Complacency breeds mediocrity. Good is the enemy of great. We’ve all heard these phrases. They’re meant to be motivational, inspiring us to push ourselves. Be better. Do more. But more often than not, I see the words get twisted in a way that leaves us feeling like we can never quite be good enough.
Throughout my conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, we often address the question, “so what’s next?” As someone who is surrounded by so many high-achieving people, I can quickly become discouraged just thinking about it. Questions like, “What’s next?” “What else is out there?” “How will I know when I’ve ‘made it’?” can easily consume my thoughts and I catch myself getting sucked into a mindset of always striving for something more, without being entirely sure of what “more” is.
I remember one discussion where I was struck by the concept of contentment versus complacency. I was making the argument that we should strive to be content in life and appreciate the things around us, but I was immediately countered with “Well sure, but complacency breeds mediocrity.”
I think we often mistake complacency and contentment, arguing that if we are content, we will cease striving towards our goals. According to Webster’s, contentment is the state of peaceful satisfaction. An ease of the mind. Complacency is the feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try and make them better. It’s that last part that’s absolutely critical to understand. Contentment is not about reaching a point where you don’t want to achieve more. It’s reaching a point where you don’t need to.
There is a danger in never truly being satisfied. We get wrapped up in thinking things like, “if only I got another promotion/another raise/the fancy car/was married/had children/[insert #lifegoal here]...” But if we can’t find contentment with what we have now, nothing will ever take us there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s bad to have goals or that we should ever get to a place where we stop striving. But I don’t want to be so focused on trying to achieve the elusive “more” that I never take the time to appreciate the beautiful life I’ve been given.
Contentment is a choice. It can’t be found in another promotion, another raise, a better car, or a bigger house. Contentment says that you choose to be happy in what you have and what you’ve accomplished, while still striving onward. Complacency is lazy. Contentment is a pursuit. It is the difference in being joyful with what you have and being lazy about improvement.
So, take the time to look around you. To really appreciate what you have. Whether it be your career, your family, the friends you have surrounded yourself with, or even just the fact that you have food on the table. We all have something to be thankful for. Dare to live in the moment. Dare to be present. And live in the peace and joy that can be found when you allow yourself to be content.