Being Complacent Is One of the Worst Things You Could Do

Here’s why.

Akshaj Darbar
5 min readApr 14, 2020

Being good at something is AWESOME.

I mean, what could be better than the immense satisfaction you get when you do something really well. No matter how many times you do it, you get so happy😊 at how well you did it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Except… it does matter how many times you do it.

You Will Lose Motivation

You can only do something and enjoy it so many times. I mean, even if you do it really really well, you’ll lose interest soon. Humans are inherently curious and restless animals… we can’t just sit around all day doing the same thing again and again.

So, we HAVE to try something new.

But… that’s hard. What if I’m not as good at this new thing? What if I fail? I won’t feel as good about myself. I’ll feel like a failure and lose all motivation. Couldn’t I just continue doing the same thing, but just try and make it more interesting? Try having more fun while I do it?

That is the idea behind complacency. Strictly defined, it’s being too comfortable with your current comfort zone. You’re really good at what you can do now, or where you are right now, and you feel satisfied with that. Isn’t that good?

Yeah, it is. Unless you never move outside of this comfort zone and soon lose ALL interest in doing what’s in this comfort zone. Except you keep doing it, trying to convince yourself that you love doing it, and you’ll get your interest back if you just force yourself to do it enough times.

Spoiler alert: You won’t. You’ll never get that interest back again. You’ll continue losing your motivation until you’re completely bored with doing the same thing again and again, and you absolutely hate your life.

That last part might be a bit too extreme, but the rest of is true. That is exactly what happens when you’re complacent.

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

— Andy Grove

Imagine you get a new videogame. You play it a lot, and you get really really good at it. You participate in competitions and win a LOT. Everything’s going great. Except, unfortunately, maybe after about a year of playing that game, again and again, you eventually get bored. You have one strategy that you use every time, and though it makes you win 100% of your games, you soon lose motivation to continue playing the game.

Now, you have two options:
1) Switch to another game — might be challenging, and you might fail at it, but it’s something new
2) Stick with the same game and force yourself to play — won’t be challenging at all, you’ll continue winning all games, but you won’t have any motivation

Since, for most of you, there might be hardly any loss from switching to a new game except for the fact that you’re not as good at it, this choice might be easy. Of course, you’ll choose to switch. Except many of us come across the same issue in life, and we fail to make that same choice.

But Life ≠ Video Game

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “But this is different. In our own life, we stand to lose money, our social standing, or we might get made fun of.”

You would be correct, except, just because you switch to a new game doesn’t mean you completely stop playing the other one. You can play both games, and continue to perform really well in the first game. So you will still continue earning money, maintain your social status, and your self-esteem, while learning something brand new! At the same time, you’ll also get a newfound motivation to play both games.

Also, that fear of failure? It won’t help you. Even if you fail, you can take that as the perfect learning opportunity. First, you know what you failed at and why you failed, so you can improve that next time. And second, you now have a better idea of what you can achieve. Maybe the new thing you decided to try out was completely different compared to what you’re good at. Next time, you can try something that’s still similar to what you already do.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”

— Jack Canfield

Regardless, you need to change your view of failure. Benjamin Franklin says it best:

“I didn’t fail the test. I just found 100 ways to do it wrong”

So What Do I Try Out?

But how do you decide what to try out? Well, as I just mentioned, the first part is making sure that you have the skills necessary to succeed at whatever it is. If, at your workplace, you only have experience with finance, then switching to something else that still requires math would be much easier then, say, switching to human resources management. Now that doesn’t mean that you have to be perfectly prepared for whatever it is you want to try. It just means you have to make sure you have the minimal skills required to do it. And if you don’t have those minimal skills? Develop them!

But the second part? Figure out what interests you. I know this might be cliche, but it’s true. You’ll have much more motivation to succeed at whatever new thing it is if you have an interest in it. Otherwise, you’ll just be forcing yourself to do something you don’t like. And how would that be different than being complacent?

And the last part is trying to find something that challenges you in some way or another. If you don’t have to put even a bit of effort into achieving something new, you won’t enjoy it. It’s still in your comfort zone. It won’t help you grow. Now, this one’s easy since most new things you try out will demand some kind of effort, even if it’s not that small.

Key Takeaways

  1. Stop fearing failure. Start thinking of it as a learning opportunity that lets you improve next time
  2. Make sure you have the minimal skills required to succeed at whatever new thing you want to try out. And if you don’t have those skills, develop them and then try out that new path.
  3. Do whatever interests you. Don’t force yourself into something new that you don’t have any interest in doing.
  4. Find something that challenges you. If you don’t have to put any effort into it, you won’t enjoy it.

“Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency heads the list”

— John C Maxwell

On a Personal Note

This is one of my first attempts at writing an article on life, and I really appreciate you taking the time to read it. If you liked it, please clap for the article! It’ll motivate me to continue trying this out!

To stay updated with more of my articles (about technology, and maybe more on life?), follow this Medium account, check out my personal website to find out a bit more about me, and follow me on my LinkedIn and Twitter to stay updated.

That’s it for me! See you next time!



Akshaj Darbar

MD Candidate at McMaster University. Researching blood cancer detection.