…about contextual happiness…
I was in the car with the kids the other day (this was before Chloe and a friend tried to wax their legs with zebra-print duct tape) and the boys were fighting about how much money they had. I’d dispensed it out of sheer kindness and not as a link to any work performed. They had coins — fifty-five cents each, a pretty strong feeling I had based on the fact that I actually cleaned out my car the other day and thought it was kind of cute they’d both made nests for the coins I give them from my spare change.
(How many dirty socks can one person tote around before shame tips the balance? At least a dozen, it turns out.)
Zach thought he needed another quarter to make it equal, so I gave him a quarter. I couldn’t be sure.
(How I capitulate shamelessly to keep from going bat guano nuts in the car with complaining children is NOT the topic of this post.)
Matt thought he needed another nickel. Then Zach was mad because Matt had more nickels even though Zach had more money. It was insane.
Naturally, aside from the fact that I was just flinging bits of change at them in an effort to make them shut up, I was flawlessly adult in my speech.
I had them both stop and count their money which they did mostly because they find my flawless adult speech to be somewhat intimidating. They found they were, indeed uneven. But if you took Zach’s quarter and Matt’s nickel away, they were back to even, where they’d started.
You thought you were the only one, but you’re not. We all do this: compare ourselves with each other. As soon as the little critters perceived unevenness, the squawking began. They hadn’t done anything to earn the money in the first place. They both got more than when they started, but the unevenness made them unhappy and rather than let someone have more than they, they were willing to give up their gain.
We humans need to quit worrying about our neighbors’ flow and focus, instead, on the size of our own hoses. If our neighbors have big flow, how are they doing that and what can we learn? If we want more flow, quit comparing ourselves with our neighbors, and start learning about how to expand our own hoses.