Have you settled for what you get… not what you want?

Have you settled for what you get… not what you want?

“Have you settled for what you get… not what you want? One of the best things that happened to me was getting fired from a job where they paid me just enough to keep me from quitting and I worked just enough to keep from getting fired.” – Les Brown.

Some people have beliefs where they just won’t do something no matter what – won’t wear certain clothes, won’t speak in public, or won’t experiment trying unusual foods. They do it knowing that these things can get in the way of living the life they want to live, that these things can halt their progress or damage their personal ‘brand’. I used to give funny looks to people who wouldn’t accept a fun drinking challenge offered in a social setting, or someone who wouldn’t try a certain food. I used to think they should be more flexible.
The only difference, however, was that those people had set certain standards in their lives, and I hadn’t. I was just cruising, following the river’s current. I wasn’t bothered about the outcomes of my actions, and I was settling for what I get, because I didn’t know what I want.

I was avoiding situations where I felt incompetent, yet those situations kept popping up wherever I went! I was constantly meeting people, visiting places, and doing things that made me feel awkward. I was just killing time to keep minor social connections in check.

But just a little over three years ago my beliefs, values, and circumstances changed. I became one of those people who can actually say ‘no’ now. I say ‘no’ to big dinners or weird foods because I know my body, and I would feel uncomfortable the next day, instead of performing my best. I say ‘no’ to fun drinking games because that would eliminate a day’s worth of progress just for the body to recover.

“Raise your standards” – these were the three words that changed everything. By establishing my own values and learning how to say ‘no’ I was able to see a certain shift in my life. I am not saying I don’t end up in situations where I feel incompetent or awkward, but the number has dropped significantly. It also doesn’t mean that I know what I want in life. However there are certain things that I now know I don’t want and I will not do. I will not be bossed around because I am an adult with critical thinking skills. I will not do things I don’t like, because there are many that I do, and I do them well. I will not work in a place I am not happy with, because I know what I am capable of.

When I realised that I am the one setting my own standards and setting my own price, for the first time in my life I felt confident. Up to this point I was chasing circumstances, because I was afraid of losing a job, losing connections, stability. I realised that I am the one who decides whether to take up a crappy job ASAP, or wait it out until a better one comes along. And it always does. Once I applied this to everyday life, I started creating a life that I want to live – a life up to my standards.

In the past 6 months many things have happened to me and Auste that prove how it really works, at least on a small scale. But hey, minor things matter, as they become major things.

One of the biggest changes though was our decision to change jobs recently. Both of us were not particularly happy with the workplaces we were in at the time. Lots of pressure, tons of time wasted on worthless admin tasks and so little focus for what really matters: actually teaching the students. Students, most of whom had almost zero motivation. Not surprising when their teachers spent most of their time entering grades… Yet the stability that came with the job was tempting to stay: we were familiar with the schools, our colleagues, the procedures and expectations. Our working visas were almost sorted as well. Moving somewhere else meant starting everything all over again.

And yet we did. We found jobs for the summer – which were only one month contracts, most likely leading to offers to stay for the full school year. The chances were high though, and we decided to risk it. Sometimes you just have to trust that things will work out. And when you have set standards, you know you will not settle for just anything that comes along.

And here we are now, a couple of months later – both working in places we’re really happy with. Is everything perfect? Of course not. Do we work less than we did before? No, not at all. But yet, one thing is very different: the balance between the work that we have to do and the work which we want to do. We have more flexibility to focus on what matters to us. And most importantly, we both have students who want to learn. We both have classes that are a joy to teach. We can see the results of the efforts we put into planning our lessons. Yes, we still have some students that are not really interested in anything, but the numbers of these are much lower.

It doesn’t mean that you have to run away from every situation that doesn’t meet your expectations. Auste and I always try to make the best of what we have at any point in our lives. But you need to notice when it’s time to change. Sometimes no matter how much you try to make it better, you’re just battling windmills. There is a big difference:
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek

Koh Tao

Koh Tao Part 3

We’re continuing with the stories from my notebook about Koh Tao. And if you haven’t read these yet, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Koh Tao – Day 3

In the morning we spent a couple of hours in the shade overlooking the beach, chilling, eating, looking at the photos and  writing – the day started great. We then walked to the pier where a taxi picked us up to take us to Moondance Magic View hotel. Well, if I thought the songthaew ride in Phangan was fun, this was even better. Probably because there was no backrest whatsoever, just a plain bench at an equal height with the edge of the car boot, and a rail behind it to hold onto. And the roads where even worse than in Phangan – much steeper and full of ditches.  Well, not full of them, it seemed that the ditches were what made the road! My arms got tired from holding onto the rail and at some point I had to hold onto the bench with my feet!

We reached the hotel and the view from the restaurant was really, as the hotels’ name suggests – magic. Rocky shores, turquoise blue water, a couple of tiny islands quite close, just soo lovely. Our bungalow was really cosy too, with a wicker hammock in the porch and outdoor shower nicely decorated with pebbles.

Koh Tao, Moondance Magic View hotelKoh Tao, Moondance Magic View hotelKoh Tao, Moondance Magic View hotel

Although after a couple of nights with the cockroaches in Hacienda we were quite vary of sleeping in a bungalow where there were more holes than wall material, so we put the mosquito net down on the bed straight away, tied knots on any holes we found and tucked the ends neatly under the mattress. We also took anything we might need to the bed as we planned for the worst – that we’d be awake all night and wouldn’t go outside the mosquito net. (reading this now makes me laugh, but back then we were a bit paranoid!)

Now that the bed was protected from insects we could relax. We walked down to the rocks, took some pictures, chilled out in the hammock, had a nice dinner at the restaurant and stayed there until the lights went out around 9 pm.

Koh Tao, Moondance Magic View hotel

We walked back to our hut, lit some candles and stayed outside for a while. It was nice and calm as the mosquitoes and even the ants in the bathroom have gone to sleep. We took the candles inside and shortly fell asleep, feeling safe and calm under our mosquito net, with nice warm candle light surrounding us.

Keep reading about Koh Tao in Part 4.For more stories from the same trip read: Koh Phangan Part 1 and Part 2, Angthong Marine Park, and Koh Samui.

More photos on our Flickr page here.

Koh Tao, Moondance Magic View hotel

Koh Tao Part 2

We’ve just returned from our trip around the Thai islands in the Andaman sea and going through our photo folders realised that we haven’t yet shared all the stories from our last island trip! But the good thing about taking notes and pictures when you travel is that you can look back and relive all those beautiful memories again.

We started our last trip in Koh Phangan (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 – trip to Angthong Marine Park), then continued to Koh Samui and finally, Koh Tao, which we loved the most.  So here it goes – the second day on this lovely island:

Koh Tao – Day 2

We got up, packed some bread and cucumbers (we’re that kind of people) and rented a kayak for 4 hours as we wanted to avoid paddling in the heat. There was no question of where we wanted to go – to the tiny Nangyunan island at the end of Sairee beach. We got further away from the shore (to avoid maneuvering round fishing boats) and we realised how lucky we were that we didn’t take the kayak for a full day. After 15 min of fighting the waves we were already tired! But of course we kept going and 45 min later reached the pretty island. We stopped on the beach and got off, but as soon as we did that, some guy walked to us saying we have to pay an entrance fee, so we jumped back into our kayak and started paddling around the island. The waves hitting rocks on the shores, lots of crabs running to hide whenever we came close – sometimes we just stopped for a while, allowing waves to swing the kayak while we enjoyed just being there.

Koh Tao, Sairee beach

After a while the sun started burning more aggressively, so we headed back. This time we were kayaking close to the shore as it was nice to watch the rocky shores from such a small distance, and when we reached the beach we were paddling laid down in the kayak with people swimming and snorkeling around us, a cute black dog playing in the water, fishing boats everywhere around…

Koh Tao, Sairee beach

When we came back we decided to make our way up to the viewpoint marked on the map not too far from where we were staying. We walked through a beautiful  palm tree forest and then lost our way for a bit – it was difficult to tell whether we were walking across people’s backyards or a footpath.

Koh Tao

By the time we reached the viewpoint it started raining. We hid under a house on the poles and admired the view of the rocky coastline below. As we found out later, this was better than the viewpoint – there was a nice temple at the top of the  hill, but you couldn’t see anything below through the trees. A random thought crossed my mind that we’d probably start losing weight soon, walking up and down these hills and constantly sweating…

Koh Tao

By the time we came back it was already dark. We took our camera for a walk along the beach until we chose one of those beachfront bars for a drink. There was a guy playing with a guitar, waves crashing 5 metres away from our  feet, a nice warm light coming from a fire torch in a glass bottle… And for some reason it felt a bit like sitting by a fire somewhere in the woods in Lithuania.

More photos on our Flickr page here. Keep reading about Koh Tao in Part 3 and Part 4.

Koh TaoKoh Tao

Couscous, feta and olive salad

Spinach and ricotta ravioli in a creamy butter sauce, crispy rosemary potatoes, chocolate-layered fresh cream profiteroles… All ready within minutes, all to be found at the chilled isle of your local supermarket, and all for a ridiculously low price. Sometimes it’s just too easy to fall into the habit of eating processed foods.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t eat them? No. Are they all bad for you? Absolutely not. But even though it’s a convenient way to bring a tasty dish to the table, there’s something about homemade foods that make a weeknight dinner an occasion.

couscous feta olive salad

In my view, making food is art. It’s one feeling looking at it, and another actually being an artist. It’s about finding the right balance of taste and presentation, consequently rewarding you with a sense of achievement, recognition from your guests, or just satisfying hunger. There is also an element of challenge to it as it requires the use of a number of skills including creativity, planning, and time management.

Couscous feta olive salad

By no means is this recipe a challenge, it’s really just one of the many examples of effortless ways to have a quick tasty dinner (and lunch the next day).


1/2 cup couscous (replace with quinoa for gluten free version)

3/4 cup boiling water

A handful of olives

A handful of cherry tomatoes

50g crumbled feta cheese

A couple tablespoons olive oil

A crack or two of black pepper



1. Pour boiling water over couscous and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. For an extra kick toast couscous with garlic before adding water.

2. Once couscous is ready, combine the ingredients in a serving bowl with a touch of black pepper and olive oil and you’re done!

Couscous feta olive salad