Blinkers On

Sometimes good intentions can restrict vision

I never used the word ‘complacent’ in my vocabulary until a couple of weeks ago, when someone very dear to me said they don’t want to become complacent in their profession. I worked the word over in my head like one of the coffee-flavored hard candies I suck on when I need a break from chewing gum. Sometimes I’m so accustomed to gum that I bite the candy. And like the candy, I bit on the word a little too hard and it suddenly became tied to my anxious desire to plan my life.

Being complacent is not necessarily a bad thing. Merriam-Webster defines it as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies,” or “an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction.”

So why does the idea of complacency make me anxious? I know that I’m not currently unaware nor uniformed… and what’s wrong with being self-satisfied? Doesn’t that mean you’re content?

I felt fulfilled while working the Keeneland fall meet, as I usually do when I’m in a racetrack environment. By the time the meet wrapped up, the flaming reds, oranges and yellows of fall had overtaken summer, and a big life enhancement had come about when I was least expecting it.

The slowed pace at work, along with the change in actual and personal seasons provoked me to ask myself: Am I being complacent?

I’m not going to lie, now that I have a word to describe it, I’ve realized that complacency is probably one of my biggest fears in life. Even in times when I know I’m not being complacent, I’m constantly concerned that I’m not doing enough; that I’ve encountered a comfortable satisfaction that has led me to peter out, like a train slowing to a halt in front of a railroad crossing, blocking you from getting where you need to be.

I’m very “blinkers on.”

To my non-horsey readers, this might require an explanation. Horses can see 350 degrees around their body. In horse racing, blinkers are a facemask with vision-restricting cups some racehorses wear to maintain focus. Eliminating distractions to the sides or approaching from behind, blinkers can range from full cups that only allow the horse to see directly ahead, to “cheaters,” which barely have any cup at all.

My own “full cup” blinkers keep me looking towards the future. I plan ahead, make checklists and never lose sight of my ultimate goals.

The same person who put the word complacency in my head told me I need to remove the full cups and ditch my blinkers altogether. That’s a huge transition, and even suggesting this was terrifying to me. What if I diverge from the plan? What if I lose my focus on the ultimate goal? What if I don’t achieve all that I’m destined to, or worst of all, what if I become… complacent? – self-satisfied and unaware of my dificiencies.

I wrestled with these thoughts for a week, trying to find the answers myself. Needing to look beyond my own understanding, I sought out a devotional on my Bible app called “Don’t settle for safe,” by Sarah Jakes Roberts.

These words from Day 1 resonated with me:

When your mind becomes cluttered with the possibilities of “what if,” there is no room for faith. Living life prepared for the worst possible outcome is like living in a cage –it’s not freedom. Over time, you will recognize the difference between guarding your heart and restricting it.

Key word: restricting. This led me to think… maybe the real complacency in life is living blinkers on – constantly focused on what’s ahead down the stretch and failing to see what’s coming from the sides or behind; perhaps a challenge or opportunity that wasn’t directly in your foresight.

I think it’s time to take the blinkers off.

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