How To Avoid Complacency: 5 Tips That Actually Work!

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Comfort and complacency are killers of progress. Because let’s face it, building anything meaningful in life takes a lot of time and effort.

And people don’t always have that time or energy. They may struggle to work whatever jobs they can find, or get through school or training.

Maybe it’s not that, though. Maybe it’s a personal goal like losing weight or getting your mental health under control that you’re being complacent about.

Success feels pretty good once you start clearing the hurdles. You take a moment to look at your progress, feel good about it, and then what?

It can go one of two ways…

Some people use that as fuel and motivation to keep going and achieve more. But others? Well, others fall into their comfort zone and into a sense of complacency. They feel like they can rest now that they’ve achieved something.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with rest. You are not a machine. You are a human being who needs rest. And honestly, for as common as that analogy is, it really doesn’t make sense. Machinery breaks down all the time without regular maintenance and repairs, which I guess does make us more like machines than we may realize.

I guess you are like a machine. Make sure you get regular rest, maintenance, and repair! Oil your moving parts, check your belts and hoses, examine your tires for uneven wear, change out your filters, and get a fluids change every 3000 miles or so, or whatever your owner’s manual indicates. Also, never mix colors of coolants. Orange coolant goes with orange coolant, green coolant goes with green coolant. Has this analogy gone on long enough? I think so.

Rest, however, can quickly evolve into complacency. The comfort zone is…well…comfortable. And why would you want to get out of your comfort zone once you’ve found your way there?

The answer is simple.

Personal growth and improvement typically do not take place in your comfort zone. You have to step outside of your comfort zone to do things that intimidate and scare you. The great part about doing those things is that you get to learn so much more about yourself. You develop new skills, discover new talents, unearth new passions, and create the kind of life you want for yourself outside of your comfort zone.

But the big question is: how do I avoid complacency? Well, luckily for you, we happen to have a whole article about it that you’re reading right now!

Consult a life coach to help you avoid complacency and achieve what you set your mind to. Use the quick and simple form on to have qualified life coaches email you to discuss their coaching services and provide quotes.

1. Treat every day as a fresh start.

Complacency is really about two things. First, you have your comfort at the moment and then you have your past accomplishments to rest on. It’s so easy to spend your time looking at the past, all the things you’ve accomplished, all the road you have traveled to get to where you are and say, “I’m done! I’ve made it!” Awesome.

What’s not so awesome is staying in that place because you’ve already come all of that way.

Now, this isn’t about chasing after some unrealistic standard that you can’t possibly live up to. It’s also about keeping your life intact. The longer life goes on, the more the passage of time wears you down. You can almost think of it like the beautiful Greek and Roman statues of old. They are so elegant and utterly breathtaking. But did you know the Greeks and Romans used to paint their statues? Sometimes in bright and flashy colors because those were symbols of wealth and vitality. Hard to see that now because the passage of time slowly wore that paint off.

And so it goes with life. As you get older, relationships change, careers change, living situations change; everything changes sooner or later.

The solution is to treat every day like it’s a new day.

Take some time to appreciate what you’ve built and where you’ve come from, but understand that yesterday’s success does not mean it’ll still be there tomorrow. Know that you have to keep working on it, even if it’s just a little bit per day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It just needs to be a little.

2. Set small sustainable goals that will take you to bigger goals.

So, you have this big goal that you want to accomplish. Let’s say Clara wants to lose 100 pounds to get herself to a healthier weight and lifestyle. Losing 100 pounds is a big goal! It’s intimidating, and she may feel like she can’t accomplish such a big goal because of her past bad habits. It’s not something that can be done overnight or even in a couple months, for that matter. So what can Clara do?

Well, she can break that big goal down into smaller components that are easier to accomplish. For example, the S.M.A.R.T. system is a great system for setting goals. It’s commonly used, and there is a lot of literature about it. But let’s give it a brief look so you can understand how it works.

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. “I want to lose 100 pounds” is a vague goal that offers no meaningful plan. But a S.M.A.R.T. goal is a smaller piece of the larger puzzle.

What does a S.M.A.R.T. goal look like in this example? Clara decides to monitor her calories and what she eats to better control her weight. She sets a goal of eating no more than 1400 calories per day.

That goal is:

Specific: It gives her a tangible target of 1400 calories per day.

Measurable: As in, does it have a success or failure state? Either she stays under her cap, or she doesn’t.

Actionable: It’s possible to actually do. It’s not reasonable to just not eat for days at a time, but it is to restrict your calorific consumption to this level.

Relevant: Calorie restriction will have her body burn off fat instead of relying on new food for energy.

Time-bound: It’s something she is doing every day.

That S.M.A.R.T. goal will take her to the bigger goal of losing that weight. You will find that you can look at any big goal and break it down into smaller components that will lead you to success. That can help you maintain forward momentum, feel good about your progress, and combat complacency.

