“I used to play sports. Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I am good at everything.”
When I was a kid, I played in recreational league soccer. Some of the teams I played on were quite good, and some of them were hapless, the local YWCA version of the Bad News Bears. In some years, I was one of the best players on the field, and in some years, I was a confirmed benchwarmer.
Regardless of the season, the results, or my contribution – or lack thereof – to the wins and losses on the field, I got a trophy. There was a big end of season party, usually at the pizza joint with lots of video games to ensure that the actual trophy ceremony was wrapped up as quickly as possible so the kids could go back to slaying monsters while the parents breathed a sigh of relief at being able to actually have adult conversations for an hour. I lined up all of my trophies on my desk, and pretty soon, I looked like I’d actually achieved something.
Then, I played high school soccer, where I was definitely a benchwarmer. My two goals in a 10-0 rout of another team were my only contribution in my decidedly unvaunted high school playing career. Furthermore, there were no trophies. We came in second in our region, as we were knocked out by a team we expected to beat (hubris doesn’t work on a soccer field either).
Second place wasn’t good enough. Not even for a second-place trophy.
Maybe this was a lesson I’d have been better off learning a little earlier in life.
You rarely get a trophy for just showing up. You get a trophy for doing something exceptional.
This applies to many facets of life. You get a paycheck for showing up. You get a bonus for doing something out of this world. If you’re not markedly contributing to the bottom line of your employer (or whatever metrics you’re trying to improve if you work for a non-profit), then don’t expect a bonus. You don’t get a trophy for being a spouse. You get the reward of a great marriage if you continually work to make it better.
You get the point.
Where am I going with this?
I’ve seen, unfortunately, too many people who are saddled with debt who think that they somehow deserve the lifestyle that they’re living. It’s the same lifestyle which has saddled them with debt because they’re living beyond their means.
Somehow, there’s an inner dialogue between Monkey Brain and them telling them that they deserve something which they haven’t earned.
MONKEY BRAIN: “YOU DESERVE A BREAK TODAY. MCDONALD’S EVEN SAYS SO.”
YOU: “You’re right! That clown is onto something!”
Thus begins the quick slide from “I want” to “I need” to a sense of entitlement that they’re supposed to have a cell phone, cable, gym membership, six vacations a year, a nice car, and so on.
It’s because somehow, somewhere along the way, these people have convinced themselves that they deserve something which they haven’t earned. A sense of entitlement has waylaid their independence and their plans, and while they’re living it large in the moment, the day of reckoning will come.
If you fall into that category, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that you’ve veered off course some and need to get back to grips with your current situation. Here are some suggestions for how to rein in your lifestyle and match what you’ve earned with what you deserve: