Oct 112011
Success by Richard Styles

Adversity has its uses. It keeps you sharp and on your toes, ready to manage all that life has to throw at you. This is the only way to survive and triumph. Conversely, success blunts your edge. It makes you lax when you should be firm. It makes you complacent when you should be vigilant and there lies the danger.

Celebration of Light 2011 by Michellerlee

The Dangers of Success

Anybody can discern the obvious dangers of adversity. It has all the subtlety of a truck running right over you. But if you manage to survive the first truck, the other trucks will find it harder to hit you because you are ready for them.

On the other hand, the dangers of success are harder to notice. By the time, you come face to face with danger here; you will feel as if a few trucks have run over you. This is simply because you were not prepared and could not get out of the way in time. Continued success makes most people complacent. And as the old saying goes, “it never rains but pours.”

1. Change is the Only Constant in Life

Change is the only constant in life. This is good news and bad news. The good news is adversity will not last forever. The bad news is the same goes for success and good times. Unless you are constantly vigilant and planning ahead, it is easy for a change in fortune to catch you off guard after a period of abundance. We cannot take anything for granted in life, most of all success and good fortune.

2. Complacency

Despite the bad press that adversity has, it keeps you sharp and on your toes. Once you get used to it, it is easier to manage challenges during such times because you are in a state of constant readiness. Every fibre of your being is looking for ways to survive and thrive.

Success, on the other hand, is a time of deliverance. It is a time of triumph over adversity, where all your efforts have come to fruition. Tensions and complications ease and there is no longer any need to struggle. Too much ease however, can be a bad thing. It can make you complacent and creates an inertia, which can cause problems later. For example, if you have not exercised for weeks, your muscles are bound to be sore after your first session.

Danger by Reinvented

The Dangers of Complacency

So what are some of the dangers that come with being complacent? Before we look at the dangers of complacency, let us look at some definitions. What is complacency?

Dictionary.com defines it as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”

With these definitions in mind, let us look at some of the challenges of complacency.

1. Inertia

When things are going well, there is no need to change anything or act. In fact, it is better to leave things alone. Why fix the wheel if it is not broken? But as time passes, this inactivity will make it harder for you to move out of your comfort zone. All this is well and good when things are well and good. But when unexpected change happens, you will need a great effort to overcome the inertia brought about by complacency. The problem is you might not have the time needed to adjust and adapt.

2. Resistance to Change

Those who are complacent see no need to change or to learn anything new. But in truth, there are always new discoveries and ideas happening around the world each day. Time and tide waits for no one. Innovative technologies and ideas today can quickly become obsolete tomorrow. This is the way of change and life.

As such, there is no room for complacency at any point in our lives as it only leaves us unable to cope. The rest of the world will move on whether you keep up or not. It is therefore vital to keep abreast of relevant and useful changes to manage change.

3. Laxity

A great danger of complacency is laxity. Instead of maintaining the levels of readiness and discipline you had during adversity, you allow things to decline over time. Logically, there is no need for such effort since this is a time of ease. But ease and success do not last forever. Becoming too lax is not the answer because it makes it much harder to rise to the challenge when change happens. We must strike a careful balance in life to keep our edge.

4. Errors of Judgement

Another danger has to do with errors of judgement. It is easy for the complacent to underestimate challenges and to overestimate their ability to cope. This error in judgement can cost them dearly in the face of sudden change.

Yet change is rarely sudden. There are usually many signs that precede it. But complacency can easily cloud our judgement and ability to notice these signs. Under such circumstances, even if it should not be the case, change can come as a shock and paralyze those who are complacent. Then, there is a scramble to act and adapt. Now if only they knew better in the first place.

Taking Action

There is nothing good or bad about success and adversity. What truly matters is how you manage them. While the dangers of adversity are more obvious, you should not let your guard down during periods of good fortune and success.

Can you think of any other dangers hidden within success and good fortune? What other dangers of complacency can you think of? Do share your thoughts and comments below! :)

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  20 Responses to “The Dangers of Complacency”

  1. Delighted to see this post Irving. Thanks for writing it and ‘getting into the arena’ again. Your voice is absolutely unique.

    Your words on inertia struck a real chord in me, because I fell prey to inertia big time during a certain phase of my life. I was so sure everything would continue the same as it had been for many years. But then one day – bang, thunder crashing. Everything changed.

    It took me a long time to dig myself out of the unhappy situation in which I found myself. Even though ultimately it was all a big blessing… but inertia is not healthy and not part of natural living.

    With blessings and every good wish.
    Christopher Foster recently posted..Life, death, and the hero within us allMy Profile

    • Hi Christopher,

      I am glad you enjoyed the post! It is good to be back. :)

      I think anyone of us can fall prey to inertia. I for one am no exception. Just because I can wax lyrical about it doesn’t mean I am immune to it. Goodness knows how many times I experienced what you did.

      All we can really do is to be aware of the dangers of complacency and prepare as best as we can.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  2. Hi Irving,
    I’m with Christopher. It’s really good to see you back and to look forward to your wonderful insightful messages. Complacency has tripped me up more times than I care to acknowledge, but still working on it.
    Riley Harrison recently posted..ARE YOU LIVING OR MERELY EXISTING?My Profile

    • Hi Riley,

      It is indeed good to be back. I never realized how much I missed this and how natural it is for me to write until now.

      Complacency gets even the best of us doesn’t it? But that just means we are all in the same boat and we can help each other out as needed.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  3. I missed you! Welcome back!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..SerendipityMy Profile

  4. Right now I am dealing with that ‘resistance to change.’ Had enough for awhile, but you know… because of all the changes that have come my way I am learning so many new things, doing new things. Yes, change is good, inertia does not get us anywhere, and fighting it all is the worst move of all!

