Complacency: Why You Should Be Dissatisfied With Being Satisfied
Do you know that feeling? When everything is going well and life is good? Maybe even a little too good? Your finances are in order, your job is great, your relationship is perfect and your body and mind are in good shape?
I do. It’s awesome to answer “I am very, very satisfied and happy” when someone asks “how are you?”. And to actually mean it. Can’t this just go on forever?
Maybe. But in order to continue your great, awesome, happy life, work needs to be done. Without awareness why life is good right now, what the steps were that led to it, soon enough the enemy lurking around the corner will come into your life.
The enemy is not human. The enemy is not a thing. The enemy is a phenomenon for which the English language has found a wonderful word:
“a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.”
Complacency is very natural. If everything is good the way it is, why should you keep working hard? Hard work usually is put in when things need to change, problems need to be solved. But when everything is going well, what problem is there left to solve?
When life is good, satisfying, awesome, there’s a reason for that: you worked hard to get there.
And as soon as you are starting to become complacent, you stop working hard. Just a little less, every day. But the impact is not visible — yet.
Unfortunately, doing less and expecting the same results simply doesn’t work. Sure, you might be able to work smarter, not harder, but good lives are based on hard work, discipline, seized opportunities and plenty of luck. And if you take those parts out of the equation, the great life you once lived will vanish.
Since the beginning of 2018, I’ve had a pretty great life: worked on my dream job as social entrepreneur, building a business while actively helping people change their life; played Lacrosse and blogged in my free time, traveled and spent lots of time with my awesome girlfriend.
And then, at some point, the complacency started creeping in. Life was great! I wasn’t pushing myself anymore outside my comfort zone — because I simply didn’t need to. Why leave the cozy comfort zone if there’s nothing else to achieve out there?
The most striking part were my habits. I have plenty of good habits that I execute in a rigorous manner: Meditation. Journaling. Yoga. Learning vocabulary for a new language. Reading. Going to bed at 23:00. Getting up at 6:30. Practicing and lifting, 5 days a week. And throughout the past couple years, I’ve been very disciplined with them.
Until at some point, I started to skip my habits. And when I didn’t skip them, I did them half-heartedly. For instance, I wouldn’t meditate for 10 minutes, but only 7. I wouldn’t focus on journaling for 20 minutes, but constantly be distracted, not getting into the flow. I wouldn’t be in bed at 23:00, but 23:17, and then proceed to wake up at 6:51 instead of 6:30.
“What the hell is your problem?”, one might ask. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
It is a big deal. It’s the biggest deal. Because, as Ryan Holiday writes, and many Zen buddhists and Roman philosophers have probably written before, how you do anything is how you do everything.
One more time in big letters, because this phrase is important:
How you do anything is how you do everything.
The complacency wasn’t just creeping into my habits; it was creeping into my whole life.
I didn’t hustle as hard at work.
I didn’t do the extra reps at the gym.
I didn’t ask the hard but important questions in my relationship.
I didn’t put effort into my writing, or just didn’t write at all.
Everything I was doing, I was doing half-heartedly. I wasn’t giving 100% or 110% like I used to, but more like 77%. And when you give 77%, you get a life that’s 77% awesome. If you’re reading this, you don’t want a 77% life. You want a 100+% life. I certainly do — but my actions said differently.
That’s why until last week, I felt like my life was going up in flames.
So I did the one thing you can always do: take action. I declared for myself, that from now on, whatever I’m doing, I will be doing it with 100% focus, with full force, or not do it at all.
I first started to take back the control of my habits. I started meditating using the Headspace app again, which makes my meditations a lot better. I put away phone and other screens when journaling, to thoroughly focus on my thoughts. I started playing the guitar again, fully immersed into my practice. I hit the gym hard, with passion, with force, doing the extra rep. I started leaving everything on the field at every Lacrosse practice, whether it be with my local team or the national team.
And most importantly, I started hitting the business side hard, with full force. I started doing the things I needed to do but hadn’t; I put away the phone and WhatsApp Web and focused on my productivity. This has made work from “okay” to “awesome” again.
That’s the first step to claiming back the “good life”. Taking action, and committing to doing it with your full effort.
When you commit to something, when you decide to give it everything you have, it will be good.
Right now, I’m dissatisfied. I’m hungry for more. And next time I notice that I’m becoming very satisfied and happy with my life, I shall check myself: am I becoming complacent? Should I be dissatisfied with being satisfied?
You should, too. It might be helpful in the future.
And then, when everything is done and life is actually good — then, maybe, we can start thinking about a proper term for complacency in the German language. Because as of right now, there is none. And that’s really pissing me off. Germans, despite not having a term for it, can be complacent too. I am the living example.
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