Contrasting Success Factors – Entitlement vs. Empowerment

“I spend my life constantly calling in ‘imaginary’ debts that aren’t owed to me in order to avoid the ‘real’ debts that I owe to others, and so everybody ends up bankrupt.”  – Craig D. Lounsbrough

As I shift my attention to the new year, I thought I would take a slightly different approach to my leadership blog posts. This year, or at least for the next few months, I’d like to focus on the topic of “Success” by contrasting the different attributes of successful vs. unsuccessful people. So, let’s start this series out with a discussion on entitlement vs. empowerment.

More and more these days I find myself running in to the issue of entitlement. Sure, you have all heard plenty about the ‘entitlement’ mentality of the millennials (which I think is both incorrect and misunderstood). But to be honest, I’m seeing the issue of entitlement just as frequently (perhaps even more so) in the older generations. I’ll avoid any political association to this post and simply say that I believe entitlement has become far too prevalent today. And yes, there is a difference between social responsibility and entitlement.

When it comes to personal and professional success, the problem with entitlement is that it prevents the individual from ever reaching their own potential. In its very definition, its surrendering all control to others, leaving no room for self-achievement or self-determination, and frankly it does nothing to build self-esteem. For grins, let’s look at one of the relevant definitions for entitlement:

en·ti·tle·ment
[inˈtīdlmənt, enˈtīdlmənt]
NOUN
the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

There are some very interesting words in here worth highlighting. The first is belief – implying a mentally developed “truth” that may not have a basis in fact. The second is inherently deserving – a concept that suggest its owed as a matter of principle. And the third is special treatment – again a term that suggests something above and beyond what others should receive.

With that kind of definition, no wonder an individual who believes he or she is entitled will struggle to become successful. The mentality behind entitlement suggests a passive approach that is dependent on the action of others. Stacked against someone who lives with a sense of empowerment, the entitled individual has little chance of coming out ahead.

On the other hand is empowerment. The very word is liberating! Say the following statement aloud: “I AM EMPOWERED”, and you will no doubt have that same feeling. So, when it comes to success, those with an empowered mentality are the more successful. They approach life with a positive, enthusiastic attitude. They recognize that they will only get what they earn, and not necessarily what they may feel they deserve. In fact, often empowered individuals turn “deserve” on its head by owning the outcomes of their own actions.

Let’s do that same definitional exercise we did on entitlement but now with empowerment:

em·pow·er·ment
[əmˈpouərmənt]
NOUN
the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Again, lets focus on key words in this definition. The first word is process – suggesting it is a journey not an outcome. I love the use of that word as it is so powerful. The second word is controlling one’s life – clearly a nod toward the power of both owning the outcome because you control the actions.

Empowerment becomes so much more “powerful” when you look at it in this lens. Imagine the individual who embraces their success as a journey not an outcome, as a process that makes them stronger and more confident. Imagine how liberating it must feel to control one’s life, rather than wait – nay – demand what they feel they are deserved.

The lesson is clear. Successful people approach the world with a sense of empowerment, controlling their life and owning their outcomes – both positive and negative. Unsuccessful people approach the world with a sense of entitlement, subjecting their life to the outcome of others, all while believing they deserve special treatment.

What word will you embrace?

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