Imagine you wake up one morning, turn on the news, and see a breaking headline story:
“Earth 2.0 discovered on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.”
Scientists finally did it. They found another planet in our own galaxy with human life.
It turns out, oddly enough, that this planet has the exact same dimensions as Earth.
It has the same land forms, the same topography, and identical oceans. It’s home to the same plant and animal species as Earth. It even has an identical moon.
For all intents and purposes, this planet is Earth except for one quirk: everything is twice as good on this planet.
The houses are twice as big.
The food tastes twice as good.
There’s an autonomous transportation system that makes commute times half as long.
The pollution is only half as bad.
The wealth of humans on this planet is twice that of our own.
For most people, this discovery of Earth 2.0 would stir up feelings of jealousy, envy, and inadequacy. The citizens there have it so much better than us.
We would feel deprived, despite the fact that minutes before seeing this breaking news, we may have been feeling perfectly content in our warm house, with running water, electricity, and food in the fridge.
This is the nature of perspective, which impacts both our finances and our happiness.
Perspective is a double-edged sword. When we look up at those who have more than us – more wealth, more success, higher standards of living – it can motivate us to work harder. If we’re not careful, though, this can be a never-ending success treadmill.
Chasing and reaching the next level – in career, finances, fitness, relationships – can bring fulfillment, but there is always a higher level to reach. There is no top.
This is why it helps to look down occasionally, to see how far we have come, how good we have it relative to others, and how much there is to be thankful for.
Derek Sivers says it’s better to think like a bronze medalist than a silver medalist:
“Imagine what it’s like to be the silver medalist. If you were just one second faster, you could have won the gold! Damn! So close! Damn, damn, damn! You would keep comparing yourself to the gold winner, full of envy.
Now imagine what it’s like to be the bronze medalist. If you were just one second slower, you wouldn’t have won anything! Whoo-hoo! You would be thrilled that you are officially an Olympic medalist, and got to stand on the winner’s podium at all.
Comparing up versus comparing down
Your happiness depends on where you’re focusing.”