THE TRAGEDY OF COMPLACENCY
The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency.
Not in doing too much, but doing too little.
Not in living above your means but below your capacity.
It is not failure but aiming too low that is life’s greatest tragedy.
- Benjamin E. Mays
The dictionary defines complacency as a feeling of smug satisfaction with one’s little achievement, preventing the person from striving harder. Complacency connotes laxity, a level of laziness and carelessness, resignation and a lackadaisical attitude to self improvement and goals. It sets in when an individual or organisation or group is lulled into a sense of passivity or comfort leading to monotony and a disconnection from bigger dreams and goals.
I was very young when I heard the word complacence for the first time. My class teacher had followed me home to complain to my father that although I was top of the class, I was getting complacent. He advised that I needed more academic challenge than I was getting in the class. He told my Dad that although brilliant, I could begin to do poorly if I was not mentally challenged. The whole discussion went over my head, in fact I thought I was in trouble and expected some form of chastisement from my Dad. He just looked at me and said, “So you now think that you can pass exams without studying?” He instructed other family members who were in senior classes to share their homework with me with the unstated threat that it was in my good interest to excel. I began to borrow their textbooks to read in order to understand and solve their class assignments. I believe that simple exercise created challenges that improved my overall scholarliness.
In hindsight, I salute the teacher for his concern and timely intervention. The easiest thing to do is nothing and that is why people easily fall into the trap of complacency. It is a slow fade, often setting in without one being aware and it can happen both in business and in private relationships. You suddenly realise that you are no longer improving on yourself; you have zero motivation to do more. You get comfortable with the same level of achievement and tell yourself that you are much better off than many. A large number of 9-5’ers are miserable at their jobs but they can’t imagine going through the stress of looking for better jobs or trying to start over, so they remain in their career prison, doing the barest minimum to get their monthly pay slips. Some people get married and it’s as if they have crossed the finish line, they shut the door against personal grooming and enhancement. For some, it’s been ages since they read any book or took advantage of the numerous self-help courses online. Some professionals are not aware of innovations in their own field, they still rely on outdated information they got from college, years ago.
Whatever category you may identify with, either as an individual or a corporate staff, an employer, parent or partner, there are a few factors that may have contributed to such complacency:
Success can lead to complacency,
and complacency is the greatest enemy of success.
– Brian Tracy
Success too easily obtained, if not checked, mostly leads to complacency. In my country Nigeria, for instance, the oil boom we enjoyed, post independence, created a financial cushion that nearly sent the country into economic complacence. While at the peak of the oil boom, scant attention was paid to other sectors which had hitherto been major contributors to the economy. It took deliberate policy rehash to turn that tide. In the same manner, an organisation may have a well-received product or service and concentrate all its attention and resource on that one line without developing other fall-back positions. The organisation would focus on some narrow functional goals and be lulled into a false sense of contentment by immediate and available inflow of funds; the trick of complacency.
Accolades carelessly given can also backfire. This is often evident in parenting techniques. In trying to utilise modern parenting tools, children get praised unnecessarily for minute achievements. The attempt to build children’s self-confidence and show parental support could go overboard. A child is several miles off target and the parents shout “Good job!” “Keep it up!” Of course, that child may grow with the mentality that minimal effort is a good job. Sometimes parents are so busy that all they can do is rattle off some cheers and hope that between the teachers and the care givers, the child is adequately supervised.
In the corporate environment, team spirit is encouraged and celebrated but sometimes it hides complacency; workers could become nonchalant when they feel that their colleagues will always cover up the slack. Some line managers are very good at truancy or total dereliction of duties under the camouflage of delegation. If such manipulate-able methods are not closely supervised, they could lead to complacence among workers.
Some people use faith as a reason to remain stuck.
They often say, “I have faith, so I’m waiting.”
But faith is not complacent; faith is action.
You don’t have faith and wait. When you have faith, you move.
Complacency actually exposes lack of faith.
– Betty Eadie
There’s a fine line between contentment and complacency; complacency kills success, dulls innovation and extinguishes dreams. For an individual, business or partnership to succeed, great care must be taken to stay on the right side of the line by detecting and eliminating smugness in good time. It is important to self-evaluate and know if this terrible malaise has slipped into your private or corporate life and to quickly challenge yourself into action to shake off the lethargy.
To discourage complacency in children, be more intentional about the praises. Encourage the child without diminishing the need to put in more work where necessary. This also pans out for workers. Let the target be in focus and if the target has been met, then it is time to set new goals. The world is constantly changing and individuals need to adapt to these changes by continuously re-evaluating and re-engineering their own stance and goals.
Reward innovation and challenge creativity. Move your officers around, no one should get stuck doing the same job for years. Throw in new challenges, encourage learning of new skills or improvement of old skills and give the workers the correct tools to achieve success.
Remember that to do the extra ordinary and impossible, you first start with the necessary and then move on to the possible. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the impossible and achieving extra-ordinary results.
Welcome to the 2nd half of 2022.
Fatherhood with Ibe
PARENTING STYLES: SPARING THE ROD
A kind lady – a parent, herself, and a medical practitioner, shared an encounter she had with a father and his son in her consulting room. I find the piece quite interesting and illuminating and hope it helps other parents. Enjoy her story!