3. Examine the people in your support circles.

Sometimes complacency is about the people you surround yourself with. There’s an old saying, “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” And to a large degree, that is true. If you are a highly motivated person who wants to get things done, hanging out with people that are okay with where they are is not motivating. In fact, they will often be happy to encourage you not to pursue your goals so hard or to chill out.

Not everyone will share the same kind of fire or drive. In a best-case scenario, your friends and family may feel like they are genuinely looking out for you. Why should you work so hard? Why should you strive so hard? Why should you worry so much about attaining what you want? Just chill, take it easy, take the day off. And you know what? Sometimes that’s valid. You don’t want to work yourself into hypertension and high stress, which adversely affects your mental and physical health.

On the other hand, sometimes other people do that, not because they want to support you or want what’s best for you, but because they want to undermine your progress. For example, some people don’t like to see others succeed because they couldn’t. Others will purposely sabotage your success so they can feel better about themselves. And if you are coming from an abusive or toxic dynamic, that is an even bigger problem.

They call that “crabs in a bucket” mentality. You see, you can just put crabs you catch in an open-top bucket because they will keep themselves in it. When one tries to get out, the other crabs will pull it back in to get on top of it so they can escape. People do a similar thing. Miserable people hate to see other people feel good and succeed, so they try to pull them back into the bucket of negativity, wallowing, and complacency.

You can’t let that happen to you.

So examine your personal circles closely. Are these people that support you and cheer you on? Are these people honest? Do they tell you things that are the truth even though you might not want to hear it? These are the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. And suppose you don’t have supportive people in your regular life. In that case, you may want to consider looking into online groups or social media groups that have similar goals to what you want to accomplish.

4. Embrace failure as a learning experience.

There is no more powerful tool for success than understanding the role of failure in that process. So many people see setbacks and failures as the end of their progress. It’s not. It’s a signpost that tells you that you need to pivot in a different direction.

Failure becomes a non-issue once you learn not to take it personally. And how can you learn to not take it personally?

By understanding that nothing worthwhile happens smoothly. Oh, sure, some people may get lucky and experience immediate success. Lightning can also strike in the same place twice. It’s rare, but it happens. What happens more often is a person sets their sight on a goal, strives toward it, meets challenges along the way that they didn’t know they’d experience, and needs to adapt.

When you experience a setback, a failure, or something didn’t work out as anticipated, ask yourself; what is the lesson here? What can I learn from this experience? And can I make this experience work for me in the future?

Let’s go back to Clara. She had a hard time with her calorie restriction because she has some mental health issues that make it hard to govern how she eats. She hasn’t been finding success with her goal because of it. So, what can she do?

Well, she now understands that there are other reasons for her difficulties with her weight. She may realize that she needs some professional help to get through it.

A therapist will likely help her figure out why she has such a hard time with her relationship with food and find a different way to manage it. And once she addresses that, she may have a much easier time sticking to her lifestyle change and losing weight.

Failures and setbacks happen. It’s the attitude we have toward them that will lead us to success. It’s okay if you mess up, even if it’s a big mess up.

5. Be kind to yourself as you push forward.

The struggle to keep moving forward can be difficult because of our brain. When things don’t go as planned, you may find that the negative thoughts and self-talk kick up. A minor setback can kick up a whole lot of negative feelings if you’re a person who has low self-esteem or generally doesn’t feel good about yourself.

“I’m too stupid.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“Why did I ever think I could do that?”

Listen, it will be difficult, but you have to push back against those thoughts. What you tell yourself in your head will make a major difference in whether you can keep pushing forward toward those goals. You won’t keep moving forward out of your comfort zone if you can’t create some kindness for yourself in your head.

And look, I get it. I understand that these negative thoughts often come from dark and negative places. Often, it’s not your voice in your head telling you these things. They’re the words of someone who was unkind to you, a bad parent, an abuser, someone who made you feel like you aren’t worthwhile. To hell with those people. They’re not living your life, and they don’t have to control you.

One way you can combat those thoughts and keep pushing forward out of complacency is to replace them with positive mantras. It sounds corny and cliché as all hell, but it can genuinely work to replace those negative narratives with positive ones. But it does take time. Months, maybe longer. The good news is that it does get easier with time.

Instead of the negative phrases, use positive ones like:

“I am good enough.”

“I am worthy.”

“Failure is not the end. I can do this.”

And then you just keep pushing on toward your goals until you get to where you want to be. Don’t let complacency weigh you down into a life that isn’t right for you. You can do better; you can be better. It’s difficult, but you can do it. So get up and get to work. Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals and crush ’em!

Still not sure how to fight back against complacency? Speak to a life coach today who can walk you through the process. Simply fill out this short form to get quotes from several coaches along with details of what they can offer you.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.