Being happy with yourself

How to Stop Being Complacent

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: June 17, 2020
How to Stop Being Complacent

Starting articles with a definition is old hat, but complacency has different meanings depending on how you look at it. When we take it in the pejorative (i.e. the negative interpretation), it means self-satisfied, unconcerned and even obsequious. However, as good a case could be made to say that being complacent means being content, confident and happy. Why then do people see being complacent as such a bad thing? It could be because our societies value progress perhaps more than anything. It could be that it means you are squandering the potential to be even better than you are. oneHOWTO shows you how to stop being complacent, but also asks some questions about whether you should want to.

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  1. Should you stop being complacent?
  2. In what ways may we be complacent?
  3. How to stop being complacent

Should you stop being complacent?

Complacency is also equated with a lack of movement. If we are complacent, we might be so happy with our situation, we don't realize we have problems. It can skew the way we view life. We might think certain behavioral patterns are fine when, in reality, they are unhealthy and potentially detrimental to our physical and/or mental health.

Complacency can also have a negative impact on communities at large. If we are in a perpetual state of thinking that everything is fine, we might overlook the injustices perpetrated by others. According to Albert Camus:

Our civilization survives in the complacency of cowardly or malignant minds -- a sacrifice to the vanity of aging adolescents[1]

Too many people in this world suffer from inequality, from the basic lack of fundamentals for survival to unwarranted persecution for being born into the wrong circumstance. Thinking our lives are completely rosy and without problem makes it more likely we won't do anything to improve the lives of those less fortunate.

However, constantly being in movement doesn't necessarily mean being healthy either. We need to rest because constant movement makes us tired. Always striving for something better can mean we don't appreciate what we have. We might look at our work or relationships and see them as being inadequate, when really they are well suited to us.

Often the problem with being complacent is that we don't see the actuality of a circumstance. It makes us believe that finding happiness is not only an impossibility, but if we were to find it, it would be disappointing. If being complacent means being both content and being happy about being content, is it really such a bad way to be?

You should want to stop being complacent for one of two reasons. Firstly, if your complacency leads to the perpetuation of inequality and is to the detriment of others, you should stop. If your complacency means you are personally unsatisfied and results in personal problems, you need to change.

However, before you go about making big changes in your life, it's important to take stock and ensure you appreciate what you have. If you don't, you might make a change for the worse.

In what ways may we be complacent?

Complacency at work

Complacency in our jobs can creep up on us. In the USA, workers spend an average of 54.5% of their weekdays at work or doing “work related activities”[2]. If we take into consideration an average sleeping pattern of 8 hours per night, it means we devote so much time to work during our waking lives, complacency becomes problematic.

If we slog away at something which does not nourish us in the right way, then we will build up resentment. What it is we feel we need, however, should not be dictated by anyone but ourselves. Many people are happy to work jobs which aren't the most stimulating, but which facilitate the things they do enjoy via a paycheck.

Other people may not have the greatest pay, but work in a profession which simulates them and provides the kind of community they are looking for. A good example of this may be teaching, a job which is notoriously underpaid for the work required.

If you think you are capable of more at work, that you aren't being appreciated for your ability, getting complacent can be a problem. The way you perceive your job will have a great effect on your productivity. The job market can be very competitive and complacency is something which will get noticed by superiors. If you don't look motivated or even interested, then you might be putting your employment in jeopardy.

Getting complacent at work can be more or less problematic to the wider world depending on the profession. If you are a police officer and you get complacent, this can be detrimental for the community. If you work minimum wage and/or low-skilled jobs, many people see complacency as expected. It might be less likely, however, that your complacency in this role has a far reaching effect.

Whatever job you work, complacency can really affect the individual. If, however, you misconstrue complacency for job satisfaction, things might be different. While not everyone can be John D. Rockefeller, your job might actually be something which provides well for your needs. You might not feel like you are a fundamental cog in the machine, but many people working jobs which at face value don't seem glamorous, are important parts of a community on which many rely.

Complacency in relationships

Becoming complacent in a romantic relationship is often the beginning of the end. When you have gone through the initial stages of courtship, where everything is exciting and new, moving on to the next stage is tricky. Equally, if you have been going out for a long time, complacency can sneak up unexpectedly. When the momentum of the early days of a relationship dissipates, becoming complacent is hard to avoid.

The reason for complacency is difficult. We need many different things from a relationship and, often, we aren't even sure what they are. We can seek comfort, security and reassurance from a partner. But if this comfort appears to be leading to boredom, then resentment often grows. When one partner is complacent, it can make the other feel ignored and undervalued.

Equally, we might have idealistic relationship goals which have no chance of matching reality. Whether this is from a proclivity to watching trite romantic comedies or looking at other couples and comparing yourself negatively, complacency can make it feel like you are wasting opportunities. In reality, relationships take a level of work which love stories often omit and other people's private lives can be very different from their public perception.

We can do the same with family. Families are fertile breeding grounds for complacency. They are often the longest relationships we have and we can take them for granted. It is common for many adolescents to only realize the work and care parents give to us growing up when it starts to become too late. When they enter adulthood and the rigors of working life become more apparent, it is often only then they appreciate family.

