Hard Work


I had an interesting conversation today that made me think about the word “deserve”.  I am struggling these days with the idea that we deserve something.  I’ve recently seen it all over consumer advertising.  You deserve a new car.  You deserve a vacation to an exotic destination. I recently heard a student tell me that he “deserved” a higher grade based on his impression of his own work, in spite of significant feedback to the contrary.  Hard work alone does not determine what level of accomplishment you achieve.  What we deserve is really in the eye of the beholder. I may think I deserve a 15% pay raise, but I’m sure my boss will have a slightly different opinion.

Much of the research on self-assessment shows that we consistently rate ourselves as better than our reference group.  For example, 90% of professors rate themselves as better than average teachers. Perhaps this is why we think we deserve so much.

When others disagree with us about what we deserve, it might be worthwhile to think about the message. When more than one unrelated source tells me I deserve less than I think, perhaps it’s time to reconsider.

Even more, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the idea of “deserving”.  A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly summarized a longitudinal study of over 50 years of men at Harvard.  They found some interesting data on what made them happy or satisfied in life. You guessed it.  It wasn’t money.  One of the things that correlated to happiness was having lower expectations.  If we have lower expectations about what we deserve, we will be less disappointed less often. 

I have enough.  I have a great job, one that pays me to think, write and talk.  I can pay the bills and save a bit. I have a beautiful home that’s just big enough, and not too big to clean, I live in a nice town, near a beautiful lake, I have good friends and family. Would I like more? Well, I’d love to travel more.  I’d love to have a back yard, and a cottage at the lake.  But do I deserve more?  I got lucky in the lottery of life. I have been blessed.


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