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The Grass is Always Greener The Strengths and Pitfalls of Human Nature

Updated: May 3

We all know the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” I believe this common ideology is actually a deep insight into the strengths and pitfalls of human nature. Most of us have goals and use the “grass is greener” mentality to achieve them. We decide what “greener pastures” look like, and we devote our resources to bringing that image to fruition. Goals are a necessary and important part of fulfilling one’s potential in life, and in this way, looking to greener pastures to determine those aims is healthy and useful. But sometimes, we become so focused on the other side of the fence, we dismiss where we are now. In comparison to the picture we have created of greener pastures to come, we become unhappy with the life we have. Essentially, in the name of being happy, we become unhappy.

I suggest it is only by virtue of comparison that we become dissatisfied with what we have. Instead of allowing ourselves, our family, our careers to be as they are, we compare them to our picture of how they could or should be. Our husband or wife may be just fine—until we compare them to our ideal picture. Our career might be moving along nicely, but suddenly looks insignificant when compared with the achievements of a co-worker.

In other words, most of the time nothing is really wrong with our lives--everything is just fine—until we compare. This, I believe is the downside of the “grass is greener” mentality. If not attentive, we can quickly find ourselves on one side of the fence, unhappy until we can get to the other side. And if we never arrive, that means we may spend a lifetime dismissing the life we have, postponing our happiness in the hopes that one day our fantasy will come true.

And, should we make it to the other side of the fence, the most curious often happens. After a few hours, days, or months, we may once again look to the next pasture just out of our reach. And off we go in search of the next thing. We convince ourselves that “this time” it will work. This time, when we get what we want, we’ll stop struggling and striving. We’ll finally let ourselves relax and enjoy. But for many of us, that day never comes. We find ourselves always running and never arriving.

Should we have goals? I think we are built to. But there are two ways to pursue them. We can choose to be miserable with what we have until we get what we want, or we can enjoy the life we have now, while moving towards our goals. We can choose to be tense and anxious, not allowing ourselves to relax until we achieve our objectives, or we can allow ourselves to lighten up and take pleasure in life along the way.

Why does this matter? Because fulfillment can only ever happen in the present moment. We can think about a meal, but we can only ever enjoy it when we are eating it. We can think about love, but that thought gives us a feeling NOW. Life can only be felt HERE not there. If we have trained ourselves to separate from the present in favor of a brighter future, when the future becomes the present we won’t be able to enjoy it. We will be too busy looking to the other side of the fence. We will be training ourselves to miss the one place where we can actually experience the happiness we are searching for.

What is the answer? Learn to fully enjoy the side of the fence you are on. Appreciate yourself as you are, your life as it is, your family as they are. With that appreciation for what you have, fulfill all the goals, dreams and aspirations you have. If you reach them, you will have taught yourself how to enjoy them. If you do not, you will be left with appreciation for the life you have lived.

Published in Healthy Living Magazine 2012

By Kamini Desai, Ph.D.

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Originally published on on March 1, 2012

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