We’re all familiar with the age-old cliche, “the grass is greener on the other side.” Chances are, we’ve used it before in some element of our lives. Whether we long for a more rewarding relationship, flexible job, or a bigger home in a nicer suburb, we’re conditioned to believe there is always more we could (and should) be achieving. While setting goals helps drive motivation, focusing too heavily on fantasy can create a severe sense of instability and fear of commitment in numerous areas of your life.
The Problem With Projection
Perhaps one of the greatest downsides of continuous self-improvement is that it sets unrealistic forecasts for your future self. Those who are at the bottom of their company’s totem pole fantasize about a higher ranked position, or a career shift altogether. While sometimes this type of swift move can be beneficial, most people don’t incorporate the amount of change that will accompany a decision like this. If you love your work/life balance, but believe you’ll ultimately be happy with a higher salary, it can be easy to fantasize about financial freedom and the ability to buy more. However, more money will likely come with more responsibilities and longer hours, which will uproot your current work/life balance.
People with a “grass is greener” mentality often associate personal unhappiness with external factors. You may feel that you’d be happier with a different partner, a better job, a larger apartment, etc. These people often go to great measures to create their picture perfect environment, only to find themselves bored and dissatisfied when all is done. The cycle then begins again, and the external factors continue to be swapped out for bigger, better, shinier alternatives. But in the end, these folks are back to where they started, thinking there’s greener pastures ahead of wherever they currently are.
Those who strive for perfection in all aspects of their lives are inevitably set up to feel dissatisfaction and failure no matter how much money, property, or love they acquire. While the grass may be greener, you can be fairly certain there are brown patches along the way.
Find a Balance
So what options does this leave for those who have experienced this way of thinking? As psychotherapist, Nathan Feiles said in a recent article, “The idea is to build an internal place of stability, rather than jumping around in your external life to compensate for a lack of internal stability.”
This is obviously easier said than done, as most people aren’t willing to take the time to work on themselves. Begin by focusing on improving lines of communication with the relationships you have and value. Take a step back and concentrate on the areas of your life that are in balance and are working for you. Whether it’s your ability to have dinner with your family, take a long walk after work, or simply grab drinks once a month with friends, allow yourself to appreciate the small puzzle pieces you have fit together.
So remember, the grass is only as green as we choose for it to be. Happiness is never guaranteed, nor is it found in one simple item, location, or idea. It is not a measurement of one’s success, but rather a state of mind that is free for anyone, provided they take the time and effort and time to develop it.