Imagine you could choose between earning $50,000 or $100,000 each year.
Pretty silly question, right?
Well, actually, there’s some interesting data that indicates the majority of people would choose the $50,000. The choice was $50,000 – providing that everyone else was only earning $25,000. Or $100,000 – but everyone else is earning $200,000. Dumb choice hey.
But social comparison is a powerful force and can make people do, and buy, some pretty silly things.
Yes, it’s messed up. It’s this comparison to “The Jones’s” that creates an expectation gap. And the expectation gap that creates unhappiness. If I expect more, then I’ll be perpetually disappointed with what I have, regardless of how much I already have.
Personally, I’d rather spend time travelling with my family than have the latest iPhone… but that’s just me. LOL.
If I look around me and am content with my life, relationships, things and home – two things happen.
First. You step off the hedonic treadmill, otherwise known as the ‘rat-race.’ You don’t need to get a bigger home, better car or a luxury holiday to be happy. This means you can invest your time and energy into the things that matter. Instead of buying stuff you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like – You can be content with what you have and where you are right now. It’s refreshing, trust me.
Second. You OPT-OUT of the comparison game with the “Jones’s.” Shifting your focus from what you don’t have, to begin noticing what you do have, free’s up time to enjoy the things you love. There might be a little adjustment phase where friends and family question your choices, but in our opinion, being happy far outweighs being popular.
If you’re feeling like you’re never meeting your own expectations, have a stern word with yourself and get clear on your priorities. Here are a few ideas to start the conversation:
Notice your progress. Where were you 5 years ago? It’s likely you’ve achieved a lot and that the ‘you’ from five years ago would be delighted with your current life. When we make time to reflect on our journey, it’s much easier to be content with what we have and stop the endless chasing of “The Jones’s.”
Water your own grass. Yes. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It’s also likely that your grass could do with a little more love and attention. Tend to the things you do have and invest your time and energy into maintaining them. I recently painted my front fence, and the satisfaction has got me seeking out more little home improvement projects.
Clarify what’s actually important. As a family, do you want to travel, get the kids into private school or spend more time doing craft on your back porch? When you get clear on your goals it’s much easier to stay focused. Often, we can afford to do anything we want… we just can’t do everything we want. So, get clear on what matters and start working towards that.
Good luck and if you need a little help, be sure to drop me a line. We’ve had a fair bit of practice ignoring what the “Jones’s” are up to and going our own way.