Edited excerpt from the City of Unley Community Team Newsletter (January 2015)
How good is this quote! I love it and so am sharing it with you, mainly as it serves as a great reminder that with care and effort, almost every situation can be turned into something productive and rewarding.
No doubt, we are all guilty at times at proverbially “looking over the fence”: comparing what others have, other roles, situations, etc to our own lot and thinking we want that too or how much easier/better/etc life would be from another’s perspective.
This is all very normal and commonly referred to as “Grass is Greener Syndrome” – the idea that there is something better elsewhere that we may be missing out on. This restlessness could be regarding career, relationship, financial security, material wealth, travel, etc.
Of course, I’m not talking about settling, not following your dreams and passions or continuing to do something you don’t find fulfilling, I’m the last person who would suggest that! Instead I am talking about those little niggles we may occasionally have which possibly cause us to feel unsettled and disheartened.
Unfortunately, the Grass is Greener Syndrome is one big, juicy myth. More often than not, this kind of thinking is based on illusion, and it’s easy to be blinded by the possibility of escape, hope and the shiny promise of what if, rather than appreciating what we have and understanding the full picture. People can often make themselves down right miserable by externalising happiness and focusing on what they don’t have and what is annoying them about their current situation, convincing themselves that life would be better somewhere else or with someone else, etc. If only….
Generally speaking, similar challenges exist and are repeated in most situations. For example, from a work perspective most organisations have their fair share of red tape, hoop leaping, cranky people, passionate/political community members and so on. Yes, things may be different (or not), and something may even be better, but they may not too. Similarly, someone might get the opportunity to travel more than we do, but we don’t see the hours they work and the time they miss out on with their families.
There are a few tried and tested tricks you can experiment with to overcome this, including:
- Practising Mindfulness by focusing in on what’s happening right now. I love the John Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Mindfulness is about being content no matter where you are in the world, or what you are doing, or who you are with and helps to appreciate life as it happens – bringing us back to the present moment.
- Practising Gratitude can put situations into perspective and reminds us what we have. This can lessen our need for wanting more and can provide a more balanced appreciation of a situation and a good way to work through hardship and challenge. There is SO much research on the benefits of gratitude, its effect on improving resilience, happiness and wellbeing, that the evidence is overwhelming. Some people do this by keeping a gratitude journal, others recognise and acknowledge when good things happen in the moment. Whatever works for you is the best way to go about it.
- Take Responsibility for how you feel, think and behave and your role in the situation. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to improve your current circumstances or overcome the issue. I am a big believer in the saying “If you are not prepared to be part of the solution, then you forfeit your right to complain”. This is not always easy, but it depends how much you care about the problem – if it’s really an issue for you, do something to change it.
- Resist Comparing your circumstances to others. You don’t know (and may never know) what another person has put on the line to be where they are or what they have been through. Comparing your insides, to other’s outsides is always incredibly dangerous and misleading. The worst bit about it is we devalue ourselves in the process and spend too much time and energy worrying and trying to prove ourselves. This can result in competitive behaviours as well as feelings of resentment, dissatisfaction and loss of self-worth. Time and energy is much better spent in realising just how good we have it and working with the strengths we have.
I’m sure there are numerous other solutions that can be applied here. Just remember: Happiness is a state of mind and unless you take the time to care for and water the proverbial grass where you stand right now, it cannot and will not be the lush and green lawn you seek. Go for it!