Compare and Contrast

Comparing yourself to others is a fool’s game

Photo: Christian Stahl

 

It’s human nature to rank things. Best football team, fastest car, smartest student in the 8th grade. We seem programmed to need to know where we fit vis-a-vis our neighbors.

And, boy does that ever make us miserable.

Because no matter what, there’s always someone else in our orbit who’s making more money, looks younger, has kids doing better in school than ours, or just bought a new car while we’re struggling to pay the Netflix bill.

Comparing ourselves to others is a great way to get disheartened and induce inferiority. And staring at how green the grass next door is will automatically put a serious dent in your self-esteem.

It’s a loser’s game — there’s always someone who, at least from appearances, is getting a better deal than us.

Sages through the ages understand this. Cast down your bucket where you are. Acres of diamonds in your own backyard. Live in the moment. The power of now.

OK, so how do you stop fixating on keeping up with the Joneses?

What works for me is to stop and quickly make a litany of what I’m thankful for. It immediately takes me from useless thoughts about what the Jones have to the galaxy of awesome experiences, people, and things in my life right here and now. It’s like reaching for a lifesaver.

Often the turnaround to the joyous realization of all that’s wonderful in my world is so stunning it practically takes my breath away.

I believe you get what you focus on. If you focus your thinking on resenting the other guy’s good fortune and overlook your own, you’re doomed to be unhappy. Comparing yourself to others is literally self-sabotage.

Your assignment: Quickly make a list of 15 things you’re grateful for. Then “compare and contrast” that with how you felt before you made the list.

It works every time.

Joe Grant

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Lord, Give Me Patience. Now!

I’ve always been in a hurry to get things done, make things happen, see results right away. If a guy ahead at a stoplight fails to lurch forward instantly when the light turns green, I honk. If I pick the wrong line at the checkout, my mind spirals into rude thoughts about the mental capacity of the miscreant ahead of me who’s obviously not competent enough to pay for his groceries fast . . . so I don’t have to wait.

And need I mention what an unreasonably demanding and miserable boss I was?

So I’m working on being more patient. Which is ironic because I’m getting older and there’s so damn much I want to make sure gets done before I kick the bucket.

There are many really smart people who process things for a long time. They’re thorough, thoughtful, and usually right.

Even this moment, as I blast through writing this blog, I want to finish it, fast.

But before I close — I’m very busy — here’s the best “patience mantra” ever:

Infinite patience yields immediate results

If you have any suggestions to help me be more patient, please send them along.

Immediately.

 

Joe Grant

Why Self-help Doesn’t Always Work

Joe Grant

Why Self-help Doesn’t Always Help

How come we have all these self-help videos, books and articles about getting things done and bringing happiness and contentment to our lives . . . and yet so many people are anything but happy?

Photo: Marcus Spiske

“Self-helpiness” is surely a multimillion dollar business. Just look here on Medium at all the inspiring pieces written by well-intentioned people trying to help others with easily digestible nuggets, 500 words or less, titled 5 Must-Dos To Be Happy (I made up that title).

It seems like the answers to a rewarding life have been available for eons. Ancient philosophers, prophets and seers, religious leaders, and Tony Robbins have all told us how to live wholesome satisfying lives. So why the hell isn’t everybody totally content and satisfied?

I think it’s because ITH infects us. Yes, ITH that terrible disease we all suffer from. It’s Too Hard.

The iconic ITH example is of course New Year’s resolutions. We know what we need to do for better health, happiness, and relationships. We pledge to do or not do certain things and give it a good try for a couple of weeks. Except in the scurry of our lives those noble promises begin to fade and it’s too much effort. ITH has arrived.

How are those January resolutions workin’ for you now that it’s April?

OK, so this is the part where I get to tell you what to do, adding my tiny voice to all those who have come before.

If the behaviors you’ve committed to when you embraced a motivational prescription were doable once, they’re doable now. Revisit them, recommit, and begin again.

Look, you already know what you want to do, you know the changes you want to make. All that’s happened is you didn’t get done — YET.

Don’t beat yourself up. Re-summon those good intentions and remind yourself why you want to bring them to reality. The very act of reflection will motivate you all over again.

This week I looked back at my personal growth plan for 2018 written in January. Ugh. I didn’t accomplish any of my three 1st Quarter goals. Two I didn’t even start.

I had a choice. Just say “screw it.” Or begin again.

So I grabbed a couple more of those self-helpy articles. And I’m beginning again.

You can too.

 

Joe Grant

Responses

When You Hit a Rough Patch

Photo: Byron Johnson

 

Since we’ve been living and traveling full-time in an RV we’ve driven enough miles to circle the globe more than 5 times.

That’s a lot of riding on the Interstates and believe me, we have a good idea about the condition of the infrastructure. To be kind about it, our roads are not in good shape.

But that’s taught us something.

No matter how miserable the pavement surfaces might be, they never last forever. As long as you keep moving.

We ride the highways in a 45′ long RV we call the Rock Star Bus and tow a medium-size SUV which adds another 15 feet. It’s over 50,000 lbs of rollicking fun that can get uncomfortable bouncing on broken expansion strips, potholes, sloppy patching, and sections that have heaved up and down. Picture a porpoise trying to swim on a hard surface.

The big learning is that the bad road never lasts forever.

As long as we’re going forward on our desired path, we’ll get to a smooth part again soon. So that’s what we focus on.

