The other day, Char and I gave both of our dogs a bone. Not one for both of them, one for each. They each had their own tasty bone to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon. Now, if you’ve ever watched two dogs chewing on bones right next to each other, you inevitably already know what is coming next.
They switched. One went over and sniffed the other’s prized possession and they seemingly came to the mutual conclusion to switch bones. They then proceeded to chew for awhile before switching back.
As soon we gave them bones, they instantly started to make comparisons to the delectable treat the other was gnawing on.
We do that all the time.
If you’ve ever been introduced to someone new, you’ve made a comparison. In fact, you make comparisons all of the time without even thinking about it. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. How do we stack up against the competition? Part of it is due to the competitive nature in today’s society. Another part is due to the media. They want you to compare yourself to others because chances are, you’ll end up concluding that there is something out there that you need to become a better you.
We’re in a race to become better than the next person so we can get a better job, a bigger house, a nicer car, etc. In a world where the goal is to be better, better, better, we end up forgetting everything that we originally have. Picture a 5 year old that’s playing with some toys on the ground. All of the sudden, you bring out a brand new shiny toy, perhaps something from his Christmas list. All of the sudden, the other toys become absolutely obsolete. All of the attention is spent focused on the new toy in his hands. Our attention and gratitude can be that short-lived.
Just like a dog with a bone, we’re extremely well-adapted to figure out what we lack that others have, hence why professional athletes are coveted as models and spokespersons for clothing lines. As soon as you see someone else with a shirt, cellphone, watch, or some other small, yet lavish accessory, you immediately notice that you don’t have that object. When you’re surrounded by wealthier individuals, you’re quick to notice how much money you don’t have. All of this not having leads us to want, want, want.
This faulty train of logic leaves us in a constant state of unhappiness with our current situation. There’s always someone with a nicer car, better clothes, and a larger paycheck.
Shedding Light on What You Do Have
Think for a second about the last time you encountered someone in a wheel chair. Now, you likely saw them moving around, perhaps taking the elevator or just moving past you in the hallway. I’d almost guarantee you did not feel an instant rush of gratification at the ability to walk or jog on your own feet. In the same token, the individual in a wheel chair likely doesn’t feel an immense appreciation for sight when witnessing a blind person walking with their furry friend.
We’re immune to our own fortunate circumstances. No one is blaming you. It’s difficult to appreciate everything we’re blessed with on a daily basis: the ability to walk, the breakfast we eat, etc. No one is expecting you to shed tears at the first instant you wake up in the morning only to thank your lucky stars when you crawl safely back under the covers at night.
So what can we do? We can notice what’s there…what we have in our life. Although it seems extremely common, not many people are doing it. Here are some key steps:
Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. Click to Tweet!
Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes for someone else. In public, everything is going great but don’t assume that always translates into their personal life.
Spend 10 minutes a day alone. We crave social interaction and attention. Even when we are alone, we usually have our head craned down to focus on our iPhone. Take 10 minutes out of your day to sit alone and reflect. Think about anything – family, work, school – but make sure it’s in a positive light. Now isn’t the time to get anxious about making dinner for the in-laws.
Show extreme gratitude. I’d argue that the majority of times that you say “thank you” are knee-jerk reactions that you make without even thinking about the actual meaning. This is fine when someone hands you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But, when a friend goes out of their way to help you, go out of your way to thank them.
Compliment others sincerely. The quickest way to brighten someone’s day is to make a sincere compliment that really hits home. This goes beyond the typical “you look good today” and really brings out a certain attribute or skill that they do really well.
Change your lens. It’s easy to say but even harder to do. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to just switch your views overnight, but the goal is to notice what you have, not what you lack.