Finding Your Balance in Comparisons

Finding the right balance in comparisons involves leveraging favorable comparisons for happiness, channeling the motivation from unfavorable comparisons, strategically shifting our focus during negotiations, understanding the order and future opportunities in our endeavors, and considering the perspectives of others. By mastering this balance, we can harness the positive aspects of comparisons while minimizing their negative impact on our well-being.

Josh Ether

6/7/20192 min read

Now let's explore how we can find the right balance when it comes to comparisons. We know that comparisons can be both motivating and detrimental to our well-being. The key is to strike a balance where we feel motivated but also satisfied. Here are some guidelines to help us achieve that balance.

First, we can focus on favorable comparisons. Engaging in downward comparisons, where we help and support those who haven't achieved as much as us, can make us happier. By volunteering or assisting people in need, we not only contribute positively to their lives but also gain a sense of fulfillment.

On the other hand, unfavorable comparisons can also motivate us. Just like the example of being one point behind in the Michigan-Duke game, such comparisons can push us to strive harder and reach new heights. They can ignite our competitive spirit and fuel our efforts to surpass our previous achievements.

It's crucial to consider the role of comparisons in negotiation. During negotiations, we often have targets or aspirations we aim to achieve, as well as a reservation price, which is the least we are willing to accept. Focusing on targets can increase motivation but decrease satisfaction, while concentrating on the reservation price can lead to higher satisfaction but lower motivation. By shifting our attention strategically, we can benefit from both increased motivation and satisfaction during negotiations.

Comparisons also help us make sense of various phenomena, such as the benefits of graduating in a recession. Despite potentially facing challenges in finding a job and lower starting salaries, individuals who secure employment during a recession often feel happier. This is because they compare their situation to their peers' and realize that they have fared relatively better. Comparisons help us contextualize our circumstances and find contentment even in challenging times.

Three key principles can guide us in finding our balance with comparisons. Firstly, considering comparisons in or out of order is essential. Whether we compare ourselves to competitors, siblings, or colleagues, understanding the expected order of achievements or milestones can influence how we perceive these comparisons.

Secondly, having future opportunities to compete mitigates the intensity of comparisons. When we know that there will be chances to improve or surpass previous performances, the pressure of a single, make-or-break moment diminishes.

Lastly, it's important to consider the perspective of others in the comparison process. While we might genuinely feel happy for someone's success, it's crucial to recognize that they may experience their own internal struggles or comparisons. Being mindful of this can help us navigate comparisons more empathetically.