Time and familiarity are two major factors that make these tasks easier. We have all had that experience in life where we took on some new thing (willingly or unwillingly) that was difficult at first but, with repetition, became less burdensome over time. As the days and weeks passed by and the activity continued, our brains put it on autopilot as habit and moved on to other things demanding more immediate attention.
Comfort.. in life, in business, in body. It is a mindset that many (most) people strive for.
A point where not everything being done feels so much like a chore. Whether it is developing an intimate relationship, building a loyal customer base or losing weight, we know that eventually there comes a point where the tasks of doing this work crest the peak of difficulty and become easier.
Make no mistake, success habits are a good thing. Doing things a certain way every time where the outcome is predictable and desirable makes life or business easier and more enjoyable. In fact, as my opening quote implies, the persistence of these habits is one of the core principles of lasting success. But, there is a real danger that, as we develop these habits, complacency can emerge as well.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines complacency as self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.
As the definition implies, complacency is sneaky. We feel like we are doing the right things, getting good results, filling up our church with people (so to speak). Yet there is a trap just waiting to be sprung that can completely derail our success track.
The good news though is simply knowing what complacency looks like can often be enough to navigate through it without becoming snared.
Here’s three warning signs that complacency is setting in:
1. Complacency destroys momentum
When we first go to work on habit creation, there is a lot of energy and effort expended. These efforts are rarely comfortable and even sometimes down right painful. We are spurred on though by a motivation to overcome the discomfort. As small successes in the process accumulate we develop an unexplained, but welcomed drive to continue in the right direction.
We are eager to ring the bell each Sunday when the flock is noticeably growing!
However, as our habit settles in, producing the desired result with less effort and conscious thought, that same drive begins to wane. The mental automation of the the steps is sufficient to keep things going for a while but the energy and focus behind it becomes lacking. Eventually, the habit is altered or dropped altogether, even though it was fundamentally important to our initial success.
The bell gets rung for a shorter time and with less enthusiasm at first and then eventually, not at all.
2. Complacency creates a false sense of security
The outward success of our habit often blinds us to the work that was initially required to get there. After living with the outcome for some time, it can be taken as a given that success will continue and the initial drive is all but lost. There is a sense that the success will now sustain itself because it is all around us, all the time.
The question in our mind becomes, “why ring the bell when everyone knows to come here?” Forgetting, of course that they come, in part at least, because the bell calls them to gather!
3. Complacency kills inspiration
The energy and passion of a new habit is infectious. There is an old saying that goes, “set yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” They are inspired if, for no other reason than just wanting to be warmed by our flames and share the growing crowd’s excitement. We are usually right up on the front row as an observer of our own fire too.
Returning to the church bell analogy, as people gather to the sound of
the bell, its easy to get caught up in the delight of the growing crowd
and forget to keep ringing the very bell the called them.
However, it is easy to get so caught up in the heat of our own burn that we forget to keep adding the fuel that started the fire. This causes the flames to die down and, with nothing more to watch, the crowed disperses seeking the warmth of inspiration from somewhere else. With the crowd gone and the burn now only embers, our own enthusiasm for the habit is lost as well.
Complacency is a real, but often hidden barrier to maintaining success. Even our most solid work and life habits are susceptible to this trap. We must remain vigilant for lost momentum or becoming too comfortable in our daily routines. And, we must always fuel even our most basic inspirations regularly. These are keys to maintaining comfortable success.