    I am a bit stuck right now, but am climbing out of the hole, one step at a time!! :-)
    Barbara recently posted..I am stuck… I admit it!My Profile

    • Hi Barbara,

      Resistance to change is certainly not easy to manage. Sometimes we are not even consciously aware of the resistance. There are so many ways we can justify our thoughts and actions to ourselves.

      Yet change we must whether we want to or not, whether we realize it or not. And as you rightly point out, we will learn and do many new things in the process. Change will help us to grow in character and development. But with all things, we must proceed one step at a time.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  5. Irving,

    I’m so glad to see you back too. It feels like an auspicious sign in my life! I fully resonate with everything you have said in this article as change recently knocked me for a loop. I appreciate the definitions of complacency, especially the one that links it with a sense of security. How could I ever have forgotten that life is impermanent! Yikes. But how do we keep that awareness alive and not become complacent?

    Laxity, resistance to change, everything you’ve said rings true. You are right, there are always signs yet it is so easily to let them slip by. Then the shock comes. I see your sage advice to not let our guard down during periods of success. But how do we actually do that! That’s a question I will be exploring, but for the moment I am flowing with change.
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..Open Your Heart and Drink!My Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      I’ve never been called an auspicious sign before, but that is just one more reason that it is good to be back. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful comments. :)

      I am sorry to hear that change caught you unawares recently. I do hope things turned out well for you in the end. :)

      As I mentioned earlier in my comments, even though I write about complacency, that does not make me immune to it. Awareness is the first step, but it is only the first step. There are so many things that distract us in life that it is hard to maintain a constant vigilance.

      How do we keep this awareness of complacency alive? How do we remain vigilant even in good times? These are indeed good questions and I will attempt to tackle them in my article next week on how to manage complacency. :D

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  6. I am learning so many new things, doing new things. I see your sage advice to not let our guard down during periods of success.Thank you for sharing your inspiring great topic..
    karen recently posted..Understanding Arizona Bankruptcy: What Debts are Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?My Profile

    • Hi Karen,

      It is always good to learn and do new things. Such is one of the joys of life. :)

      I am glad that despite your success, you are also aware of the need to be vigilant towards a change in fortune.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  7. Welcome back, Irving!

    For me, complacency happens when I either lack the passion or am not aligned with my dreams. I become confused, unclear and go around in circles. However, once I start to gain clarity on where I want to head, complacency drops.
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..Launch News: Self-Love Secrets eBookMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      It is indeed good to be back! :)

      Clarity is an excellent point! I too have experienced periods of confusion where I am unsure about the next step to take. During such moments of dithering, I can become complacent and procrastinate and go around in circles. It is vital to be clear about our goals and passion. Only then will we know how, why and what to do to press forward instead of remaining in our comfort zones.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  8. Irving: Really good and insightful post. I do think we need to always do everything we can to make certain we don’t become too complacent. I really thought what you shared here was right on point and very helpful. Great post.
    Sibyl recently posted..How You Keep Pursuing What You Want When the Going Gets ToughMy Profile

    • Hi Sibyl,

      Managing complacency is a full time job.

      We have to be sure to take mini-vacations to ensure we don’t burn out.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  9. Hi Irving,

    like you I think I have had my fair share of being complacency. There is such a fine line between complacency and confidence. The latter is desired but when unguarded leads to the former which has all it’s repercussion as you have mentioned in this post.

    I am always cautioning myself and my charges against complacency yet I want want the most optimal levels of confidence because that is where we really fly.

    I have a thought for you and the rest to consider. How can we build in self monitoring or external systems to alert us when complacency is close and setting in? Personally for me, I think it is in the language and actions we use and do. There is a certain way we speak and act that tells us that we are in danger. The trick of course is how we can detect this to serve us.

    Jimmy recently posted..Should a Personal Development Program be Taught in Schools?My Profile

    • Hi Jimmy,

      Indeed there is a fine line between complacency and confidence. I feel that the thing that separates the two is awareness of the changing reality.

      I think it is a good idea to monitor the languages and the actions we use and do. But one would have to be very watchful and aware here. It would take constant alertness since we are not really aware of our thoughts most of the time. It would involve taking note of the subtle shifts in the words we use I think.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  10. Irving,

    Well, well, well look who finally decided to come back. I have been out there searching for inspiration elsewhere thanks to your absence. :-) It’s good to have you back.

    I have been a victim of complacency for a long time. I just got comfortable in the place I was in and didn’t take any effort to progress. The funny thing is when you don’t move the world doesn’t stop. Just think about the tech industry. If I didn’t give the effort to research and develop the next generation of products I wouldn’t exist because things quickly evolve. It is the same with our own lives. The things that worked 50 years ago won’t work now. That is why complacency has to die.

    Continual growth is not only beneficial but it is necessary. Thanks for sharing this post. It has enlightened me.

    P.S. Next time you go away for a long period of time at least give us a heads up. We were worried sick! :-)
    Frank recently posted..The People Who Inspire MeMy Profile

    • It’s good to see you too Frank! :)

      I don’t think it is just you. We all fall prey to complacency from time to time.

      But one striking insight you have made is the world doesn’t stop when we do. That is absolutely right. While it is tempting to think the world revolves around us, it doesn’t. This is why we have to manage complacency effectively when it happens to us.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

      P.S: No worries Frank. If I ever go away again for a long period of time, I would be sure to keep you all informed now that I realize how much my presence has been missed. :)

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