Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of people striving to achieve change, growth, and success. Human nature being what it is, there are inevitably those who become fixated on the role of fairness in the process, and life in general.
It usually begins with the point that whether or not they achieve their goal(s) it is only fair that they should be rewarded for at least trying. Of course, it could be said (and often is) that it would be unfair and diminish the efforts of those who do achieve their goals if people were rewarded for making an effort even though they fail to succeed. And where do we even begin to address the question of whether one person fails while another succeeds because of unfair advantages?
Does measuring everything we do in life against those we perceive to have more opportunities or resources somehow increase the chances of getting what we believe we deserve or does it simply foster a victim mentality?
Life is not fair, it never was and it never will be. Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling like you’re a victim. You are not.
The Entitlement Trap
Seeking fairness in life may sound justifiable, even righteous, on the surface, but the harsh reality is it doesn’t take much for it to turn into an entitlement trap. I think on some level we all understand that there are no guarantees in life, but it’s tempting to compare ourselves to others and think, “Why not me”?
But earning a degree does not guarantee a job. Twenty years of loyal service does not guarantee a six-figure salary, an office with a view, or even job security. Reaching a certain age does not mean you will find the right person to share your life with. And sometimes fairness is tossed right out the window when bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own.
If anyone could point to the unfairness of life it would be W. Mitchell who received 2nd and third-degree burns over 65% of his body in a horrific motorcycle accident, most of his face and hands literally burned off. After suffering through months of excruciating pain during his recovery he began the slow process of trying to rebuild his life, only to end up in a small plane crash four years later that left him paralyzed and permanently confined to a wheelchair. Amazingly, Mitchell went on to become an activist, politician, highly sought after public speaker, and one of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever known.
What I want is to be a symbol for you. With my scarred face, my fingerless paws, my wheelchair and real, genuine happiness in my heart, I want to be your mental image of the power of the human mind to transcend circumstances.
Or how about Bethany Hamilton, who was just 13 years old when she was surfing off Kauai and a shark bit off her entire arm? She lost 60% of her blood and wasn’t expected to survive. Yet, a month later she was back in the water more determined than ever and went on to achieve her dream of becoming a professional surfer.
Then there is Nicholas “Nick” Vujicic, an Australian Christian evangelist, author, businessman, and highly successful motivational speaker, one of only 7 known individuals in the world born with Tetra-Amelia syndrome, a disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. But Nick has never let his disability define his life, having learned how to write, use the computer, play tennis, drive, pen an autobiography, start his own nonprofit foundation, and even surf. In Nick’s own words, “It’s up to me to be bitter or better. I choose to be better.”
It’s not hard to find stories like these about people who refuse to be defined by their circumstances. Rather than waste time worrying about the unfairness of life they have chosen to claim the power they have to rise above their challenges and live their lives to the fullest.
When you accept that life just isn’t fair then you are free to find new opportunities instead of waiting around for the ones you think you deserve.
Stop Expecting Fairness
Some people will have more than you, others far less. Not everyone will care for you in the same way or as much as you care for them. Others will lie and cheat and even betray you. There will be people who use you and don’t love you even though they declare with all their might that they do.
You can do all the right things, have a positive mindset, work hard, be kind and caring, say positive affirmations until you are blue in the face, and still get rear-ended when you back out of your driveway tomorrow morning.
If there is such a thing as fairness in life it is that each of us will suffer through our own challenges, triumphs, failures, and heartaches and with that will come the opportunity to turn that experience into something meaningful. Try to think of it this way. Anything that annoys you is giving you the opportunity to learn patience. If you are abandoned you have the opportunity to build resilience and self-reliance. Your fears are challenging you to develop courage and confidence. You get the idea.
So the next time you find yourself thinking that a situation is unfair, suck it up Buttercup and remind yourself that this is your life, and it’s up to you to OWN it. Who knows, instead of wasting time focusing on the unfairness of what you may or may not have, this may be just the path that leads you to a far better reality than you ever dreamed possible!