You are driving in the slow lane, stuck in the middle of heavy traffic. You look to your right and you see that the cars in the fast lane is not doing so good either: the cars there is moving as slow as you are.
Imagining that same picture, now change a little detail.
Picture the traffic in the fast lane begin to clear up, and the cars in the fast lane started to move a lot faster than you.
Compared to the first situation, how would you feel now?
I bet, like me, you’ll feel pissed. Unhappy and frustrated and miserable and annoyed with the second situation.
That’s the thing about happiness: It is never an absolute fact. It is a relative comparison.
I just read this piece of interesting fact that in countries with a high happiness index, people have a higher suicide rate. There are fewer unhappy people of course, but for those who are unhappy, they are more likely to kill themselves.
Why? Because they are unhappy in the midst of happy people. “Why are they happy with their lives but I am not?” That’s hard.
If you are unhappy in the middle of millions more of unhappy people, you’re just one in a million. You will feel less miserable. “They too are in the situation that I am in.” And that’s why few people are becoming suicidal in the hellish streets of Jakarta 🙂
I remember this story told by a friend. He was attending the office party and there was a doorprize draw. He won a two million shopping voucher, and he was so happy. Two million rupiah to shop is a lot. He began jumping and laughing and making jokes and patting people’s back in glee, up until he saw that his co-worker got a brand new iPhone from the draw.
Then like a balloon in the middle of hot sun, his happiness just popped. The jokes stopped.
“I remember thinking: ‘Wow this sucks big time. What good is two million rupiah compared with the ten million worth of the latest iPhone?’ ”
I own three dogs and one of the most fascinating things I observe is that when you feed them in three separate bowls, they would always first check the other bowls out to see whether what they have is the same with the others. Every. Single. Time.
This comparison thing is not getting any easier with all the social media of our prancing around in our edited-only-good-stuff-gets-posted timeline and feeds. I am convinced that even though people are better off now, we are a bunch more happier lot back then when we can compare less with our peers.
And do you know the craziest part is? That there will always be someone to feel bad about next. After you matched Adam, then you’re unhappy comparing yourself with Bruce. But then you’ve matched Bruce, and then came Chelsea, and the Danny, Emma and so on. It is a crazy way for living. You will never felt an ounce of happiness ever again.
Everyday, every morning, we just need to remind ourself again and again: stop comparing.
Understand how the process works in our head and tell him, “HA! I know your wicked ways! No more.”
Understand that despite the other cars are moving faster, or despite your friend getting newer iPhone, your car and your shopping voucher has not changed one bit. Your happiness can be undisturbed.
Understand that. Do not fall into the wicked tricks of your head.
My mom told me once: “Happiness depends a lot from the outside things happening to us. But joy flows out from within, despite what is happening outside.”
I have since been learning to seek joy.