Why are some people incredibly motivated while others are complacent? My answer is environment. Not everyone who grows up in a rough environment is more motivated to transcend their situation (and not all who are raised in the lap of luxury are slackers), but that doesn’t stop me from blaming my beloved Canada for some of my complacency. ;)
In my early teens my dream car was a Honda Civic hatchback, then an Eagle Talon (or was it vice versa?), but as I grew older I wondered if I even needed a car because I work downtown and parking is outrageously expensive so I take the bus. I eventually decided to get a car, but the plan was to get an inexpensive vehicle that was good on gas that I could drive until it died, hopefully not before 10-15 years of ownership. I initially didn’t think I’d own a new car that would begin depreciating within seconds of its purchase. And of course my future husband and I would share a car; having more than one seemed extravagant. Job-wise I wanted one that allowed me to live a comfortable life which I defined as one where I could afford to eat what I want, pay my bills (including a 25-year mortgage on a modest home), and travel every three to five years (which would be plenty, I thought). The life I was planning for myself sounded fine to me because it was similar to what my parents had and even though we didn’t have everything we wanted by any means, we had everything we needed. My dad was baffled that I wasn’t aiming higher—so we used to have the following conversation:
Dad: You children are smart and when you speak to someone over the phone they have no idea of your nationality [which—let’s face it—even today can be an advantage, unfortunately]. We want you children to have more than we had and there’s no limit to what you can do in this country. Why aren’t you maximizing your gifts and aiming higher? You’ve been at the same job for 3 (4, 5, 6, 7…) years, you’ve acquired many skills, why aren’t you looking to the next (better-paying and challenging) job opportunity?
Jummy (totally tongue-in-cheek): Dad it’s your fault! You and mom raised us in an environment where we weren’t personally exposed to true hardship. Canada has a safety net [low income support] and even if I had decided not to go to university, I could work one or more retail jobs and manage to rent a roof over my head. That’s why we’re complacent—we don’t feel like there are serious repercussions for not dreaming bigger. On top of that we aren’t too materialistic and don’t need a lot to be happy—you’re the ones who raised to be thrifty too! Isn’t that a good thing? Even if I never own the roof over my head at least I won’t be homeless! Regarding the job, I like feeling comfortable where I am and don’t like change.
Dad (incredulously): You’re telling me that because you haven’t seen hardship and you’re comfortable [said with distaste], that’s why you’re setting your sights so low? Why would you even talk about renting a house when you could own one? Well, since you don’t want better for yourself please strive for me! I will take the extra money you earn and use it to give your mom and I a more comfortable life. I’m [insert age] and you see how hard your mom and I are still working when our Canadian peers are enjoying retirement and traveling every year! You can continue to live the life you want to live, but as for me, I’m tired of struggling—let me use that money to pay my mortgage ooo.
Dad and Jummy laugh.
Having parents who want more for you and who believe you have what it takes to get it is a true gift. Thankfully I stopped being so complacent and was able to embark on home and car ownership (you know how mortgages and car loans go!).
My old mentality probably sounds crazy to most of you because I consider Nigerians among the most driven people around (and sometimes I feel very un-Nigerian for not being as motivated!). For some it’s the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” driving them but I’m still proud to be associated with people who are generally known here for being smart and hard working. In elementary school and high school I was always striving to be number one in all my classes because I believed it was possible but in the last few years of high school I realized that there were a lot of smarter people around me, and the harder I worked to be the best, the worse I did (and I cried many, many tears over this). University, however, was the biggest confidence destroyer and by the time I graduated I felt like I was easily the dumbest person to hold a degree from the Faculty of Science. I still struggle not to feel like a loser when I remember my university experience. This may also explain my complacency—a feeling that since I couldn’t be the best or the smartest, and since the harder I worked, the worse I performed, I’ll just be. It was self-preservation.
For me, breaking out of the traditional 9-5 will be the best way to show complacency who’s boss. As those of you who are entrepreneurs know, it’s not an easy journey. It has involved brainstorming different ideas and then testing them, mostly just in my head, but more recently I’ve been braver in actually getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things. These efforts are harder when the people around you are more than happy to give you excuses to stay in Complacentsville, often because that’s where they are. But it’s really cool when you feel like you’re actually moving toward what you’re supposed to be doing, even if you don’t know exactly what that is.
We’ve only got this one life, and I’m gripped with a need to do more than just pass through this world. I want to make an impact. I want give people experiences. I want to feel like I’ve truly lived. So help me God.
Are you complacent or a total go-getter? What’s your best tip to avoid complacency?