“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
What is up with entitlement? Why do so many children and teenagers feel entitled to stuff like trophies of accomplishment in sports without much effort put into it or a student allowed to not do homework because the parent complained and said it was too much? Why do kids and adults feel deserving of good grades and accolades if they didn’t sweat through the hard part of a study session or project? Why do teenagers feel that doing something for someone has to be a chore or a high school graduation requirement in order for it to get done at all?
Let’s take a deeper look.
Entitlement is defined as the condition of having a right to have, do or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something. The only right that human beings have is the right to stay alive. How they do that is up to them.
Here is a small but powerful example:
My youngest has just graduated from high school. To hear him talk about his entire school career you would think he was imprisoned for the first 18 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit and has finally made parole. He is taking time off from school and academics and is going to try his hand at working for a while. He feels he deserves to have money but not necessarily because he earned it. He just thinks that because he needs money for something he should just be given the money.
Here it comes…..ready? He refuses to look for a job or take any job that pays minimum wage.
Wait, what? “You come from a middle class, hard-working family with not one ounce of a sense of entitlement ever shown to you. You grew up with the philosophy that anything you want badly enough is worth working hard for.” How can it be that he feels it beneath him to work for minimum wage when he has absolutely no expenses weighing him down ( that could be entitlement, I’ll have to really think about that one), no working world experiences to offer any employer and not even a decent enough education to see him through? And let me just say, he is not alone. He has a graduating class full of peers that feel the exact same way.
Where did this come from?
So, ok, I can almost kinda, sorta sense a reason for such a statement (and I’m not really reaching too deep to find this). It costs a whole lot more to be a teenager these days than it did when it was my turn. I know, my parents said the same thing but truly, our cost of living is not slightly left of center it is on another planet.
Just look at how much 2 movie tickets cost now, forget the fact that we have IMAX. For $20 my husband and I not only saw a movie but we put gas in the car that same night and went for ice cream or a burger and fries at the diner. Not so much now. And there is the new reality of a depressed economy that is just about shutting out the teenagers from getting any kind of start-up job because so many late twenties through eighties adults need the jobs to pay the real bills so I suppose you could argue the point of how is he supposed to get money if he can’t even get a job. But that’s where I draw my sympathetic line in the sand. Just like we all had to work for the money to joy ride and live it up so does he. Although life costs a crazy amount to live and breathe now there are also waaaayyyy more income options than when I was a teenager.
“Sometimes I just want to paint the words “It’s my fault” across my forehead to save people the time of being pissed off at me.” ― Christina Westover
This is what I do best. I blame myself for all the failings of my children. Somehow, some way, I must have showed him that it’s okay to skip a step in his evolution but I can’t for the life of me figure out how I did that. Okay, is it possible it wasn’t entirely my fault? He didn’t grow up strictly under my roof. He was influenced by the outside world; TV, music lyrics, peers, and oh yeah, those trophies awarded to all the team members just for showing up regardless of if they played or how they played. Silly, that something seemingly so trivial and touted as “fair” could wreak such havoc on the growing and developing psyche.
What was there to strive for anyway, everyone was getting a trophy and going to hear their name announced. He’d get his 15 seconds of fame for every team he played on and for every year he played. Oh but wait, when he got to high school not everyone got a trophy, suddenly not everyone got in the spot light unless they did something news worthy (good or bad). Oh man, now he had to actually work hard for something. As the reality started settling in he withdrew instead of standing tall and decided, sadly, nothing was worth that much effort. No matter how often we all rallied and tried to show him all the gifts he was blessed with he turned away. He turned away from family, away from his core of peers and coaches and teachers, away from himself. Academics were too hard to work through so he did as little as possible. He actually chose the school of hard knocks and manifested the two things he felt entitled not to put up with, minimum wage and a hard life. When this truly becomes his past I hope he remembers it as a lesson learned toward inner strength, not regret.
All I can do and have been doing is pray for him and hope that not only by me remaining an example but that one day he will understand that all the power he ever needed has been inside of him all along.
How can he and kids like him begin to turn things around?
“Those who have the ability to be grateful are the ones who have the ability to achieve greatness.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
What does gratitude feel like? It feels good. Good feels gratifying. Good feels like giving and grace.
