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Why is the grass always greener on the other side?

Hello, I’m Dr. Michael Busseri, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Brock University. I will provide an answer to the question: “Why is the grass always greener on the other side?”

I’d like to propose a three-pronged answer to this question. To begin with, why do we even look at someone else’s grass in the first place? Human beings are like comparison machines: one of the most important ways we learn about ourselves – how are we as an employee, spouse, friend, what we think of ourselves – comes from comparing ourselves to other people. This is something we do automatically as humans.

Secondly, when we do look at someone else’s grass, or car, or job, we tend to focus on a small number of details that don’t fully reflect what that thing is about and that doesn’t take into consideration everything that’s involved with having that thing. Instead we focus on a subset of outcomes or features of that other grass, often the wonderful things (we marvel at how much greener it looks than ours, or how soft it would be to walk on that grass). We forget that any change is complex and that good things come with bad things, stresses as well as excitement and rewards (even that soft greener grass needs to mowed, watered, and fertilized!).

Thirdly, whenever we make a change in our lives – whether that be positive or negative – we adjust and adapt to that change very quickly. What we don’t realize is that after we get what we want, within a short amount of time, we’d probably be just as happy or unhappy as we were before we had that thing. We don’t fully appreciate how quickly we adjust and adapt; hence, within a short amount of time, we start looking at other grass.

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