When we become satisfied with aspects of our lives that we can and should push ourselves in, we fall into the trap of complacency. This is a dangerous place to be in many situations because it gives us permission to stop striving for more and to avoid opportunities to make ourselves better in many ways and within our relationships.
To be clear, the complacency I’m referring to, is not the
“grass is greener on the other side” mentality. I am not saying that you should scrap the people and relationships around you or quit your job because you believe there is something or someone better out there. Now, if you’ve been in a dysfunctional situation for some time and this article helps to give you a push to begin your personal assessment, great. But there must be order involved in any major change like this. I’m not advocating dumping the people or activities around you because things are hard or have been challenging. NO, I am talking about the resilience to recognize when you, and only you, have become too comfortable with your present state of mind and being. You have lost your zest for pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, or have forgotten the importance of personal and relational maintenance. You have become in one word: complacent.
Merriam-Webster defines complacent as “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This is exactly the type of attitude or line of thought that gets us in serious trouble, often trouble that doesn’t appear until much later, when it surfaces as regret.
Lets break down this definition a bit:
- When we are caught in a state of self-satisfaction, this can be good or bad, given how long we stay there. When we set goals and meet them, this is a good time to feel some self-satisfaction for a while. But when we set goals, reach them, and stop making new goals because we are so stuck in our self-satisfaction, this is bad. Our levels of accomplishment and success must be just that: LEVELS of accomplishment and success. They cannot be the end of our life goals and planning.
- Being unaware of something means we are not aware, right? This is fairly straightforward. However, are we unaware because we are lacking knowledge or unaware because we are closed off to it? Are we unaware because we are so self-satisfied that we cannot see it? This is an important distinction because if we are to avoid complacent thinking, then we have to remain as aware as possible. Aware of our thoughts, actions, emotions, and attitudes. When we lose sight of our personal awareness, this is often the beginning of complacency, where we start believing the lie that there is no more growing or changing left for us, and that we have somehow “arrived” in life.
- The actual dangers and deficiencies in our lives can creep up on us, and even attack us in some cases. This is another reason that the unaware, self-satisfied person may get caught up. If you cannot see the dangers approaching, or even be able to calculate the possibility of certain dangers, you will be susceptible to anything coming your way. But if you remain humble and always striving to do better, you have a higher chance of stopping the unforeseen dangers from becoming a reality. For example, if you believe that you don’t need to wear your seatbelt while driving because your new car is big and strong enough to keep you safe in the event of a crash, this is flawed thinking. If a crash occurs and wearing your seatbelt may have prevented some serious injuries, you will regret not wearing one and for assuming that you didn’t need to take that precaution. The complacent attitude that your fancy new vehicle would keep you safe was what caused the trouble, and this line of thinking can have devastating effects.
- Complacency can cause us to think way too highly of ourselves, believing that we are better than others and do not need to improve on our own character anymore. Complacency is a relative of conceit. Do you know someone like this? Someone who is so self-satisfied that it oozes out of their pores, and out of their mouths? Maybe they finished their college degree and are now the expert on all things they studied? Or someone who believes that they have the best relationship ever, so they don’t have to express love and care anymore, just taking it all for granted? Or what about the person who is always telling others what they should do because they think they have all the answers, all while not changing a thing about themselves or the way they live? We all know someone who has become complacent in one or more areas of their lives, including ourselves.
This short article isn’t meant to beat you down. In fact, my goal is to encourage you to begin to identity ways that you may be stuck in some “self-satisfied and unaware of dangers and deficiencies” levels of thinking so that you can get back to square one: making learning and growing part of your life and who you are.
You can tell if you have become complacent by your attitude and thoughts toward a particular situation or person. If there is no drive left in you to want more, perform better, or reinforce the good you have, then it may be time to assess if complacency has crept in on your character. Has someone mentioned something to you about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and you quickly dismissed it? Let’s be real with ourselves here, we all have at least one area of our lives and character that requires a “complacency removal.”
Its time to clean house and get our mind, and character, in order. Don’t allow your present state of complacency to transform into your future state of regret.