Complacency Killed The Cat

Curiosity didn’t.

Sabrina Singh
5 min readApr 9, 2020

Being comfortable isn’t a bad thing, but not wanting to improve isn’t a good thing.


showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements

People tend to become complacent because they’ve accepted the things around them as possibly non-changing. Complacency doesn’t mean you’re pleased with yourself, it means you’ve chose to believe that there’s nothing left to change and compel you forward.

Why do you become complacent?

For starters, your brain is hardwired to keep you safe.

Mammals have evolved to feel the need of safety and social connectedness to others. The amygdala, a small part of the brain, is responsible for processing the basic emotions coming through your sensory inputs. These emotions include anger, avoidance, defensiveness and fear.

The amygdala is responsible for your fight or flight mechanism. It’s what causes adrenaline and other hormones to be pumped into your bloodstream. Fast reaction is what you’re looking for; the faster you can notice threats and either run away from them or fight back, the more likely you are to live to reproduce.

Some scary things are not really as risky as they seem, and others are better handled by staying in the situation to set up a better future response. This means there’s an evolutionary advantage to being able to hold off the reflexive fight-or-flight response while you work out a more sophisticated analysis of the situation and your options for handling it.

Unfortunately, the brain’s fear system doesn’t scale the same way the body’s immune system does. The body can develop antibodies for hundreds of diseases. Resulting in antibodies forming in the bloodstream to prevent a second attack by a similar disease. However, it’s much harder for the brain to deal with a multitude of lifelong fears.

Some of the most common psychological fears are failure and what other people think of you. These fears compel you to stay complacent, essentially triggering a psychological flight mechanism. You begin to feel comfortable without wanting to take risk, but that also means you begin to feel bored.

It’s the apprehension of failing or not getting it right the first time which presents the biggest challenge. You don’t want uncertainty. Uncertainty of the outcome provokes fear, which in turn provokes heightened anticipation and anxiety. All of this, provokes a sense that taking risk could cause everything to fold, and most people don’t want that.

When your work becomes safe and routine, you become complacent.

And while others may wallow and bask in the comfort zone of complacency, the crazy genius artist and the courageous entrepreneur loathe it.

Avoiding complacency allows you to improve yourself, your work, and your life. How does one go about avoiding complacency?

If you don’t like what you see, do something.

There’s some things that are in your control, while others aren’t. Don’t worry about things you have no control over, but make sure you’re improving what you can control.

Many people believe that if something in there life is going wrong due to an external force, there’s nothing they can change. That’s not true. You have control of many things, you can control the way you react to situations and how you approach those situations.

Constantly analyse your life. Where do you see routine? Routine can be a sign of complacency. Can that routine be optimized? How can you get the most out of the way you do things? If you don’t like something, change it. You’re in control of your life.


We easily take things for face value. What we’re told is what we follow or believe. Why? That doesn’t make sense.

Take a moment to question the way you approach situations, the way you do work, the stuff you’re told. Question everything. Have a deeper understanding behind the intention of certain things.

Be willing to learn and adapt. If you have questions, ask them. Don’t resist learning. Questions help you understand if what you’re doing makes sense. Have the desire to optimize your life. You do not have unlimited time.

Set goals and personal standards.

Find the purpose and meaning behind the goals you create for yourself. Have a list of short term and long term goals you want to achieve. Ask yourself why do these goals matter? Is this goal something I want to achieve? Are there better goals I can make for myself?

Make sure your goals excite you. They should be things you genuinely want to achieve in your life. Are there consequences for not achieving your goals? What opportunities will you miss? How will this impact you? Your goals should have downside, it’ll push you to want to achieve them.

Complacency will follow those who have no purpose. Figure out your why and chase it. Don’t leave room for complacency. Set high standards for yourself. Make a personal commitment to yourself to start and achieve these goals. Clearly define to yourself what is and what isn’t acceptable. Don’t procrastinate, don’t let distraction get in the way, don’t fear failure.

Memento mori.

Remember you must die. Your life begins right now, not somewhere down the line. Don’t lack courage to make changes in your life.

You’re in control of what you make your life. Figure out what’s stopping you from moving forward. Love your fate, don’t make the mistake of taking life for granted.

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are: ‘It might have been.”

Stuff happens.

Things will get in the way of your plans. Stuff will stop you from achieving your goals. Sometimes life happens, and you can’t change that.

Practice self-forgiveness and positively approach your situation. What can you do about it? What do you have control over? Don’t let roadblocks make you complacent. You will fail. Learn from failure, iterate, and adapt.

Understand what you’re capable of doing and continue working towards your goals. Complacency will follow you if you if you choose safety and comfort. Don’t let complacency be the reason you miss opportunity and improvement.

Key takeaways.

  • People tend to become complacent because they’ve accepted the things around them as possibly non-changing.
  • Your brain is hardwired to keep you safe. The amygdala in the brain is responsible for your flight or fight response to fear, it’s a part of evolution.
  • If you don’t like something in your life, change it. You have control of your life.
  • Don’t take anything for face value in life, question routine.
  • Set goals with meaning and purpose, have high standards for yourself.
  • Remember you must die. Life begins now, not further down the line.
  • Stuff happens. Have self-forgiveness and don’t let roadblocks make you complacent.

Hey, I’m Sabrina! I’m currently working on projects in neurotechnology. If you liked the article feel free to follow me on Medium, and connect with me on Linkedin!