We have this capacity to compare ourselves to others.
It is a very human tendency, and we do this very often throughout our day.
The reason why we do it is that we have this amazing computer called the mind that has the capacity to see and perceive that things can be different from what they are.
No other living being has this capacity.
A mosquito for example, cannot think ‘I would rather be a dog’ or ‘how glad I am that I am not a cockroach!’. The mosquito cannot think in this way, it does not have the ability to imagine that it can be anything different than exactly what it is.
That is why an ant millions of years ago did pretty much the same as it does today.
But we are different. We have a mind, and in it, there is the amazing capacity to see what is not there, but could be.
It is what allow us to evolve, to create, to do art, to progress, to prosper.
It is why we now have computers, internet, phones, rockets…and who knows what we will have in a few years.
This capacity to imagine that what is now can be different from what it is is a great power but, wrongly used, it can becomes the source of one of our greatest psychological suffering.
Because a person has this capacity to imagine that it can be different, that person has the possibility to evolve, to change and to improve.
But at the same time, precisely because of this capacity, it is very rare for a person to be content, to feel happy, to experience peace.
We can always imagine, and we often do imagine, the possibility to be something or someone else and, especially now, in which we have a lot of access into the lives of so called ‘very interesting people’ trough Instagram, Facebook, news, movies, TV, etc, it is easier than ever to think about how one could be different than one is.
We see somebody that has a big house and say: well, I could also have a big house…but I don’t…and so I suffer.
It could be a big house or it could be a million other things, depending of what I believe it is important…this person is very intelligent and I am not, and so I suffer; or this person is taller, or prettier, or famous, or has more money, or travels more or has more kids or whatever. There are always infinite possibilities of things I could be or have, but I am not or have not.
But comparing does not help, it does not work. A person may inspire us, and that is great! But comparison is not inspiration, they are very different acts, and they have very different results.
Comparison is not useful, it does not take us anywhere, it does not help us in any way.
Fulfillment, which is what we want, what everybody wants, does not come this way.
For example right now, whoever is reading this note, very probably, has more money, objects and security…more of everything!, than most people on the planet; but this fact is not noticed, is taken for granted, and all is seen is the lack, what could be but is not, and like this, the sense of unfulfillment, frustration and unhappiness arises.
But the truth is that fulfillment does not come by having*, by getting more, but it exists in the embracing of what is, right now.
Of course there is nothing wrong with getting more, if one can get it or attract it. But what is important to understand is that more does not, in itself, creates fulfillment.
Because unless we learn to embrace what is, there is never enough.
The explanations for this are very well known for thousand of years in the old traditions and philosophies. However, without going so far, in the so called new psychology there is a term called Hedonic adaptation or Hedonic treadmill** which explains very clearly why fulfillment is not found on more.
Instead, fulfillment is the recognition, and embracing, of this moment as it is. Not later, not tomorrow, not in 5 years, not in 10 years, but now, right here and now.
It does not matter what others have or don’t have.
It does not matter what others do or don’t do.
What truly matters is the recognition of this amazing reality appearing right now, this miraculous moment, this infinite existence. What is required is to immerse oneself in this vision of plenitude and abundance, and then, in that awareness, in that perception, we will move and act and do what needs to be done.
With this, peace and fulfillment will always be part of our lives, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Without it, no matter what we get or do, we will always be waiting for more.
* Other than what is required to survive and have a sufficient standard of living.
**Here’s a quote from a wonderful book called A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine about this idea of Hedonic Adaptation:
“…to illustrate the adaptation process, scientist point to studies of lottery winners. Winning a lottery typically allows someone to live the life of his dreams. It turns out, though, that after the initial period of exhilaration, lottery winners end up about as happy as they previously were. They start taking their new Ferrari and mansion for granted, they way they previously took their rusted-out pickup and cramped apartment for granted.
Another less dramatic form of hedonic adaptation takes place when we make a consumer purchase. Initially, we delight in the wide-screen television or fine leather handbag we bought. After a time, though, we come to despise them and find ourselves longing for an even wider-screen television or an even more extravagant handbag. Likewise, we experience hedonic adaptation in our career. We might once have dreamed of getting a certain job. We might consequently have worked hard in college and maybe graduate school as well to get on the proper career path, and on that path, we might have spent years making slow but steady progress toward our career goal. On finally landing the job of our dreams, we will be delighted, but before long we are likely to grow dissatisfied. We will grumble about our pay, or our coworkers, or the failure of our boss to recognize our talents…
As a result of the adaptation process, people find themselves on a satisfaction treadmill. They are unhappy when they detect an unfulfilled desire within them. They work hard to fulfill this desire, in the belief that fulfilling it, they will gain satisfaction. The problem, though, is that once they fulfill a desire for something, they adapt to its presence in their life and as a result stop desiring it—or at any rate, don’t find it as desirable as they once did. They end up just as dissatisfied as they were before fulfilling the desire.”