Visualising positive outcomes can be powerful, but thew dangers of expectancy are not to be underestimated. Michael Foley sums this up nicely in his 2010 book “The Age of Absurdity”, talking about an entire generation that has grown up believing that they have the right to a great job, a house and a foreign holiday. As soon as an aspiration tips over in your mind to being something to which you are entitled “to from the world”, then you are on sharp spiral down towards self-pity and conspiracy theories.

The truth is that we are not entitled to anything. Think of the baby buffalo at the watering hole. Does he have the right not to be snatched by a crocodile or mauled by a lion? No, he has no rights. He knows the risks and he pays attention as best he can. Rights are man-made things and they only exist by mutual agreement. How many appalling stories have we heard about how people can behave when society breaks down? We are lucky to have the “rights” that we do and it is worth keeping in mind that they could potentially evaporate at any moment.

In fact we are more than lucky. We have never been so safe in our homes or on the streets or even on the roads for that matter. It might not feel that way. The instant and comprehensive nature of news these days brings us a horror story whenever we care to look, but the fact is we are lucky to have the luxury of feeling and being really very safe and we are lucky that society organises itself so efficiently to clean the streets and flush our toilets etc. There are safety nets in place so that anyone (in a good number of countries at least) can find shelter, food and clothing if they need it.

How do these “rights” suddenly escalate in to the “right” to find a job which we enjoy? Michael Foley tackles this with the neat concept of “The Ad and the Id”. We are constantly sold a dream that we will be happy if we buy new jeans and get our whites whiter. The Id, the brain’s short-termist pleasure driver can see the attraction and works hard for control of our brains as a whole. We believe in the concept of equality, so if our neighbour has something then we should have it to? That’s only fair. It’s our right. Suddenly if we don’t have a 20-foot trampoline in the garden, then the world is a cruel and heartless place.

In most of us this leads to a hedonic treadmill where we buy far more than it turns out we want. For some this skewed perception of rights leads to expectation paralysis. Why bother going to work? No one will give me a job I’ll enjoy, or just as bad, I might as well just coast at work, they don’t value me anyway.

So what can we do? Firstly be our own person. Make our own decisions based on what we actually like and enjoy doing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying a breadmaker if you really are likely to bake your own bread each week. The better you know yourself and the less you clutter your life with physical manifestations of your poor decision making the happier you will be.

Incidentally this touches on the area of buying presents. It’s tempting to buy a gift because it’s cool, it fits in to the right price bracket and it’s probably got a plug on it. This is last thinking though, not to mention poor for the environment. Give yourself a diary system that pops peoples birthdays up two weeks before the date & then add it to your to do list to observe and listen out for what they want or enjoy doing. A well thought through present is a joy on both sides. The goodwill you create and the edifying feeling you experience will repay the time you have invested several times over.

If you are coasting or at home choosing not to look for work then you need to take a very long and honest look in the mirror. What exactly are you entitled? Why? What have you done to earn it? What could you do to earn it? Understanding your thinking and what motivators are driving you will not suddenly create opportunities for you. But you might have the motivation to start looking in the right places.


Executive Coaching will help improve your decision-making, highlighting hidden assumptions. These days, most top performers in business work with a coach.

If you would like to invest in yourself and the value of your business then call me on 07730 700258 to arrange a free introductory Coaching session.


Interested in other decision taking tips? Click the link to read “Beware of self confidence”