Let’s say you were super hungry, but the only store within 10km was one that served plain chicken. You’d be grateful that at least you still had something to eat, and you’d very likely enjoy the chicken.
Now let’s say there was a McDonald’s behind that store that you overlooked. Since you know you can have delicious burgers instead, would you still appreciate the plain chicken? Probably not.
This thought process is something I’ve observed is more pervasive in daily life than you’d think. We often don’t assess an option based on its absolute merits, but rather, assess it based on its RELATIVE merits. The flaw with this, is we become greedy and get caught in a cycle of disappointment, when the reality is our standards are simply too high.
To illustrate this further, I have two friends. The first one is tall, extremely good looking and has dated models before. The second, is short, has a subpar body and has never dated.
The first is always getting invited to parties and constantly meeting attractive girls, but he’s still single and appears to be frustrated. As a result, he engages in recreational drugs. The second friend met a decent (though I wouldn’t say conventionally attractive) girl at a board games night. They’ve dated since and he appears fulfilled and able to progress with other aspects of his life.
Which friend is happier? The second, even though, when judged in absolute terms, has less than the first and he probably doesn’t even realise he has less, because he’s happier.
It’s important to understand this and take ownership, even to the point where you can refuse to find out what’s possible to avoid a perpetual cycle of feeling unfulfilled. Of course it’s hard to do this once you know the truth.
But having control over your standards and expectations is the great equaliser in achieving happiness because your satisfaction is no longer dependent on the relative quality of things you obtain, which is something akin to chasing a moving target. You’re able to assess options based on how well they can satisfy YOUR needs.
In part 2, i’ll discuss how I think we can moderate our standards.