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The cure for one of today’s greatest viruses: Entitlement

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2016 - 12:00am

One of the greatest societal viruses in modern times is the attitude of entitlement. Today, there are many — mostly millennials, as studies will show  — who possess a stance of being special or exceptional, of being owed, of deserving to have only the best. Entitlement is a behavior that refuses to accept responsibility, and denies one’s impact on others. Whatever the cause of this plague is, the bottom-line effect is that the person believes that he or she doesn’t have to play by the rules of responsibility, ownership, and commitment.

Dr. John Townsend, bestselling author and psychologist, recently released the book The Entitlement Cure, which examines the dangers of the entitlement phenomenon. His main thesis is that you live in a culture that says, “Life should be easy and work well.” This attitude manipulates the way important institutions — family, business, church, and government — behave. Its devastating effects contribute to relational problems, work-ethic issues, and emotional struggles. “People are not getting to where they want to go because they don’t know how to do life the hard way,” Townsend declares. “Entitlement keeps them from tackling challenges and finding success. There are better ways.” And these better ways, he adds, are principles and skills to help you navigate life with those around you who have an entitlement mindset, as well as identify areas in your own life where you are stuck in “easy way” living.

Do it the hard way. It’s the cure to entitlement. There is no easy way to a life of comfort, devoid of work and struggles. There is only the “hard way” — the habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome. The hard way is always the right way. You don’t develop the character abilities and relationships necessary to become the person God intended you to be if you depend too much on the easy route. Shortcuts will only prevent you from learning lessons you need to master.

• Accept that hard things mean making mistakes. The first few times you do anything are generally when you make the most mistakes, whether it be a tough conversation, redoing a plan, or disappointing someone’s expectations of you. But take that step.  Don’t be discouraged, be determined and just plunge in.

• Entitlement is hurtful to you and to others. You may believe that your business is yours and yours alone — far from it. You live in a community, you’re part of a family. Your waking hours are mostly spent in your workplace. Your choices and the way you live your life affects all people in these places. If you choose to engage in self-destructive behavior, it affects everyone who cares about you. If you choose to excuse entitlement in others, you simply pass along the responsibility, which someone else must meet. Bad situations don’t get better on their own, much as you wish they would.

• Meet “needs” and starve “entitlement.” Learn the difference between a “need” and an “entitled desire.” The former should be met, while the latter should be starved. It comes down to this: that which creates love, growth, and ownership versus that which creates superiority or demand for special treatment. Praising a person’s character can never go wrong.  Praising his or her false and grandiose attitudes and behaviors is like throwing your money down a hole. Don’t waste your love and support. Place it where it bears good fruit.

• Don’t allow entitlement to limit your goals and growth. One of the most limiting ideas of entitlement is thinking that the end goal of life is “happiness.” There is nothing wrong with that, but in a healthy life, happiness comes as a byproduct of doing what you love, having a purpose, and giving back. You don’t give your talents so that you’ll be happy. You give them because you care and you want to make a difference.  Entitlement also freezes development. It prevents you from growing, learning or trying new things. And when you succumb to its lures, you simply get in a rut and routine that becomes boring and deadening.

Create an environment where change is possible. If you want change to happen, you must want and will it. That means surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you and want to see you flourish. In helping others who need to change, you must first stop doing whatever it is that enables them, and help them to see the consequences of staying the same and the benefits of change. “Relationships which promote growth require the presence of grace and truth in each person.”

• Accept that discipline is good for you. It’s necessary in a positive change process. Build an internal structure, the combination of your capacities to focus, persevere, and delay gratification toward a goal, as well as an external structure — a framework of reminders and short-term goals that breaks time down into bite-sized elements. As the adage goes, “Form your habits — then your habits will form you.”

• If you care about people, care about your behavior. Your own behavior affects others. When you are reliable and responsive, other people’s jobs go better, they feel better, and their lives go better. When you let them down by failing to keep your commitments, even if you don’t intend to, it disrupts the lives of the people you care about. Ultimately, the determination to keep commitments, no matter how inconvenient, comes down to your empathic love for others.

• Respect the future. The number-one feeling that results from thinking about the future is anxiety, a sense of heightened tension. You need a healthy amount of anxiety. It keeps you getting up in the morning so that you won’t lose your job, and helps you set limits when you are pushed beyond reason. Those things are called “adaptive anxiety,” something that gives you just enough of an edge to keep some guardrails on your behavior. The other level of anxiety is called “overwhelming anxiety.” It paralyzes and keeps you frozen in fear. It creates the “fight or flight” syndrome that pushes you into behaviors that don’t help you.

• Say you’re wrong. When you talk to people about your failures, the emotional awareness of what you have done comes to the surface, and it becomes much harder to avoid and pretend it’s not there. It’s like what happens when you drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a glass of water. The water releases the potency of the tablet, which was inert until then. Relationships release how you really feel and simply avoid admitting fault to others, intuitively knowing that they might feel some reality that will be difficult to deal with.

• Let pain work for you. You don’t have to enjoy pain. But use it. Deal with it completely. It will work for you. When you face the pain of negative realities, learn from them, dig into them, and succeed. Celebrate, and celebrate well. Dedicate your first energy to facing the pain that keeps you from your success. As has been said, the first step in change is admitting that you need to change. Many things will keep you from this admission, but it is truly necessary to move forward, and is in fact a regulation that needs to be embraced. “Nothing substantive happens in your life until you humble yourself enough to say the words ‘I was wrong.’”

Entitlement is a fallacy built on egocentricity and indolence. In business and life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you think you deserve — it’s what you go and get.

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Email bongosorio@gmail.com for comments, questions and suggestions. Thank you for communicating. The Entitlement Cure is available at National Book Store.

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