My patient Tunde, 16 years old at the time, had come in with his Dad. I work often with adolescents because a lot of changes take place in their bodies. Some of them look like adults but still think like children; believing in fairytales and fantasies, so I have found that they need special attention.
I asked Tunde why he was in hospital and he told me that his dad promised him dental braces if he performed excellently in his terminal examination.
“I just passed, so I am here to get my braces.” He said.
As was the hospital procedure, he needed to get a referral from the General outpatient department before the dental unit would attend to him, so Tunde was in my consulting room to get the referral letter. I asked him his reason for demanding a dental brace, if he had any tooth anomalies? He said there was nothing wrong with his teeth but that he wanted the brace because a celebrity he loved was using dental braces.
I was shocked. As a General practitioner, I know people use dental braces for cosmetic reasons but a 16 year old teenager, without any teeth anomaly wanted dental brace because a celebrity he saw only on TV was using it? I asked his father if he heard the reason Tunde gave for demanding a dental brace. He looked at me sheepishly and shrugged.
“Doctor, what can I do? He said that was what he wanted for his success in the final examinations. You know how these children can be. As I made that promise, if I don’t fulfil it, there would be trouble at home.”
I couldn’t believe my ears; a 16 year old boy had dictated his childish desires and his father and parent ran to obey so that the boy would not sulk?
I saw impending danger here and for the sake of both father and child, I started counselling them on ADOLESCENCE AND PARENTING.
I asked Tunde for permission to counsel him along with his father. He did not decline though but asked what the counselling was for. Was there any problem with getting the braces, he asked? I asked him what he understood by being an adolescent. He seemed not to understand much about adolescence despite being one. I asked the father what he knew about parenting an adolescent.
“Doctor is there anything special about parenting adolescents?” He asked me.
I could see that he genuinely did not know. No wonder Tunde was in my consulting room for a cosmetic dental brace motivated by hero worship of a virtual mentor.
“Adolescence is a stage of life for people between 10 and 19 years. This stage can be developmentally divided into three according to World Health Organisation (WHO). First, is early adolescence (10-13), mid adolescence (14-16) and late adolescence (17-19). Early adolescents have brain of a child and 50% body of a young adult. Mid adolescents have 50% child’s brain and 50% adult’s brain and body of an adult. The late adolescents have brain of an adult and the body of an adult.” I let them work out where Tunde fell in.
“Now, parenting is guiding and nurturing a child in all aspects of life either you are the biological or non biological parent. There are four ways you can parent a child and the value of each parenting style is based on two issues: LOVE AND DISCIPLINE.
The four types of parenting are:
- Permissive parenting which is LOVING A CHILD ALL THE TIME WITHOUT DISCIPLINE;
- Authoritarian parenting style – DISCPLINING A CHILD ALL THE TIME WITHOUT ANY LOVE;
- Uninvolved parenting style – when parents are not doing any of the two above, NO LOVE, NO DISCIPLINE, the child is on his or her own.
- Authoritative parenting style, also known as Balanced parenting style, which involves LOVING AND DISCIPLINING A CHILD EQUALLY. Research rates Authoritative parenting style as the best parenting style and the other three parenting styles as defective.
I turned to Tunde’s father and asked him which of the parenting styles he had been using with Tunde. The 56 year old man was quiet for almost two minutes; surprisingly, when he spoke, his voice was clogged with emotion.
“Doctor, no doubt the Permissive Parenting style seems to be the one I have been using with Tunde.” He said slowly. “What can l do now? Is it not too late for him? Do you know that l raised his two older brothers the same way? I tried to give them everything I could and l must tell you that they have not been doing well on their own. The first brother has drug issues and the second one is just irresponsible. I always blame them and recount all the sacrifices I made for them. I didn’t know that the fault is mine.”
To my surprise, Tunde was also in tears as he listened to his father; no doubt, moved by the sudden realization that he was clearly headed in the direction of his older ones. He told his father that it was not too late for him.
“I don’t want to be like my brothers.” He said and surprised me further by saying that he didn’t want the dental braces anymore. “Daddy, I want to make you proud. You have made a lot of sacrifices for us and I never want to let you down”.
“Thank you, my son. I am so glad we came here today.” The pair hugged each other.
I walked away to give them some privacy; my vision was blurred by a well of tears. Did I just change a life, a future, a family, a generation? No doubt, Tunde would have grown and gone ahead to parent his own children the wrong way and the trend would have continued and become trans-generational. Till this day, I’m happy that l had made an impact.
In conclusion, I would like to appeal to every parent reading this, anywhere in the world: LOVING A CHILD WITHOUT DISCIPLINING THEM IS DESTROYING THEIR LIVES. Please, love your child, meet their needs, cater for them, ask for their opinion and respect their opinions to the extent that that opinion is beneficial to their present and future. After considering their highest good, the final say is yours. Do not shirk on that responsibility; show your children the right path. They may not appreciate it today, but when balanced, LOVE AND DISCIPLINE PARENTING STYLE always pays off. They will thank you tomorrow.