Complacency in our family lives, however, has a flip side also. If we put up with abusive family members or negative behavior, we might end up bringing this into the families we wish to establish.

How to Stop Being Complacent -

Complacency in personal development

So many Hollywood movies have the familiar trope of a man-child living past 30 while still acting like they are 18. They continue a behavior which doesn't progress them at all until they fall in to some "amazing" circumstance which throws their lives upside down. Unfortunately, we don't always have the same convenient plot developments in our own lives. If we have complacency in our personal development, we might be doing a lot of harm.

Most spiritual teachings have a goal to aim towards. Whether it is heaven, nirvana or Valhalla, progress towards something better means work. A general term for it may be spiritual enlightenment. If we don't strive towards something, it can seem like we are stagnant.

In practical terms, if we don't develop and grow, then we might end up being unable to cope with basic social needs. We might end up spending too much time on the couch with Cheeto stained fingers to go out and meet new people. We might get stuck in a job which doesn't fulfil us in any real way.

However, like any aspect of our lives, complacency can be confused with frustration. They are not the same thing. You can be complacent and frustrated, but equally, you can be complacent and contented. If you live a life which doesn't warrant a Wikipedia entry, it doesn't mean you are insignificant. Enlightenment means to fully understand ourselves. If we understand ourselves and are happy with or despite our circumstance, then you might actually have a great shot at happiness.

The quest for spiritual enlightenment is often put before many other factors. People who want to push a particular religious agenda often end up causing friction against those with a different one. If everyone was actually spiritually complacent, they would be more likely to accept their own views without denouncing those of others. In this case, complacency could be beneficial and promote peace.

People who are complacent in their personal development when younger will struggle to grow adequately. If we were complacent with gurgling as toddlers, we would never develop the ability to speak. However, we often might feel like we have something missing when we are actually well-stocked in terms of self-satisfaction. We should always be open to making improvements, but equally, we shouldn't perpetuate negative thoughts about ourselves if they are not justified.

When it comes to our physical health, being complacent can have problems too. You might think that your steady diet of fast food and lack of exercise is fine, but your arteries might feel differently. Equally, if you go too far the other way with health concerns, you might develop hypochondriasis.

How to stop being complacent

  • The first way to stop being complacent is to take stock. Look at the key areas of your life and be as objective as possible. Pro and con lists are basic, but they can also be helpful. If we want to be reasonable about our circumstances, then we need to look at what is helping us positively.
  • You can practice mindfulness meditation if you need help to see things more clearly. It can help some to better see their place in life without making judgment on it. However, if you are worried about being complacent, you should be wary of jumping into any sort of ideological cure. They often provide answers which seem appropriate, but can take you down the wrong path.
  • It is impossible to be completely objective about our own selves, so it is helpful to talk to someone else. If we feel like we are complacent in our relationships, not talking to anyone about it will feed negative thoughts. Once we expose these thoughts to someone else (ideally many opinions), then we will have a better ability to see the bigger picture more clearly.
  • One of the most important ways to stop being complacent is to be appreciative. There are things we should never tolerate: abuse, actions leading to poor mental health and any general behavior which causes harm to others. However, we often feel like we are lacking something when really we have a lot to offer. Being appreciative of the good things in your life can mean you don't undervalue them. Acknowledging your own limitations can mean they don't hold you back. Instead, you should be better able to navigate life because you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • As others can help take us out of complacency, we might need to look at our social circle. Are we surrounded by people who we don't agree with? Are they feeding negative thoughts about ourselves by projecting misconceived ideals? On the other hand, do we only spend time with people who agree with us and don't push us to think more? We should spend time with people who nourish us in all ways. This means ability to enjoy life as much as it does intellectual stimulation.
  • Practically, you can help beat complacency by setting goals. If you have something to strive for, it can help you at least feel like you have momentum. However, your goals need to be realistic and you should be grateful for opportunities you have. If you reach certain goals, but still feel empty, it is likely there is something else at fault.
  • Being active is very helpful when trying to stop being complacent. Sometimes it is repeated behavior which makes you more complacent. We get stuck in a habit and they can be hard to get out of. If this habit means you aren't mobile, finding ways to get active can help you replace bad habits with good ones. This can mean being more social, getting more exercise or going to lectures and meetings where you can get energized.
  • Confidence is great for overcoming complacency, but misplaced confidence can make things even worse. Be confident in your abilities, but be reasonable in your assessments of said abilities.

It is not easy to overcome being complacent. We get stuck in thought patterns which have been created by a variety of different reasons. Sometimes we need specific action to alleviate these problems, such as counselling or therapy. We also need to make sure we are not looking for problems which are not there.

Beating complacency is usually a long term objective. We will often have periods where we are more complacent than others. These might be useful periods to allow rest from constant striving. If being complacent leads to continuing harmful behavior, then this is not so useful.

Being grateful of what we have, while recognizing the times to fight against injustice is tricky. Acknowledging it is tricky is often the first step towards not being complacent.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Stop Being Complacent, we recommend you visit our Mental health category.

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