“At extreme levels, entitlement is a toxic narcissistic trait.”
So says a recent study conducted by Dr. Joshua Grubbs and published in the Psychological Bulletin. “When people think that they should have everything they want—often for nothing—it comes at the cost of relationships with others and, ultimately, their own happiness.”
Feeling “entitled” is an increasingly common line of thinking that is destroying the fabric of our society, according to Live Abundant founder, financial strategist and multi-bestselling author Doug Andrew. Drawing on decades of experience in both his work and personal life, as expounded on in his book Entitlement Abolition, Andrew teaches the three dimensions of authentic wealth—foundational, intellectual and financial. By incorporating into one’s life all three of these dimensions, we can avoid the plague of 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 New York Times 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 creeping into your own life:
Be aware of the plague
As soon as knowledge, material wealth and abundance build in our lives, a sense of entitlement naturally starts to creep in. It’s part of the history of civilization. “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 epidemic, transmitted by the pervasive “what’s in it for me?” mindset, a disease that has crept into just about every aspect of society today. Leaders need to work together to eliminate the entitlement mentality among children and young adults before it’s too late. “These are young people who may have been born on third base, but grew up thinking they had hit a triple,” says Andrew.
Empower vs. enable your family
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” rather than dumping fish into their laps, 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.”
Avoid the scarcity mindset
Strategic coach Dan Sullivan has talked at length about the “scarcity mindset” and how to avoid it. “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 the players should get a trophy just for having their name on the roster—regardless of how hard they practiced or honed their skills or won the games. They want “others” to take care of them, whether that’s family, team, company or government, he writes.
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 “we-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 the use of a phrase we all know that can remind us to think we-centric: “United we stand; divided we fall.”