Forget Keeping Up with the Joneses
Posted by John Posey
Have you ever caught yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses? You know, comparing your situation to others and setting your expectations based on what you see next door or on social media? It’s a natural tendency and seems it happens even subconsciously at times. I discovered this powerful quote recently by Morgan Housel:
“There aren’t many iron laws of money. But here’s one, and perhaps the most important: If expectations grow faster than income you’ll never be happy with your money. One of the most important financial skills is getting the goalpost to stop moving. It’s also one of the hardest.”
I don’t think you can find more truth in a statement than that. I think the underlying message is about gratitude and true wealth - simply appreciating what you have. Morgan shares several interesting stories and provides greater context in his article, Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving. Give it a read.
Greg McKeown, author of the book Essentialism, also shared a related perspective in his 1-Minute Wednesday Newsletter, which I highly recommend. He defines two ways of measuring yourself: in the gap or in the gain. Greg defines gap thinking as looking at the distance between where we are and where we want to be or comparing ourselves to what other people have achieved. Alternatively, gain thinking means looking at the progress you have made. When you measure yourself in the gap, you simply cannot be happy. You can be successful, even wildly successful, but you will still feel unhappy, frustrated and maybe even like a failure. The mindset shift to gain thinking allows you to recognize the progress you have made and in return you can feel happier, more satisfied and more successful. I think the balance we want to strike here is to expand our minds to see the possibilities (think big, aim high) while measuring our progress rather than estimating our perceived shortcomings. Shortcomings by nature aren’t likely to stimulate positive thoughts and actions that actually lead to the outcomes we’re after.
It is alarming how our mindset is in the driver seat of our behavior and if you’re not conscious of your mindset, you’re a threat to yourself. Consider the following quote by Carl Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Here’s what Greg McKeown suggests to make the mindset shift:
- Next time you measure achievement, stop and focus on where you are now compared to where you were.
- Celebrate that progress and use the positive momentum to make the next gain.
If you need to get out of gap thinking, simply stop and appreciate what you have.
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