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Monday, December 04, 2006

Dare not to compare

Keeping up with the Joneses is an unrewarding pastime, according to Money magazine. I caught up on reading an article titled "Can money buy happiness?" from the magazine's August issue, and it was an insightful read. The article makes the point that the answer isn't as simple as we've all been taught to believe, but it still reinforces the common wisdom that wealth isn't a worthwhile end in itself. This point is what struck me most:

"[P]erhaps most tellingly, [happier people] aren't bothered by the successes of others. [Researcher Sonja] Lyubomirsky says that when she asked less happy people whom they compared themselves with, 'they went on and on.' She adds, 'The happy people didn't know what we were talking about.' They dare not to compare, thus short-circuiting invidious social comparisons."

I think this is far easier to say than to do, but it is nonetheless true. When we compare, we are looking to confirm that we are better than everyone else. It is an act of egotism purely driven by pride, and it is a waste. There is always someone better than us if we look hard enough, and often it is not a taxing search. Authentically forgetting oneself, not in the fake, creepy and self-effacing sort of way, paradoxically leads to more fulfillment, more happiness, than focusing on raising our state of being at all costs.

I'm essentially paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, not to mention many other scholars, here, but I think this is a lesson that is quite obvious to most of us yet easily ignored or forgotten (or both). This wasn't by design, but I suppose this is a good post for a Monday morning. Here comes the work week!

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