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The grass is always greener … on which side?

Do you ever find yourself thinking “Is this the right decision?” or “There are other alternatives that seem better?”. Do you look at other people and think you would be happier, if you just had their life (job, car, spouse, money)? Then you’re thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. You have probably heard of this phrase, that describes the constant doubt, lingering inside your head, when it comes to a certain aspect of your life. The uncertainty about your decision(s), notion that regardless of your current life situation, you feel like it could be better somewhere else, with someone else, in a different job, city or situation. We are going to look at it from a different perspective in this article, and give you a better perspective.

It is actually much more common than you think. There are over 10 million results on Google alone for this topic, albeit under it’s scientific name “chronic dissatisfaction“. I know what I’m talking about – I struggle myself with it in my relationship. I have a good life – work for myself, have plenty of freedom and resources, have an amazing partner who supports me, sex is great, we can talk about anything and we grow and improve together. Yet I find myself in cycles of doubt. Luckily, this never results in any affirmative action, but it still causes havoc and unnecessary pain for both sides.

Other people experience the “grass is always greener syndrome” in other areas of their life. They are swamped with beautiful instagram photos of other people’s holidays, cars, homes, careers and partners. Mostly photoshopped, snapshots that are manufactured for the best marketing or social impact. Or we see the best facade that people put up around us, to “keep up with the Joneses”.

Mostly just a show

Most of all we see is just that – a facade, marketing, social manipulation. It’s ok for individuals to want to show their best face. The problem is the magnification of the problem by social media and the internet. Whereas before, people saw some celebrities on the TV, and maybe some successful people in their neighbourhood, today we can see all the successful people of the world in the palm of our hand, day in and day out. And not just their occasional success story – but what they eat, wear, who do they date, where do they shop – in the best light, several times per day. We even get to see unknown people, who appear like their life is just a series of cocktails on the beach with models and six-packs.

We look at other peoples’ lives and compare them with ours. But… what if other people look at our life and deem it “greener” than theirs? What about your life – how many people do you think would want to have your life? Suddenly, we are standing on both sides – where the grass is not as green (according to us), and where the grass is greener (according to many others).

Which side is right? Which side is greener?

If we are looking at people’s lives, then there’s many people looking at ours. So instead of thinking about how does your life compare to the best out there, think about how do other people around you see your life. Is it possible that they envy certain parts of your life? Is it possible that you inspire them in some aspects?

Could your grass appear greener to other people?

The answer is very likely YES -there will be many people wishing they had your life.

It’s not green and greener. It’s a spectrum of grasses.

Many people are looking at your “greener” grass. You are looking at their “greener” grass. Other people are looking at the people that are looking at you and see their grass as greener. It all depends on where your standing and what your idea of a greener grass is.

Which green is THE green?

Now imagine the real situation – it’s not just you alone on your side, looking at a greener side. It’s millions of people on your side looking at another side, but there are other people looking back at you. And to the left, there’s another side that you don’t see, but others do. And the same to the right. And above, and beyond too. Imagine that – a whole apeirogon of sides that all seem greener to someone.

Does that change how you see yourself now? We’re not going to cover all the psychology behind “grass is greener syndrome” in this article, but this realisation should go a long way in improving your situation.

There always will be the notion of greener grass somewhere, no matter how much you improve your life.

There’s also another thing against you – it’s a rigged game. The odds are against you, it’s not a fair gamble: you can try your luck many times, but they all require a lot of effort, time and energy. And they eventually lead to the same conclusion – every relationship requires maintenance and hard work and it will seem less green than the other potential ones.

We are not going to cover all the psychological aspects or cognitive biases that also play a big role in seeing the grass greener on the other side. (Anchoring or focusing bias, paradox of choice for example)

It is ok to try to make your life better, to aim higher, to get inspired. But try to use your energy on improving your current situation rather than running towards a new one. Because the mind that has doubts about your current situation will go with you to the next one.

Your grass is green enough, it will be even greener if you start watering it, rather than standing on it whilst looking at the other side. Clear your head of the nagging thoughts and make room for productive thinking – make your current situation better, don’t chase after a new one.

This also takes time. Take it sensimly…

Don’t expect to change your mind this right moment – such change takes time. In the same way a small stream can still cut through rock and a mountain – you too can cut through the distracting way of thinking. Remind yourself a little every day – to stay present, to focus on all the good things you have, to build on top of them. Keep yourself busy doing things you like rather than thinking about what if. It’s a lifelong project. Some people find it easier to let go of “what if”, others don’t – but it’s just a question of time. Allow yourself the time, allow your relationship to grow, your career to improve, your house to develop – your grass to become even greener.

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