How Are You Doing? It’s Relative.


Not too long ago I got a medical bill and was shocked by how large it was. As I thought about paying it I had the feeling many of you might have had in the past – it seems like I can never get ahead.
Sleeping on it didn’t help because it was top of mind when I went for my run early the next morning. Running is good for me because it allows me to clear my thoughts and gain perspective.  As I considered the medical bill the Oklahoma tornado tragedy came to mind. All of a sudden my “problem” paled in comparison to those who lost loved ones and the thousands who lost homes and possessions.
Please don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think of the Oklahoma tragedy to make myself feel better but the reality is this; no matter how good or bad we have it, someone else has it better or worse. How we’re doing depends almost entirely on what and who we compare ourselves to.
During the Principles of Persuasion workshop I talk about something called the contrast phenomenon which tells us how we experience something is directly related to what we compare it to. For example, saving $5 on a $10 item makes feel pretty good but saving $5 on a $100 item doesn’t have nearly the same effect. It’s the same $5 but how we view it is relative to something else.
Much of life is spent making comparisons:
  • How much we make
  • The house we live in
  • The car we drive

This can lead to a lot of problems and a good amount of discontent because there’s always someone who makes more, has a nicer home or car, a better looking spouse, smarter kids, etc.

My faith teaches that comparing ourselves to one another is foolish because we’re comparing to the wrong thing. If God is the standard then on one hand we’d all fall short no matter how “good” we are. Fortunately God doesn’t ask us to measure ourselves by His perfection but rather by His love. When it comes to that, He is clear – we can’t earn it and there’s nothing we’ll ever do that will make Him love us more or less.
Personally I find this freeing. No matter how productive I am today, or unproductive, no matter how well or poorly I do, nothing changes His standard. For me it means pursing whatever I do not for the accolades, money or some other external reason but rather for the enjoyment it brings me and the opportunity to help others.
So here’s my advice the next time you’re feeling blue; take a moment to explore why and ask yourself if perhaps the state you’re in has to do with comparing who you are or where you are in life to some arbitrary target. If that’s what you’re doing, then you can change the frame of reference just like I did during my morning run. The bill remains the same but I’m in a much better frame of mind and that’s priceless.
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
4 replies
  1. anthony Tormey
    anthony Tormey says:

    Another great post Brian. Reminds me of a story a friend of mine who spent six and half years as a POW tells. "None of us volunteered for this assignment", he said, "But we all did what we could do to persevere." With the right frame of mind, no matter the situation, we have the capability to make it through.


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