It’s never failed to happen in all the many thousands of miles we’ve travelled: the road always gets better. Although sometimes it helps to repeat the Zen mantra, “Infinite patience yields immediate results” — because it can feel like the rough part will never end.

No one is stuck forever on uncomfortable life-highways. Unless of course you keep driving over the same territory. The death of a loved one, losing your job, generalized anxiety and malaise — you’ll “get through” those episodes. As long as you put one foot in front of the other. I know.

The next time you’re in the car going from Point A to Point B and you encounter a choppy stretch of road, watch what happens. If you keep going things will smooth out.

It always works like that.

Joe Grant

To Travel

Coming up it will be 5 years since we sold our home and 99% of the stuff in it to wander around the counry in our RV. There it is, barely visible in the picture above taken one evening at sunset in Arizona.

Tomorrow morning we’ll leave to gently travel the next few months all the way to the Atlantic.

We love our way of life. For me, maybe it goes all the way back to when I was just a kid. I remember lying in bed warm and cozy imagining I was in a magic sort of covered wagon that could fly and go places. That may be the genesis of my wanderlust.

In these first 5 years we’ve been to all 48 continental states (and visited Hawaii and Alaska by plane and ship), met amazing people, seen things we never knew existed, soaked up the cultures of our remarkably diverse states, and saw life from many different perspectives.

We’ve indulged our curiosity about human beings, geography, history, and nature . . . and profited from living a more simplified life.

Some people totally don’t get what we’re doing. How can you live like gypsies with no place to call home?

Well, we are home, every day and every night — always sleeping in the same bed and relaxing on the same couch. Just like you.

But the novelty of seeing new things is simply too big a magnet. We’re not built to sit on the porch and doze all day. There’s too much out there to do and learn!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

We leave Tucson tomorrow and will go to Los Cruces then cruise through northern Texas before swooping down to New Orleans to listen to good music and eat extraordinary food.

For us, every day is an adventure.

Joe Grant

What’s Your Speed Limit?

Some people live their lives the way they drive their cars

Photo: Martina Baucon Benedetic

 

How are you driving your life?

I know people who are on cruise control at 55. They’re the even-keel types who rarely appear to be speeding up or slowing down. The Steady-Eddies, mellow and dependable.

Then there’s the gang that has only two speeds: 100 mph and Off. They jam the pedal down first thing when they get up in the morning, tear through their routines before leaving the house, race to the office or wherever, and stay at that speed all day long. They overcommit and are often over-tired . . . but can never go quite fast enough.

Of course some folks are good at adapting to the road conditions, i.e. the circumstances of their lives. They’ll adjust to stay just under the speed limit whether it’s 25 or 65. They don’t break the law and they know how to arrive safely at their destinations without jumping on the brakes or going so fast they can’t see the scenery.

The faster you go the more you’ll miss. Speeding along you have to focus only on what’s right ahead of you, and the beautiful vistas all around will go unoticed.

So, what’s your speed through life?

If you feel you have to go 90 plus maybe you need a way to slow down occasionally — otherwise you’ll wear out your mental engine and chassis way too soon.

Our bodies and minds are just machines that break down and wear out like anything else. After all, cemeteries are nothing but junkyards to deposit the used up vehicles of our lives.

You can slow down.

Meditation, a quiet time by yourself, a relaxing dinner and conversation with someone special, a walk in nature, reading a good story, a long hot shower . . . can all act as gentle brakes.

If you drive your life at a comfortable speed you’ll discover a lot of the tension of high velocity travel melts away.

Besides, you don’t want to miss all the wonderful scenery, right?

 

Joe Grant

Other People’s Battles

Recently I was at a seminar about techy radio and electronic things led by a very accomplished speaker. This guy knew his stuff and I learned plenty (that is, what I could understand!).

He was organized and confident, commanded the room, handled questions with ease and style. Later I decided to check out his website.

That’s when I got a suprise.

Buried in the menu was a “Personal” tab. So of course being a card-carrying voyeur, I clicked it.

It turns out this smart, capable technology whiz I is sturggling for his life with depression, severe eating disorders, stress, dibilitating anxiety attacks, disastrous relationships, and can’t hold on to the jobs he’s eminently qualified for.

Believe me, there’s no way you’d know this if you met him.

And therein lies the message: We rarely if ever know the battles others are facing in their lives.

Patience, understanding and kindness don’t come easily to me. I confess to bullying innocent clerks and factotums . . . sometimes just because I can. I’m often over-confident, sucessful by most measures, and have a quick but cutting sense of humor. My idea of hell is engaging with someone on the phone from a lower caste at Direct TV or Verizon.

And I almost never think about what others might be dealing with beyond the exigency they can solve at the moment for me. The operative word is “me.”

Everyone has something they’re trying to cope with. Even as they bag groceries or man a help line. Sick parents, a bad marriage, money problems, feet that hurt, a habit that’s slowly killing them. Or just trying to get through the day so they can go to sleep . . . then do it all over again tomorrow.

I work at trying to see through to what’s actually there in the person behind the counter or working the drive-thru line. Maybe there’s a moment for a sympathetic remark like, “Wow, I don’t know how you handle all these customers” or “You really know how to make that machine hum!” Even a sincere “Thank you for going out of your way to help me today” can go a long way humanizing our service culture interactions.

Because you never know what they’re battling with . . . most of which I can’t do much about.

But, when I remember to, I can make it easier dealing with “me.”