Everybody Has A Hungry Heart: Why Complacency Is Your Enemy

2009 December 23

I’m writing this curled up on the couch in the family room of my parents’ house. The wood stove is crackling, I have a dog on either side of me and I’m enjoying a nice cup of tea* with almond milk. What better circumstances under which to talk about the dangers of complacency?

282551690_628501b7fc[1]Photo by anthonygrimley

Sometimes, when things have been rough for seemingly forever, when we finally catch a decent break or a respite, the tendency is to hunker down and hold on for dear life. Things sucked, now they suck less, what more is there to say? And sure, if the sum total of your aspirations is a port in the storm (and depending on your life circumstances, that’s a perfectly legitimate goal), there isn’t really much more for me to say. But if you have the privilege of harboring grander dreams, visions, plans and wishes (articulated or just a vague longing for something more), complacency is your enemy. It’s your fork in the road – stay here in relative comfort, stability and routine, or keep pushing on toward what it is that you truly want. I’ll refrain from discussing the imperative of staying keen and hungry lest I stray into Wall Street/Glengarry Glen Ross/lyrics to a Springsteen song territory, but you get the drift.

There’s no small measure of guilt involved. Shouldn’t you be grateful for what you have, especially if you know what it’s like to have nothing at all? Why can’t you be happy with what you’ve got? Why do you have to be so greedy, so hard to please? But it’s not about greed. It’s not about being disatisifed with $500 million, when what you really want is a cool billion. It isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses and always needing the latest, the greatest, the cutting edgest accoutrements. No, it’s about realizing that while this job lets you pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, you break out in hives at the thought of doing it for the next 30 years. It’s about acknowledging that while your current significant other is a wonderfully caring, understanding, interesting person, he or she isn’t someone you could ever envision yourself yoked to until death do you part. It’s about not sublimating your long-term desires for the sake of short-term stability. I’m not advocating immediate break-ups, resignations or speed-dialing UHaul, but I am recommending that you take five or ten minutes this holiday season to give some thought to what you want (what you really, really want to quote the Spice Girls) and to look at your present circumstances and the decisions you’re currently living out. Are they supporting this idea of your future self? If not, just what are they providing you with – Security? Stability? Acceptance? A timeout from feeling as if your whole life has been spent thanklessly grinding it out?

Maybe you’ll decide that things are good enough for right now. Maybe you do need this period of intellectual shore leave to recoup and recharge. But while you’re getting your groove back, keep the bigger picture in the back of your mind. Don’t let a temporary hiatus become a permanent one and don’t let a comfortable routine lull you into forgoing your something more. Stay sharp and you’ll eventually be ready (and eager, even) to trade the r&r for more blood, sweat and tears. The Boss would surely tell you the same thing.

* Which I made in the microwave, despite the fact my parents have an electric kettle and a teapot. Take that haters!

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