The Concept of “Deserve”

When you really examine the concept of what it means to deserve something, you realize that the word “deserve” describes something that exists only as an idea.  There is no such thing as “deserve” in the real world.

Those who cling to this concept are constantly bewildered at the seeming contradictions between people who are good yet penniless and suffering, and people who do many wrong and harmful things yet are enjoying wealthy, rich lives completely at the expense of others.  Clearly there is a human need somewhere in our psychological makeup to explain why this happens, but what purpose does it serve?  Here’s how it can be holding you back from succeeding.

Imagine yourself completely broke.  You’re thinking about your situation and then you ask the absolute worst questions you could possibly ask:  “Why me?  What have I done to deserve this?”

Even if we disregard how egotistical it seems to assume the universe has singled us out for punishment, the assumption is that we either deserve to be punished by living the life of a homeless tramp or at the very least have been deemed unworthy of wealth.  Either one of these ideas is killing our wallet.  It might even be killing us.

It’s been said that we accept the life we think we deserve.  That alone should illuminate the problem for you – it means that we don’t really live the life that’s right in front of us and all around us, we live the life that’s in our head.  We can pass up some amazing opportunities because the concept of “deserve” has led us off track before we even started out.  Do you deserve the love of a good person?  Do you deserve a million dollars?  Do you deserve to have your volunteerism appreciated?

Perception “Deserves” some Examination

The idea of being deserving of something isn’t based on reality.  It’s based on perception.  When we see people who are genuinely interested in being honest, trustworthy, loving, and providing the best they can for their families and humanity in general, we would all agree that they are deserving of good things in their lives in return.  They don’t deserve to suffer house invasions, carjackings, random industrial accidents, or ant infestations.  But notice how subjective the concept of “deserve” becomes when we are asked what those people actually do“deserve”.  Does living a good life mean we deserve unlimited financial wealth?  Biological immortality?  An endless string of gorgeous lovers?  As outlined in The Right Question, much of our success begins with what we don’t want and what we already know, not what we do want, and here’s another example of that.  We know what a good person doesn’t deserve, but we start to avoid eye contact with anyone who asks us what that person does deserve.

How about you when you’re angling for a promotion?  If you’re in the running with two other people to be chosen head of a design department, what happens when somebody else gets the job?  One of the first things we do is to examine whether that person actually deserves it or not.  This is a self-defense mechanism which you must stop in its tracks, because you don’t need it.  Besides, it is precisely at that point where we are being pulled off topic.

The fact is…

The fact is, if we’re going to use the concept of “deserve”, it doesn’t get us any further ahead to think about whether the person who won that plum assignment deserves it or not because the fact is that they got it.  You might deserve to win the lottery after selling your house to buy tickets, deserve to win the contract after submitting a great bid, deserve an apology from someone who has wronged you, but the fact is that you’ll either get those things or you won’t.

As soon as you throw out the possibility that you might or might not deserve something, your path becomes a lot clearer.  Now you can concentrate solely on the amount of work you’re doing.  You can focus on the process, the system, the procedures necessary to succeed, and waste less time thinking about the “fact” that success will glide on over to your door because you “deserve” it.  You either make costly mistakes along the way or you won’t.  You should make mistakes, because they’re great teachers and can be a lot of fun, but “should” is another hypothetical and basically useless concept like “deserve” and I’ll cover it in a later article.

Now that you are spending less of your mental energy thinking about the fact that you “deserve” a new Ferrari, you can spend more of that energy thinking about ways to actually obtain it.  The obvious side benefit of this is that you also remove emotional traps such as frustration.  When you think you deserve something but don’t get it, there is often a component of emotion that clouds any further thinking, making the problem worse.  If you apply for a loan and are refused, there is often an emotional element that chimes in such as resignation, maybe even depression, but you either get the loan or you don’t.  If you’re refused, when you go back to the drawing board you may find that approaching your loan application from the perspective of the lender instead of the borrower illuminates a crucial design flaw in your proposal that you hadn’t seen before – and if the lender hadn’t noticed it either, it may have cost you tremendously down the line.

“Deserve” Isn’t Emotional

We need to learn to apply our emotions as selectively as we do our words.  The next time you hear someone talking about who “deserves” this or that, you can participate all you like in the intellectual exercise, but keep in mind that the person in question either got what they “deserved” or they didn’t.  That alone is evidence that the concept of “deserve” is an entirely human creation.  Bad things happen to good people, but wonderful and truly awesome things happen to them as well.

Striving towards being a person who deserves success and love is a noble and beautiful and worthwhile pursuit.  If we all tried to be better people so that we could be more deserving of a better life, what a wonderful world we would have – even better than the one we’ve already got.  But living by that maxim alone is only going to confuse us when things go wrong even though we’ve tried our hardest to be good people.

The concept of “deserve” isn’t an emotional one, but it can trigger emotions.  Don’t let that happen.  Don’t let anything distract you from the procedure necessary to achieve your goals.  Remember, to live the life of your dreams you must become the person who could have that life.  I am sure that person is a loving, genuine, humble and inspiring individual – one who “deserves” success, and has also actually achieved it by asking the Right Question.

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