In some of my recent work with kids, I was not surprised to learn that they did not know the meaning of the word complacency. For most of them, they understood this to mean comfortable or lazy - even then, I had to lead them quite a bit to even get this much from them. (Yes, the conversation was scaffolded for the age of this audience).
I predict that if you ask most adults to define the term complacency, many of them would provide some version that is not too far off what the kids shared with me.
Here it is - just in case:
Complacency - to be content with the status quo, to be in a state of self-satisfaction which is usually accompanied by unawareness of deficiencies, a feeling of smug satisfaction.
In my opinion, the state of complacency is one of the most critical obstacles or barriers that people - adults and kids - are facing today. Here, I’m specifically going to reference our kids and their levels of complacency can often be attributed to the adults who care or work with them. Some of these adults are not engaged with them in the right way, or at all. And, this disengagement causes lack of connection therefore lack of accountability + responsibility. (Any employer who is reading this is nodding their head in approval).
There are too many circumstances now where there are no conditions or required outcomes for success. Many of our “leaders” have removed all of these requirements and now, we have a whole cohort of adults and kids who are simply detached, walled off and are not truly participating in their lives. This group of people are sedated by their own comfort and are in a place where they are waiting for someone else to come to their rescue. This mindset is highly dangerous and sadly, becoming more common.
Let me share a common example that happens very frequently. Let’s break down the story of the 6 year old who doesn’t want to go to school because of an “upset tummy”. To me, this is where it can begin …
It’s highly likely that we’ve all heard some version of this story from our own child or a child that we work with. So, let me highlight the most dangerous response to this. It can become a slippery slope when we continuously allow this youngster to “play ill”. ( 95% of the time, you’ll know if a child is truly ill. Their skin tone becomes a hue of green/gray and they will vomit all over - you’ll have zero notice ). If we don’t run a little interference, give time to re-evaluate or push this little person to participate, we are creating conditions for future terrible habits. Our level of softness (or the easy road - which is default acceptance without objection) is at an all time high and we are contributing to the problem. We are supporting behavior where our kids don’t have to confront the world. Usually, the perceived tummy ache is a signal that there is something uncomfortable or difficult that the child may have to encounter on that day. We could call this growth. This is the type of behavior pattern that I am referring to. To make matters worse, the adult who is continuously permitting this behavior to occur is likely in the same complacency mindset - and, they are oblivious to this. They are deflecting their responsibilities, they’ve convinced themselves that everything is okay (when it truly isn’t) and they themselves are not contributing to their own growth - because they aren’t even participating in life’s daily events.
The second example that I would like to provide is something that I see with older kids. They are often quite content with a half-assed effort if it means they can quickly get on to other things that they prefer to do. For example, many are so pleased with themselves simply because they turned in an assignment. The quality is terrible and the student knows it. He or she is smugly satisfied with the C minus or 63% because to them, it doesn’t matter. Their personal achievement benchmark is very low and they simply want to get the thing done, so they can blaze on to the next thing of greater interest. And, because they got the thing done… Now, it’s time to rest,coast,reward oneself and celebrate! (Yay for me! ) Ummm … How the heck did we get here?
So, the million dollar question is this… How do we combat this idea of complacency? How do we learn the skills so that this crisis can be minimized? The fix sounds much easier than it actually is to implement.
Here are some big ideas which could help this problem:
Let’s remind ourselves that there is no-one to rescue us. We must participate in our own rescue.
I am curious about the idea of having young people stop window shopping their options and get in the game.
Let us return to greater emphasis on independence, responsibility and accountability - with real consequences that matter.
Let us remember what it’s like to be really good at something because we cared about it.
Valuing effort over outcome. If the consistency of effort is there over time, the outcome will take care of itself.
What could be the number one thing to overcoming complacency?
We need to re-prioritize the idea of investing in ourselves. ( I’m not talking about self-care here )
I’m referring to retooling our minds & skills so that nobody can ever take anything away from us. I’m suggesting that we create those circumstances for ourselves which means that we are in charge of building our own compelling future. We should stop being afraid to participate and fall flat on our faces because we know that digging in and doing the work is 80% of what is needed. We need to stop telling ourselves that we’ve arrived and that our small successes are enough that it’s okay that we stop growing.
In closing, I’d like to make special mention of those kids who do not fall into this category… This section is written for those who have drive, ambition and value excellence in whatever they do.
If you are one of those who is busting their butt each and every day, I say this: just keep going and just keep investing in yourself. It will 100% pay off in the time to come. Just because your neighbor or classmate hung out on the sidelines rather than getting into the game, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to walk across whatever stage you set for yourself.
This should happen unapologetically and without one ounce of guilt for the kid beside you who might “feel bad” due to their own series of bad decisions. That’s on them, not you. Please don’t let anyone tell you differently because people (our “leaders”) are going to try. It’s already happening and it scares me to pieces.
That’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading.