The dictionary definition of “status quo” is “the existing state of things.” It’s something we routinely accept as the way things are. And it becomes so normal that you stop thinking about it.

Until, that is, it starts damaging you in ways that you may not realize. And even when you do start sensing the damage, it can be hard to make changes.

That’s because you’re “addicted” to the status quo. It becomes so ingrained in who you are that it’s difficult to change your mindset. To be clear, “addiction” is the right word because people will act or not act, to their own detriment, and the detriment of others, to maintain the status quo.

Addiction to the status quo can mean that even though you’re unhappy with your job, you keep working, believing that you will eventually “break-through” and find happiness. Addiction to the status quo may mean that you focus more on what others may think about you than what you believe about yourself. Addiction may mean that you feel that you are an “impostor,” that you don’t belong where you are. (This “imposter syndrome” is something women, particularly, deal with.)

Maybe you have feelings of burnout or depression. All because you’ve convinced yourself that this is the way things are supposed to be.

Addiction to the status quo can be more damaging than any other addiction because of its vast acceptance, immeasurable prevalence, normalization, and intricate nature. Addiction to the status quo doesn’t manifest itself in only one way. It comes from being dependent on a combination of subtle societal standards, professional demands, self-criticism, self-doubt, with the key part of it being the need to be “perfect” and an overwhelming fear of failure.

If you’re struggling, or unhappy, or finding that your health is being compromised, what do you do to overcome this addiction to the status quo? It’s not an easy process, but here are some starting points:

  1. Ask if you truly know who you are. If you don’t know this, you won’t be able to set parameters or boundaries you may need to change. This is a challenging task, and it may take some time to discover.
  2. Assess your values. You can go online and find a number of lists of values people say are important. Get one of these lists and circle three to five that are the most important to you. That helps you begin to understand who you are and what are the most critical elements of your life.
  3. Live by your values. You can now use these values to start making small decisions so your life mirrors what you truly value.

In my book, Overcoming Addiction to the Status Quo, I go into more detail about this process, sharing my personal experience with discovering myself in a difficult job and doubting myself. Once I was forced to change my perception of the status quo, my entire identity did a 180. But you don’t have to get to the point where you’re forced. Starting now is crucial to being proactive with your long-term happiness.

So that’s why it’s worthwhile—even if you feel things are going well for you, but particularly if you think things AREN’T going well, challenging your perception of the status quo can ensure your long-term happiness starting now. For help with your well-being as a professional, feel free to reach out to me to learn what the best version of yourself can be. Click here to contact Kathryn

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