While it may sound cynical on the surface, once you investigate the truth of it for yourself, you may find that this is one of the most liberating insights you will come across.
It was Mark Twain who said: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
But how can that be liberating?
Keeping this basic truth in mind frees you from misguided expectations, and it liberates you from the disappointment that is sure to follow when those expectations aren’t met. At the same time it puts the power, the ability and the opportunity to experience true happiness back where it belongs – in your own two hands.
Your joy and your success no longer depend on the actions of anyone else. It means that giving to others and receiving from them is a matter of free choice on both sides – not obligation, not social pressure, and certainly not guilt.
Growing Beyond Disillusionment and False Entitlement
So many people today suffer from a kind of pernicious, low-level affliction that robs them of the joy and fulfilment that they yearn for. It undermines their motivation, and corrodes their determination. You can call it disillusionment, dissatisfaction, or a feeling of somehow being cheated by the world.
It’s the feeling that life isn’t delivering on its promises.
As children most of us dreamed of a bright future – success, adventure, love, fulfilment, friends – whatever it was. At some point we realized that it wasn’t going to magically turn out exactly as we hoped, and angry resentment may have started to creep in. Growing up is tough for all of us.
But some people never transcend that point and live out their entire lives with this deeply ingrained sense of dissatisfaction. They slowly come to believe that life is a cold, hard, bitter experience, and so they resign themselves to being victims, or develop a tough, cynical shell to protect themselves.
The root cause is linked to a disproportionate sense of entitlement. It’s the belief that just because you exist you automatically deserve prosperity, or recognition from others. This kind of limiting belief pattern sometimes masks a deeper sense of inferiority. But consider this: Did life really make those promises in the first place?
Let me clarify this point a little. I don’t mean that people aren’t meant to be happy, or that life is meant to be meaningless or cold. Quite the opposite. I strongly believe that life is full of joy and natural wonder. I believe that happiness is permanently accessible. In fact, it’s our natural state.
The beauty of this advice, while it may feel like a slap in the face, is that it actually opens your eyes. You realize that you don’t have to love or respect or even like anyone out of obligation. You don’t owe it to them, just as they don’t owe it to you.
It switches from being a passive, socially forced imitation to being authentic. It frees up your personal energy that was wasted in self-pity, and makes it available to you again. You can go out and get what you want – whatever that is.
Only, now you accept that it’s up to you, and nobody else.
The Practical Benefits to Your Career
The underlying principle we’re discussing here fits perfectly into the business world, which is, in principle at least, the practice of fair trade. Nobody owes anyone anything until there’s an agreement. If you expect anything different, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
To become a successful entrepreneur, or get ahead in your career, there’s no room for playing the victim, or waiting for others to notice what you’re worth. In order to achieve more you have to take the initiative and give people something of real value. Nobody will hand success to you on a silver platter. They simply don’t owe it to you – and that’s a positive thing.
The only way to feel truly successful is by knowing that you’ve built your success through your own efforts. If you should fail, as most successful people do at some point in the journey – it’s not a personal indictment. If you had no expectations to begin with, you can’t be disappointed. You’re able to get up off the ground and move on. Whatever does work out is a blessing, and a reward.
The great thing is that this freedom from obligation works both ways.
It also means that the world can’t demand anything from you that you’re not willing to give. Instead of allowing feelings of guilt to push you into a career direction you’re not passionate about, just to make money, or please your family, you’re free to choose to do what you love. The most successful people have blazed their own trails in the business world – following their real passion. They liberated themselves from unreasonable expectations.
The principle of reciprocity is at play here. Successful entrepreneurs know that going above and beyond the expectations of customers, giving more than what’s strictly owed, will often result in a positive response – even though there’s no guarantee. It’s human nature, and it draws even more success to you, even though you weren’t expecting it.
The Practical Benefits in Your Relationships
When you approach a relationship without preconceptions or expectations – without believing the other person owes you something – you’re allowing room for things to unfold naturally. There’s an element of respect. You’re giving the other person the freedom to show their true feelings. It’s not forced.
Nobody has to love you. When somebody does love you, it’s because they want to, and because they really feel that way. Realizing that makes it all the more valuable.
Instead of expecting love as a matter of course, you’re grateful for the gifts of love you receive.
The principle holds true for family, friends and business relationships. Nobody has to like or even respect you. They don’t owe it to you. When somebody does like you it’s a genuine feeling – because of your positive qualities, or because of the value you’re adding to their lives, which is better than the superficial pretense of civility. It’s honest, straightforward – and far more satisfying.
Now relationships can flourish based on mutual feelings of admiration and respect. There’s no question of guilt, deception or dishonesty. It’s a wholesome, free exchange.
The Practical Benefits to Personal Development
At the very core of all personal development is a sense of private responsibility. You owe it to yourself, to find your own way towards the best possible version of yourself. Others may guide you, but nobody can walk the walk for you.
It’s a fundamental shift in the direction of the energy flow. Instead of being only a passive receiver, you become a generator and provider of positivity. You shift from a mindset of entitlement to a mindset gratitude.
When you accept that the world doesn’t owe you anything, you can finally stop sabotaging yourself with negative self-speak and self-pity.
So take this positive advice to heart and save yourself years of disappointment. Drop your expectations entirely. Let go of feeling entitled. Your happiness doesn’t depend on outward circumstances. Your goals aren’t going anywhere – step up and take the initiative.