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Don't Get Too Comfortable! Ways to Avoid Complacency.

Mindset Made Simple Tip #131

Watch or listen HERE.

I received a text message last week from my college roommate’s husband, Ron. Ron is one of the most optimistic and sincere people I know. When he sends me stuff, I read it. I have a lot to learn from him and his outlook on life. At his suggestion, this week’s tip is based on this text that got me thinking and looking at how complacency affects our performance!

Ron included a clip from the newspaper with a quote from a rival high school coach in his message. The quote said in not so many words that this coach’s team would be listed at the top of the standings every morning when he woke up. It’s just the way it is. His team went on to lose the next two games. Ron’s point, karma’s comin’ for ya!

His real point, complacency kills!

In 1993, Gordon Dupont, an aviation expert developed the concept of the Dirty Dozen, the twelve most common conditions or human error predictions that lead to mistakes.

To no surprise, complacency is one of them! Although the list was first developed for aircraft maintenance, the list could be pulled straight out of a mental training publication today.

Here’s the list in its entirety in no particular order: complacency – distraction – pressure – stress – norms - fatigue - lack of teamwork, resources, knowledge, communication, awareness, and assertiveness.

Seems about right. We all fight these twelve things every day in one way or another as we work.

This coach may or not be complacent, but his comments reflect its definition according to Webster’s: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

But what is the cost of complacency?

We rest on our laurels. We are headed toward the sideline doing our job but we forget to get both feet in bounds (did you see it last night in the Cowboy’s game?). We get the “I’m good” feeling. We get an out…but leave the bases unattended and the other runner advances. We stop noticing the detail and that one little detail throws off the whole system. We are cruising along and we stop doing the little things that help us cruise. We get in an accident because we are on autopilot from years of repetition and seeing what we expect to see.

The result?

We miss the play. We fall short of our predictions. We get beat. We get hurt.

Complacency isn’t laziness. It’s more about overconfidence. It’s that time when success clouds our ability to scan for dangers, flaws or threats.

Complacency can certainly affect our outcomes, but it also affects our process.

Athletes do the same things, day after day, to build habits and train. Boredom sets in. Quality goes down. Engagement and focus decrease.

You’ve seen it. The first week of practice is awesome. The second is good. And in the third week, if we aren’t careful, we start to go through the motions.

How can we avoid being complacent?

So many of the tools we discuss in these tips can keep us out of this trap!

Let’s start with how we evaluate our work and/or experiences.

Every session I have with my teams starts with this series of questions in our Well-Better-How?

What are 3 things that are going well for us right now? Why are these things going well?

I then ask individuals to tell me what they are contributing to at least one of these three things.

Why do I ask this? I contend that if we do not know what role we play in the things that are going well, we may take them for granted and quit doing them. If we stop doing our part, things change…and the chances are that this thing may not go as well anymore. Knowing what we contribute makes us accountable for that behavior or action and keeps us on track.

This is the opposite of complacency.

We go on to list one thing we can do better and why it matters. And finally, we discuss thoughts, behaviors and actions that will make this one thing better.

You’ve heard the riddle about the 5 birds sitting on the roof, deciding to take off and fly away, right? How many birds were left? Five…because they just decided. They didn’t act!

A regular review of our work in this way…a way that keeps our Losada Line of 3:1 positivity ratio while still diving into what we are doing with intention…helps us keep our eyes open and alert to successes and threats to our success. A consistent review calls for consistent awareness.

Another complacency buster relates to our focus. How can we challenge ourselves, make a mundane task a game, or challenge and change our focus to enhance our presence in our work?

We can start by setting new goals and when I say goals, I mean new tactics to enhance our attention. What can we see better, do a bit quicker, calmer or more consistently? How can we see something clearer or scan our environment for more information to keep us sharp?

Can we place a challenge with ourselves or someone else to stay on track? We can ask those we lead to write down what or who they will beat before they start a repetitive drill or task. Simply making something a game can help us be more focused and follow our processes more intentionally. We automatically begin to think about what we need to do to compete or win the challenge.

These focus enhancers can keep us from falling into the lull or complacency!

Finally, remembering that no matter where we are or what we are doing, there is always someone or something out there (or in our heads) that can trip us up is important.

Yes…we look for bright spots because that is not our normal M.O.

But…it is just as important to think about those things that may stand between us and peak performance, acknowledge them and then prepare to face them.

This is how winners continue to win. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter says in Confidence: How Winning Streaks Begin and End “win, work, win again!” The “work” in this sequence includes repeating what we have done and preparing for what we might need to do.

Complacency sneaks up on us when we are feeling comfortable. Comfort is important for peak performance. But too much comfort can be a killer!

Today’s work is the result of our lagging indicators. Are you still doing the things that got you to the top? Or what do you need to do to keep moving forward, wherever you are in your performance?

Review, challenge and plan and keep complacency at bay!

Thanks, Ron, for the nudge! This is something we all need to keep top of mind to stay scanning for opportunities and obstacles so we can play at our peak!

Manage the moments!


P.S. I can help your team avoid complacency! Set up a mental performance session to get the most out of your team’s mindset. Reach out to set up a 45-minute team session today! Contact me at or call/text 234-206-0946.

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


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