The dilemma: After years of doing jobs I hated, I finally got my dream job working outside somewhere beautiful. I am 33 and have always been independent, into music, travel and lots of hobbies. Relationships were never my priority, especially as my parents had a very unhappy marriage. The trouble is that I now live in the back of beyond, where there isn’t much of a social scene, and I am worried I have missed the boat with regards to meeting someone. I have tried internet dating and there is nobody on there I am attracted to.

Isn’t that just typical? You finally find a dream job, but rather than take a moment to savour that success you’re already looking for the next box to tick on the list of your heart’s desires. Few of us celebrate good fortune – no sooner do we get what we want than we budge our parameters that bit further so we can revert to our more familiar sense of dissatisfaction. This questing spirit has its advantages, earning us top-dog status among Earth’s species, but it’s also made us the unhappiest; we’re even prepared to take our own lives – a choice few other creatures would opt for.

  1. Is this sentence a fixed idiom? I mean could we use the same sentence in any other contexts. looking for the next box to tick on the list of your heart's desires.

  2. What does the word spirit refer to here?

  3. What does top-dog mean here? Is it referring to dogs really? Or is that an idiom?

  4. Could you simplify to budge your parameters ?

  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it contains four questions, not one.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 8:00

1 Answer 1

  1. This is not a fixed idiom. It would not be likely to be used elsewhere in your speech. The idea of ticking a box on a list is common enough; it means making a mark to indicate that an item in a list is complete (or collected, if you're shopping.) Here the author has a list of personal desires, and he or she is looking at the next while indicating the current one is complete rather than enjoying the moment.

  2. spirit (n) - 5.a : the activating or essential principle influencing a person
    The author is saying that it is in a human's nature to want more.

  3. Top dog is an idiom. It refers to the most important person in a group. Think of the alpha wolf in a pack.

  4. Parameters is used here to indicate the properties that we decide will make our lives happy or satisfactory. Once we have a life that fits those properties, we budge (move slightly) them a bit further. Let's suppose that you have a goal of speaking English with the fluency of a native speaker. Once you reach that goal, you will likely not be satisfied and stop, instead you might that you won't be happy with your English proficiency until you remove your accent, or X, Y, or Z other things.

  • Thanks a million for your fully comprehensive answers. The way you explained just reminds me of the way Dr Jeff speaks on eslpod.com :)
    – user5036
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 8:26

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