Gratitude doesn’t feel like entitlement (a sense that everything should be coming to you without effort on your part). Gratitude doesn’t feel like anger or responsibility or indifference. Gratitude doesn’t feel deserving and it kicks butt to just about every negative that exists.
So if gratitude can annihilate entitlement how does someone go about cultivating, practicing and making gratitude a key player in their life? According to Dr. Robert Emmons and his awesome book, THANKS!, he outlines his top 10 practices toward leading a life of gratitude (pg. 189). I’d like to share my take with you on what he outlines:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. This can be in any form you can create. You can journal in words, in cut out pictures or photographs or drawings that help you remember what you saw that sparked gratitude. This can be written in a formal bound book or you can create your own kind of personal journal book. Dr. Emmons says, “What is most important is to establish the daily habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.” My daughter loves to take pictures with her camera phone. She chronicles the best moments of each month and saves the pictures by the month. When she looks back she is able to see all the best of her life moments that she is grateful for having experienced. How awesome is that?!
2. Remember the bad stuff. In looking at our story earlier we can see how a person with a negative perspective about their past would want to forget what happened but by remembering the bad and practicing gratitude the negative story can be mined for grateful experiences that propel good feelings going forward. Should we experience bad feelings or circumstances again it will help us to remember what we don’t want to go through and seek ways to make this bad experience not as lousy as before.
3. Look inside yourself. Dr. Emmons suggests asking yourself 3 questions to help keep you grounded in gratitude seeking keeping in mind that this kind of inner searching helps us to always be aware that we are part of our gratitude and the gratitude we can affect in others. In other words, we are part of the solution to our own problem:
What have I learned from________________________________.
What have I given to ____________________________________.
What troubles and difficulty have I caused___________________.
4. Prayers of gratitude. This might be uncomfortable for some people but as someone who ends every day with prayers of gratitude I can attest that not only does it help make a bad day better upon reflection but it helps set up a better day to come. I often find myself in tears while speaking of the things I am grateful for, not realizing just how much it affected me to have gone through whatever experience the day brought. Your soul has needs just like your physical body and that spirit needs the intimacy of prayer and accountability. If you find it hard to pray or hard to find what to be grateful for you might like to just pray for the ability to recognize what to be grateful for. No rules, your heart and your words are all that matter.
5. Sense it. Take notice of each of your senses. Think about each one as you contemplate your gratitude for each one Dr. Emmons says, “Through our senses, we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human, of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive.” If your senses are not enough incentive please visit the website of Nick Vujicic. You will instantly learn exactly all that you have to be thankful and grateful for.
6. Display it. All around you are reminders of what you are grateful for if you take the time to notice. Why not bring it home to you every day. Here Dr. Emmons remarks that “We cannot be thankful for something of which we are unaware. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves and to become aware.”
7. Swear to it. Make a vow either to the universe, G-d or a treasured friend or partner that you will consciously include gratitude in your life every day. Dr. Emmons says, “A vow, when made before others, constitutes a public pronouncement of an intention. Breaking a vow thereby becomes a profound moral failure.” Keep it simple. For example: I vow to express gratitude to someone who has been influential in my life.
8. Say just what you mean. How you say something or describe something is a mirror to how you see and interpret your life and your surroundings. Using the right language and emotion can take a day that was just all right all the way up to a day that was so blessed.
9. Ape it. According to Dr. Emmons, “when people mimicked the facial expressions associated with happiness, they felt happier. Going through the motions can trigger the emotion.” Even if you force the smile or the happier attitude one feeds the other.
10. Get creative. In my twisted mind I truly believe that life is backwards. Things that we think should be a result of something often times are just the opposite. In that light get creative in what you are grateful for. The guy that cut you off on the highway for example. Why ever would you be grateful for that? Well, you aren’t feeling as high strung as he is and that is to be grateful for. How about you didn’t get hurt by his knucklehead move. You are fine and the car is fine and if the kids are with you the kids are fine. Think about what you might not look at as something to be thankful for and find the silver lining. It’s deep and it’s so amazing to see something you couldn’t see before by practicing gratitude. And as always remember to pay it forward.
And just in case gratitude didn’t quite do it for you there is always humility.
Call to Action
In what ways can you bring gratitude into your life more?
Where have you noticed a sense of deserving or entitlement in your day to day?
When was the last time you were brought to your knees through feeling grateful and humble?