“A Squash and A Squeeze” – Any parent of a toddler is familiar with this Julia Donaldson classic, and at its mention can rattle it off from memory. It’s a story of an old woman who comes to appreciate the size of her house. The story begins with an old woman complaining that her house is much too small. She enlists the help of a wise old man, who tells her first to take the hen in, then to take the pig in, and on and on until her home is full of animals, with barely any room to move. She finally returns to the wise old man, and he tells her to let all of the animals out again. She does, and is surprised at how spacious her house now feels – it is no longer too small.
We are in the midst of a “sense of entitlement” in which people are not shy about telling people not only what they want but what they expect and deserve. Desired outcomes are now an expectation rather than worked for. This has been summarised as “pervasive and enduring feelings of “deservingness” for more goods, services, or special treatment than others…with or without any dutifully earned right to those benefits” (Grubbs & Exline, 2016). Is this “sense of entitlement” a result of nature or nurture, who knows?? But it is well known that much of the younger generation has been raised to feel they are always winners, they deserve to win because life owes them. So when they reach the workplace, they expect to “win” and be successful regardless of their relative effort or merits. They expect to live where they want, at a price they can afford, within reach of all the services they are due but still spare them enough for adequate entertainment and social outlets. It’s the least they deserve …surely! Entitlement tends to manifest itself in the workplace as resistance to feedback, a tendency to overestimate talents and accomplishments, an inclination to be demanding and overbearing and to blame others for mistakes because failure is not an option – they’ve never failed.
Getting people running may be the remedy to this modern virus. But why running? Surprisingly it’s not only because of the undeniable health benefits, running, particularly recreational running, rewards practice rather than innate ability. If one trains hard running times improve and if training is inadequate failure is inevitable, even unavoidable and the blame isn’t transferable. The longer the distance of a running event, the more capacity you have to influence and improve the results through training and effort (Joyner & Coyle, 2008). Anyone that has trained for a run, whether it’s their first 5 km or their 100th marathon knows that running a race is a test in the ability to persist and postpone the short-term satisfaction of stopping, in favour of achieving a goal. In today’s fast paced world instant gratification is the norm, running teaches the value of patience and hard work, because of this it has the potential to challenge this “sense of entitlement” that has become so rampant. As the old lady from “a squash and a squeeze” found out sometimes changing ones perspective can transform mindsets.
Grubbs JB & Exline JJ. (2016). Trait entitlement: A cognitive-personality source of vulnerability to psychological distress. Psychol Bull 142, 1204-1226.
Joyner MJ & Coyle EF. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol 586, 35-44.