I think that there is a lot of debate on the subject of whether or not the grass is always greener on the other side. Have you caught yourself going down this path? Ever have a friend speak to you about all the reasons why the grass is greener over there? Erma Bombeck, a humorous author writes, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank!” Now that might be taking it a little bit to an extreme.
Seriously, the reason why I wanted to write this article is because I wanted to explore people’s perceptions on change and whether or not there is a specific underlying behavior pattern at play. After you read the article, I would truly welcome your discussion on the subject at hand.
On the Job
Have you ever had a coffee with colleagues and the conversation turns into a downward spiral of comments describing everything wrong with your current employer? Do you find yourself saying, “It wasn’t like this (insert time frame here) years ago. When we started it was like (insert your description of nirvana here).” The thinking progresses. You start to wonder, “Are there better opportunities out there compared to this one?” ...
After this conversation, did you find yourself wondering, what else can I be doing? Maybe I need to go look for another job. Then your mind does a miraculous thing. It starts to filter and simplify things in order to make sense of our experience. Typically we tend to simplify it in three ways: by deleting (leaving information out), generalizing (making broad or universal claims on the basis of limited information), or distortion (creating meaning by concentrating on specific information while ignoring others). By filtering through your recent memory and searching for new specific data points that validate your hypothesis, the case becomes stronger on why a change is needed, now. There are examples of conflicts, things that your boss did, or the last time something didn’t go your way. You find examples of the last time you took a leap, see all the great things that have happened… all these go into a large vortex, spinning in your head. Suddenly, all the proof is there. Of course I need to get out of here. I need to look for another job, or maybe I need to call that recruiter I spoke to a while back.
In a Relationship
I purposely put this in here without a lot of comments. I just wanted to pose the question: Have you seen the scenario described above play out in a personal relationship? Only you can recognize what the trigger may have been that started out the thought processes. Perhaps things haven’t been going so well lately. Did an urgency arise, a growing feeling on why every other person or option suddenly appeared to be more attractive than the person that is next to you?
So What’s Wrong With That?
Actually, there may be nothing at all to be concerned about. It may very well be that there are aspects of a new job or a new partner that may suit you better. Maybe it’s a better title, more responsibility, or more money or maybe you have more things in common with another person. Or perhaps there are elements of your current relationship that does not serve you or your partner very well.
Growth, Curiosity, and Living Your Values
Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist, pioneered a client-centric approach to his work with clients. In his Actualizing Tendency, he describes humans as having an innate tendency towards growth, that we are resourceful, and that we desire to become more, just by virtue of being alive. He goes on to describe that there are necessary and sufficient conditions for growth such as being held in an unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding, and congruence.
Congruence exists when your ideal self is in alignment with your true self, meaning what you want to be is in line with your values. In Coaching, we work with clients to help then gain clarity in what is important to them, and then start making decisions that are congruent with their true self.
Living your Values
So the question is, have you stopped to think about what is really important in your life? How does the current position or relationship support these things that you feel are really important to you? What needs or values is it serving? How and where does it not serve you well? What is it about the new opportunity that attracts you? Does everything that is not this current situation or person look better to you no matter the reason? How does that new option support what is really important to you? In what areas could it have a detrimental effect? What beliefs or assumptions do you have about the current situation or partner, and are these beliefs affecting your behavior or what you conclude from the information you select to support the beliefs?
If you decide to make a jump before exploring some of these questions, the catch is this:
When you take a look back, do you notice any similarities about the changes you have made in your life, your career, or relationships? If you asked a close friend to give you their honest opinion, what do they say to you? If your own reflection or the feedback of others hint that perhaps there is a pattern playing itself out, perhaps it might be worthwhile to hit the PAUSE button before you make the next leap. The grass is always greener can be a problem when one is always looking at the other side of the grass and think that the grass is greener over there, no matter which side of the grass you are on. Why do we do this?
Satisfaction and Fulfillment
Satisfaction and fulfillment can come from many aspects in our lives. For some people, career achievements can be a great source of this satisfaction. For others, a job is a job; something they want to do that is enjoyable, where they add value, provides financial security, but they are not seeking to become the CEO of where they work. That sense of achievement and growth can come from another source in their personal life, such as giving back to their community, learning to play the piano or picking up a new language that they always wanted to learn. Or it can come from exploring new exotic places during vacations. It all depends on what is important to you. Moving forward in these important areas can give you the satisfaction of growth and achievement. It comes from valuing what it is in your current life that supports you, and seeking growth and development in the areas that do not serve you well.
When the sense of achievement is lacking, sometimes it can create dissatisfaction with other areas of your life. For instance, a person can be happy in their job or relationship; however, a gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction can become destructive to these otherwise content areas of your life. This may cause you to seek changes in areas of your life that are not the source of this dissatisfaction to begin with.
This sense of dissatisfaction can create the urge to jump without understanding what you desire, and can lead to further dissatisfaction. While the thrill of something new can give us a lift, constantly searching can drain the energy from us. It will distract us from appreciating and enjoying the good things in front of us now. We can accidentally throw away a job or a relationship that was giving us happiness in ways we did not recognize until we left it behind to go to the greener pasture.
What Can You Do?
Choices. No matter what the circumstances, we always have choices. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of energy and creativity to see them. Maybe the answer is that you do want to change this aspect, but perhaps you now see that you thought was attractive might not be the right option, and perhaps you need to look for another alternative.
Congruence comes when our decisions are in line with our values and who we are. Dissonance results from decisions that go against the intrinsic values we find important. If you search for happiness, it can never be found. It comes from inside, by living your life and making decisions that are congruent to who you are and what is important to you. And step-by-step, perhaps the happiness will be found, from within.
I hope that this gives you some food for thought and a framework to have a discussion with yourself so that you might explore what is driving the need to change and what is really important in your life. If you are lacking information, go get some answers.