Venture capitalist and author Guy Kawasaki once wrote, “Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.” I’ve lived this so I know it to be true.
For most of my life I’ve been in pretty good situations both socially and financially. But right after I finished my degree in 2010, my family was hit with significant money problems.
We had suffered those before but this was different. Bills went unpaid. Dinners had to be rationed. Water was lunch. Thankfully we had friends and family donate stuff for us.
While this time in my life lasted less than a year, I had to call it like I saw it: we were poor. And yet, I had never felt more alive.
I didn’t feel more alive because I was hungry more often. I didn’t feel more alive because I was worried they’d cut off the light and water. I didn’t feel more alive because I personally had debts to pay and wondered if they’d come for my kneecaps.
I felt more alive because I gave up the chase for more. I was humbled. I knew things could be worse and was more grateful for the little we had.
When the money came back, I had mixed feelings. This life that was flowing through my veins, this enchantment Kawasaki wrote about and my ability to finally embrace the present moment… what would happen to it? Would I be back to being just okay, future-oriented and thinking I deserved more and more? You bet.
I tried to fight it but I eventually lost. I said to myself, “Am I to believe that the only way I can feel truly alive is to be food insecure?” That didn’t make sense. Clearly some people are rich and obnoxious, but there are some that were humble too. How can I be like them? And that leads us to the first way entitlement is ruining your life.
1. Entitlement is Unconscious
When we think of someone being entitled, it’s the person barking at the coffee shop for their order or the person who thinks that because they are nice to another person, that person should do whatever they want, or whenever we put out little effort and expect immediate and/or big results.
And we’re right! Those are great examples of entitlement. But sometimes we fall prey to these tendencies. I for one hate when the light turns green and people are honking their horn, but one day I did it. I was in a rush and it seemed like the person in front of me was driving Miss Daisy. Usually, I’d just mutter to myself, but it’s the same entitlement!
These people who engage in these selfish behaviors are not villains. We think they are because we aren’t doing what they’re doing (at the moment). We think they’re bad and we condemn their actions but if we practice some self-awareness, we’d find that we’re guilty sometimes too. The solution to being unconscious and mindless is to be mindful and self-aware.
2. You Misunderstand Success
What I mean by this is that there’s this cross-cultural notion that successful people are entitled, arrogant pricks that believe that everyone should bend to their will.
As a result, people who want to be successful adopt this way of being before they’ve done anything of repute. This is a problem because they misunderstand success.
Yes, we have the laundry list of celebrities and rich people who abuse their power and are overall terrible but their success is not because they were entitled bastards. They were plugging away at their trade, became successful and then with the newfound power came the tendency for corruption. Also, there was a fear of losing the power, which made them even worse.
The only people who are entitled bastards who are rich were born into wealth (or were kids with parents who never told them no.)
Furthermore, if being entitled equals success, what of the celebrities and wealthy folk who aren’t entitled? They’re thriving and are not terrible. Why is that? Because being celebrated and providing the world with great stuff never had anything to do with being entitled. If anything, hard work and humility are why they made something of themselves.
3. You Have an Unhealthy Attitude with Volunteering
There are two ways one can volunteer. On the one hand, you do something for no pay but for a benefit. On the other hand, you do something for no pay and no benefit.
A lot of the times if we can’t see what’s in it for us, we won’t do it. But here’s the thing. If there was info or training or food you desperately needed and you needed someone to sacrifice some time for your benefit, you’d hope that they’d do it.
Sometimes people need help. Your help. They’re like babies in the sense that they can’t help you, they can’t give you anything in return and they may even leave a mess for you to clean up, but as a being of planet Earth who respects other beings, open your heart to the less fortunate. That could’ve been you. Actually, it was you once upon a time.
4. You Think Life Owes You
In addition to some of the rich and famous being entitled and obnoxious, there are some poor or average people that are entitled and obnoxious. How is that possible? Because they’ve been kicked around by life to the point where they think they are due a break.
I can relate to this. I was lucky to take my human rights and basic necessities for granted but socially and emotionally, I wasn’t as lucky.
There eventually came a point in high school where I figured I was due a break (or at least a girlfriend). None of these things came until I could…
5. Embrace Reality
Entitlement is thinking that you are inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Entitlement is essentially expectation. The antidote to expectation is humility.
When my family and I were struggling to make ends meet, my attitude changed. Life humbled me. Life didn’t humiliate me, it just grounded me. Expectation makes you fly off the handle and your attention is diverted here, there and everywhere. Humility keeps you rooted in the present moment.
It isn’t that you stop having ambitions. You just act from where you are, not where you imagine yourself to be. This is crucial because people who aren’t humble are too chummy, too flighty, too careless. When you’re humble you know you aren’t owed anything. You also embrace what is and the pros and the cons of it because there are always pros and cons to everything.
The great thing about this is that humility can be achieved by looking at the four pointers above.
You aren’t humble because you don’t know that you’re not.
You mistakenly connect arrogance with success.
You can’t give of yourself without getting something in return because you think you’re above that when you’ve literally benefited from that yourself.
And finally, either because you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or no spoon at all, you think life owes you something when you’ve contributed nothing to life.
Now it’s time to stop worrying about what you can get and concern yourself with what you can give.