|In our six-part series we talk about shifts in mindset and behaviour that are required if we are serious about moving towards sustainability. Our latest one was about ‘Giving more importance to the feminine side’, before that the topics were ‘Thinking into the future while acting now’, ‘Letting go off the illusion of control control’, and ‘Understanding connectedness and thinking in systems’.
What is the shift required?
The essence of this mindset shift is captures in the quote of John F Kennedy from his presidential inauguration in 1961 when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Given our sphere of influence – our community, and the wider context on which we depend – the planet, this should really be expanded to “Ask not what your community, country or planet can do for you – ask what you can do for them!”
The sentiment of ‘contribution’ is certainly not a modern one, most religions emphasise it in some form or other; whether it is, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ in Christianity (Apostles 20,35), ‘generosity’ being one of the three central practices of Buddhism (the other two are morality, and meditation), or ‘charity’ (Zakat) being one of the five pillars of Islam (the other four are Shahadah – sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith, Salat -performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day, Sawm – fasting during the month of Ramadan, and Hajj – pilgrimage to Mecca). Yet somehow, particularly in the world of today, it seems that the sense of entitlement, rather than the thought of contributing, seems to prevail.
What does it mean to feel entitled? Definitions read, “A pervasive sense that one deserves more and is entitled to more than others” or “An expectation of special favours without reciprocating.”
While not all seems negative about entitlement, particularly in the context of innovation; one study suggest that, “people who feel more entitled value being different from others, and the greater their need for uniqueness, the more they break convention, think divergently and give creative responses”, overall consequences seem unpleasant, be it for the individual or those around them. Evidence suggests that those feeling entitled are caught in a vicious circle: entitlement leads to high expectations which are impossible to meet; unmet expectations lead to frustration and resentment; frustration and resentment trigger an even greater sense of entitlement and superiority. Looking at the context of work, research indicates that a sense of entitlement leads to political behaviour and co-worker abuse and, as a result, to job-related frustration. Here the link to an article that explores the why and the how of ‘The rise of the entitlement mentality’ at work further.
While entitlement is focus on self, contribution is focus on others. This shift from entitlement, or ‘I’, to contribution or ‘we’ – or as Otto Scharmer would put it, a shift from ego-system to eco-system – is one of the key shifts the world needs now.