The Trap of Entitlement

By Dr Jeff Stoker | Cognitive Biases

Dec 01

“He’s finished school.” his mum said, “he needs a sick note so he can get his benefits,” she said in a matter of fact way.

I grew up thinking that If I put in the graft I then got the rewards I was due, and although this ethos of meritocracy doesn’t always fit with what happens in the real world, it’s often poles apart from the views of the many who are caught in the ‘trap of entitlement’ which is increasingly affecting larger proportions of today’s society.

I think Jim Rohn once said ‘Life is not designed to give us what we need, life is designed to give us what we deserve’. In this lesson I’m going to discuss entitlement, entitlement is subjective, it’s definition is that it is what you feel you deserve, yet in this article I’m going to take the concept of entitlement a little further and also discuss I’ve started to see a lot of in today’s society and this is something called the trap of entitlement. 

The trap of entitlement is caused by a cognitive bias called entitlement bias, and this bias affects your thinking so that you always feel that you are entitled to more than what you currently have.

You might be saying that you wouldn’t mind a bit more in life but along with this cognitive bias also comes an underlying lack of gratitude for what you currently have, a bitterness towards others that have more than you, along with and abnormal attribution of responsibility. 

The attribution of responsibility is a predominant feature in people caught in the trap of entitlement, when they want more they attribute the responsibility of getting this towards others, i.e. it’s someone else’s responsibility to give them more, not their own responsibility to work for it instead. 

For some people entitlement is a simple equation it just means that the less they have the more they should have, and that they are always entitled to have even more than that.

There is a difference in doing without and never having enough, there are groups of people in our society that have never really had to work, never really had to try, and never really had to fail. I’m not talking about the can do, or want to people, I’m talking about ‘the never really have to people’ because these are the ones most affected by the trap of entitlement today.

The ‘never really have to people’, are both rich and poor, they never really have to do anything to get what they want, they just feel entitled that they should always be getting more. A fair amount of the society around my practice are from families that rely on low-paid jobs or are dependent on in-work benefits just to survive. I commonly see people holding down a number of low paid, zero-hour temporary jobs doing everything they can just to get by and provide for themselves and their families, their income and wellbeing is in a precarious position every day.

The top 1% of Britain’s highest earners are paying more than a quarter (27.3%) of the country’s entire income tax bill, and most of these earnings are gained through the labour of years of hard work, study, effort, and the repeated daily toil of doing nothing less than everything to succeed. Both of these groups live a life built on hard work and a far contrast to those affected by the entitlement bias that are doing little more than nothing every day but expect everything in return.

Entitlement bias makes people feel that they are born with a claim to the wealth and property of others, today there are kids growing up with the unrealistic expectation that they can escape the discomfort of hard work and that everything in their life should be freely given.

Not having, not taking responsibility, and always wanting more will create a bitter void in your life of not having enough, a lack of gratitude for what you already have, and a loathing towards others who have more. 

I spend my life trying to help other people, yet I believe that there’s also a limit to how much help others can expect, there’s also a limit to the type of help that people can or should be given. There are also things that nobody can be given too, these are the lessons that can only be learned, or the things that can only be earned by people themselves, and it’s is only by doing these things for themselves that a person can start to break free from the trap of entitlement. 

The cure for the trap of entitlement is responsibility, and taking responsibility for some is difficult because some people have never taken the lead in their lives, have never sat in the driving seat, they have always been a back seat passenger in life.

With the trap of entitlement, it is always someone else’s responsibility to help you, someone else’s responsibility to bail you out. If you think like this, what I’ve seen is that there’s a time when whatever someone else does for you it will never be enough.

There’s a limit to how much someone can be helped who is not willing to help themselves, entitlement bias could be poisoning how you see the world, don’t get me wrong you can still want more but you also need to take responsibility for getting those things you want too.  

You can either do nothing, never have enough, and always want more, or you can do everything you can and feel grateful for everything you’ve got.

This article on the trap of entitlement is taken from a lesson in the Juvenate Foundation Course.

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