Watch the little things; a small leak will sink a great ship.” ~Benjamin Franklin
There’s nothing like that feeling of success- the feeling of finally making it! Getting that big break, reaching a milestone, winning a case, getting promoted, setting a new PR in a race, or landing that big contract- it’s just THE BEST FEELING! I know that I’ve felt this feeling of “YES! I’ve made it. Whew! Hallelujah! Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Exhale.”
But there can be a shadow side to success, a dangerous shadow called complacency. And complacency, unlike other dangers, is quiet. It does not explode like a bomb or erupt like a volcano. Instead it quietly sneaks into your daily practice and robs you of time and opportunity like a diet high in saturated fats and low in exercise slowly builds upon the walls of your arteries until one day you get a heart attack, high blood pressure or diabetes. Complacency creeps into our professional lives when we hold onto our achievements of the past as an excuse slip from new learning. Then one day, your position is cut, your work feels too hard, or your clients go away. It all seems so sudden- but it’s not. The quiet and steady killer that is complacency, the state of being too comfortable, of taking our current state for granted, feeds on contentment like rust feeds on the still and neglected motor.
You may be wondering- but can’t I enjoy my success for a little while? My answer- absolutely enjoy your success. The danger lies not in the enjoyment, but in the action that we take when we view success as a final resting place, a destination, or an elite status. If we look at success as a destination, then complacency easily falls into place. Success is not just a location. Success is about the journey, the work, the growth and the learning. Success is in fact about the process and the engagement. As soon as you begin to think “I have arrived”, then you risk complacency. For one, wherever you’ve arrived is only good for so long. The best of the best know that winning championships is sweet and to be celebrated fully. Work for the next championship starts right away. Viewing success as the ride that you want to keep making better will not only help you in your leadership journey, but it will also allow you to enjoy the process. Adapt the mindset that success is learning, growing, challenging yourself and you can experience success all the time. Move to the work that is your passion and dive into it. But as soon as you start to think that “I’ve arrived- I’m done”, then you may unintentionally leave yourself completely vulnerable to a painful fall from grace.
Complacency is not just a killer of self development. What relationships are you taking for granted? Where has complacency crept into your relationships? Are there colleagues that have been left out of your care? Friendships? Partners? Social justice issues? How about your finances? Where has complacency sneaked into your relationships with your employees, your family or your health?
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ~ Albert Einstein
To keep complacency far away, try these 10 anti-complacency, pro-improvement practices.
1. Set goals every year, quarter, month and day so that you are always looking to achieve new goals and see new views.
2. Share your goals with others for accountability.
3. Do the things that you are avoiding FIRST! You will build your effectiveness muscle instead of your procrastination muscle. And while we are at it, do the thing that SCARES you the most. Staying safe is perhaps the most risky place to try and be, plus- it’s boring.
4. Celebrate achieving every goal, no matter how small. Celebrate learning, growth and overcoming fears just like you would winning first place in a marathon.
5. Don’t make excuses for failures or set backs. See them as learning opportunities. Ask yourself what you’ve learned and how you want to apply this learning to your future goals.
6. Search for feedback about your effectiveness and seek support to build on your strengths and address your edges.
7. Invest in your own personal development through reading, audio books and workshops.
8. Hire a coach. An excellent coach is one of THE most effective learning and development tools available to professionals. The best of any profession, whether you are an executive, small business owner, or professional golfer, all have coaches, some have many (and yes, so do I). Nobody wins without help and support.
9. Balance personal, professional, and health. It’s easy to to get so focused on one aspect of life that another aspect gets taken for granted. The best of the best focus on the most important aspects of the most important priorities of their lives. Don’t sacrifice your health for your work or your personal relationships. Keep a balance like a three legged stool.
10. Appreciate the ride and those on it. Take each day to be thankful for your day, your friendships, your employees, colleagues and family. We only have a short number of days on this planet. Make them count by noticing and appreciating all that’s right, all those who have helped and spend less time on energy sucking complaining.
These are just a few of the key ways to fight off complacency AND enjoy a journey of success. Which recommendation do you want to add to your leadership practice? Do it now. Don’t wait. Complacency is patient and will wait for its opportunity for you to feed it. Starve complacency! Choose behaviors that feed success.
Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts in the comments below. Sending you all great positive energy for your leadership journey.
Principal Consultant & Executive Coach
L4 Leadership LLC