercely believe "I'd rather be single than settle!"