Shifting the entitlement mindset starts by looking in the mirror.
The term “entitlement” has entered our discourse of late, usually in reference to the liberal agenda or Millennial spending and employment behavior. The result of such entitlement accusations is a slew of impassioned counter-arguments - a pattern of accusations and rebuts.
It wasn’t until recently that the notion of entitlement became personal when an employee asked for an increase in pay after four months of employment. My fast-thinking protested: “How can you be so entitled?”
After taking a breath, I realized there was an entitlement issue - but it was two-sided. My employee felt entitled to an increase in pay, and I felt entitled to the happiness and the sustained work ethic of my employee. Recognizing my own sense of entitlement allowed me to enter the discussion with an understanding that I needed to earn my employee’s engagement, respect and loyalty in the same way that he needed to earn a salary bump. So, we had an open conversation about how to achieve those things.
I learned that we talk about entitlement as the behavior of a faceless cohort and are quick to use it to justify our own biases, but we rarely look in the mirror. We do have an entitlement problem, and we’re not going to solve it by pointing fingers.
In order to understand how to stave off entitlement in my own life, I sat down with Live Abundant founder, financial strategist and multi-bestselling author Doug Andrew. Author of Entitlement Abolition, Andrew teaches the three dimensions of authentic wealth—foundational, intellectual and financial. According to Andrew, understanding these dimensions can help us avoid entitlement and instead live life more abundantly.
Andrew is best known as a financial planning and investment expert and radio host who speaks frequently about money as a component of life fulfillment, and the pitfalls of going after money and consumerism at the expense of one’s health, family and happiness. His prior books include Missed Fortune, The Last Chance Millionaire (a NYT best seller), and Millionaire by Thirty.
“In today’s me-centric-instant-gratification world, too many of us fall into the trap of self-centeredness and consumerism,” Andrew says. “Unless the problem of entitlement is addressed and reversed, we and our posterity face a troubling future.”
Here are four steps Andrew teaches to prevent entitlement from creeping into your own life:
Understand the connection between success and entitlement
As soon as knowledge, material wealth and abundance build in our lives, a sense of entitlement tends to follow. “In our own lives dealing with it is a never-ending cycle—unless we see the warning signs and learn the skills to overcome it,” teaches Andrew.
Today’s generation of leaders, in particular, must be aware of this trend. Leading by example to challenge entitlement in an employment culture starts by checking your own sense of entitlement that accompanies relative success.
Keep learning to fish
We all want nothing more than to succeed in life, while elevating the lives of those we love and those with whom we work. To do this we must help teach our children—as well as our subordinates and colleagues—“how to fish,” teaches Andrew.
“If we give them the tools to prosper, we’ll have the confidence they’ll continue to pass the bounty along to those who come after them.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “The worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could do for themselves.”
Moreover, a willingness to, ourselves, keep “learning to fish” by pursuing lifelong education can keep our own propensity for entitlement at bay.
Avoid the Scarcity Mindset
Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan has talked at length about the “scarcity mindset” and how to avoid it in both business and life. “Scarcity leads us to believe that our resources, whether they’re global energy resources or our own family’s food and finances, are finite and in danger of depletion,” he says.
“When we’re in a scarcity mindset, we’re in a doomsday fog, without hope of prosperity. Then we tend to slip into a scarcity spiral, where personal unhappiness and dissatisfaction only compound our sense that everything is limited and soon-to-disappear.”
In this mindset we start calling life “unfair” and think, like in kids’ sports these days, that all players should get a trophy just for having their name on the roster—regardless of how hard they practiced or honed their skills or whether they won the games. With a scarcity mindset, we look for “others” to care for us.
We overcome the scarcity mindset by thinking in terms of abundance. “We feel increased excitement as we seek new skills, compounding our knowledge as individuals and communities to create and produce even more. We are in a state of chronic gratitude.” In other words, he says, “we constantly identify those things we’re grateful for. This helps us get out of the victim mentality.”
Using an example from the financial world to illustrate how our society has become “me-centric,” Andrew quotes one of his own mentors, Lee Brower: “Traditional estate and financial planning have done more to destroy families and their assets than the federal estate tax could ever do!” And why? asks Andrew. Because it encourages consumption while discouraging saving money. It takes a family from thinking about “we” to thinking about “me,” with both children and grandchildren focused on “When do I get my share?” It’s all about four “Ds”: divide, defer, distribute, dissipate.
“When handled this way, wealth is transferred without a system to foster responsibility and accountability,” says Andrew. “On the other hand, when families are united in the effort to perpetuate the family wealth, amazing things can happen.”
But to do this a family must have an “equal opportunity” approach, versus “equal distribution,” which translates to four “Ps”: preservation, protection, perpetuation, prosperity.
Andrew encourages use of a phrase we all know that can remind us to think we-centric: “United we stand; divided we fall.”