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  • Writer's pictureHassan Younes

The Seven Ways to Defeat Complacency (In Both Yourself and Your Business)

A complacent environment devoid of new challenges is to blame for Elon Musk deciding to leave California. Here's what you can do to break the spell of inertia.

After living in Los Angeles for two decades, Elon Musk announced he'd moved to Texas. While his companies, SpaceX and Tesla, still have their headquarters in LA and Palo Alto, respectively, it seems that Musk has decided to move their flagship projects to the Lone Star State.


It would be easy to assume that the main reason for this change is related to state taxes. There's no personal income tax in Texas, while California has the highest in the U.S. However, interviews with Musk paint a different picture.


Musk directed plenty of criticism towards California on account of the complacency that he felt was growing there. He compared the state to a winning team that's been on top of the game for too long, becoming somewhat entitled and complacent.


Musk's opinion of the corporate environment in the Golden State is likewise not very optimistic. He views specific areas, the Bay in particular, as having a disproportionately large worldwide influence.


The Californian cultural milieu might've become too complacent for Musk's taste. Rather than fighting the tide, the inventor who continually counts among the wealthiest people on the planet decided to relocate much of his business elsewhere.


Musk has always resisted becoming complacent, which has served him very well. Instead of resting on his laurels, he searched for ways to move forward. That's a valuable lesson for every entrepreneur out there looking to keep improving and achieving new goals.

In this article, we'll show you different ways to defeat complacency and keep aiming high even when you're winning.


The Ways

Although the opening story concerns one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, complacency can affect anyone. The rules are the same for Musk, you, and everyone else.

That being said, here's what you can do to keep on progressing.


1. Recognising Complacency and Giving it Context


Vladimir Nabokov, the famed Russian-American author, understood the complex nature of complacency. He said, 'Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: It has to be shattered before being ascertained.’


The one crucial thing when resolving any problem is acknowledging its existence. It's easy to slip into auto mode without even noticing, especially after a streak of great results and achievements. Look at the daily routine in your business: Are you or your team taking a good situation for granted? Are you still doing everything that enabled you to achieve your goals?

As in all matters, context is vital. Perhaps you had a big win and didn't celebrate it properly. If so, make sure to recognise the success before moving forward and turn it into a challenge. Use your achievements as motivation and focus on the feeling of victory.


2. Setting Goals and Having a Clear Purpose


Always having something new on the horizon is a great way to keep your business going. There should never be a long period between reaching one goal and setting the next one. New goals and challenges are what moves us forward, gives us the motivation, and inspires us to one-up what we've done so far.


However, people aren't machines. We need a clear purpose for most things we do to make our efforts worthwhile. Whatever your goals are, ensure there's an underlying reason why they matter and align those goals with your purpose.


3. Importance of Competition


The modern world has a way of breeding complacency. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, addressed that tendency in his quote: I do think there is this danger that our society has made its peace with decline. I'd like to jolt them out of their complacency a little bit.

Competition is a significant motivating factor for most people - whether it's against others or themselves. Naturally, to leverage competition for defeating complacency, it's essential to keep the competitive environment creative, constructive, and healthy.


Devise a way for your teams to surpass each other's results so that they become an inspiration to everyone. Alternatively, focus your energy on bettering a competitive business.


4. Setting Unbreakable Commitments


Much of the force driving you forward starts with a decision. Although we tend to put too much stock in outside factors, everybody knows deep down that we choose how we'll interact with the world.


Setting and achieving goals is a decision, as is not letting distractions hinder your progress. And the same goes for becoming complacent. When you choose to not settle for past successes, growing content with where you are will become more challenging than pushing forward.


The commitment made to oneself, a group, or a company relies on setting high standards. It's imperative to keep your goals always on your mind and remain accountable and responsible for their fruition. Otherwise, complacency will find room to settle in.


5. Creating a New Identity


The intellectual force behind the American civil rights movement, Benjamin Mays, said, 'The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency.'


Success isn't the only cause of becoming complacent - failure can be that, too. Everybody fails sometimes, and some people can develop a defeatist mindset as a result. This is especially true following significant setbacks - you might feel like where you're currently at is good enough and grow complacent due to a fear of failure.


The best way to react to such circumstances is by forgiving yourself and building your identity on perseverance. Don't think about yourself as the one that fails and makes mistakes - no one's immune to that. Instead, be the person who gets back on their feet. Push on, try again, and try the best you can - let that be the foundation of your new identity.

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