I write these words for everyone in the world except for one person. This post is for the 7.52 billion people who are not the richest person in the world. In other words, Elon Musk, if you are reading, this is not for you.
To everyone else, I have some news:
Someone in the world has more than you, get used to it.
I once read a fascinating statistic about millionaires who lost their wealth. A survey was conducted of people who once had a net worth of $2 million, but now are worth less than $1 million. When asked how they lost half their fortune, 40% responded, “We started hanging out with people worth $10 million, and we lost our money trying to match their spending.”
The study, which I read years and years ago, has always stuck with me. It reveals an important truth:
There is always going to be someone in the world with more than you and trying to keep up with them is a losing battle. Because there will always be someone else ahead of you in the game.
- There is a co-worker in your office who has more than you.
- There is a neighbor down the street who has more than you.
- Someone at your church or community group has more than you.
- There is a family at your kid’s school who has more than you.
- And we all know there is someone on television right now who has more than you.
That is always going to be the case (except for you Elon).
Now, it seems to me there are only a couple of responses we can have to this reality:
1. We get jealous and envious and bitter that someone has more.
2. We accept it and decide to find happiness with what we have.
The clear choice for a joyful and happy life is #2.
But too often, we choose #1.
As a result, we spend much our time comparing our things to other people. We compare the size of our house, the year of our automobile, the brand of our clothing, our last vacation destination, the age of our retirement, or our paycheck with the person next to us.
Unfortunately, there is no joy to be found in these comparisons. Ever. Because there is always going to be someone with more.
There is no contentment to be found in comparing our stuff with other people. You may think that once you own a fancy house or nice car like so-and-so, you’ll be happy. But that’s simply not the case because there is always going to be someone else to compare yourself to… always a bigger house, a more prestigious neighborhood, or a fancier model car to own.
There is no end to the comparison game. There is always, always going to be someone in the world with more.
I fear making sweeping generalizations, but I am going to for the sake of argument.
If you are reading these words, your needs are met. You have clothes and food and shelter.
You may not have the most expensive clothes in the world, you may not eat at the fanciest restaurants, and you may not live in the biggest house on your block. But your needs are being met.
In fact, I may take this moment to declare another truth. Not only is there someone in this world with more than you, there is someone in this world with less than you.
There is someone in this world with less than you who is perfectly content and happy because they have chosen to be happy right where they are, rather than comparing their lives to someone with more.
There is someone in the world with more than you. But you have many reasons to be grateful. And you have everything you need to find happiness. So stop comparing.
Great post, Joshua! This is an excellent reminder. Thank you!
L. Lagaude says
Yes – thank you Joshua.
If you have what you truly want, need and value you can be satisfied. If you are purchasing, building and aiming to please or impress others (family, social standards, colleagues, friends) you will never be satisfied. Good article!
Luis Zelaya says
Graham Harvey says
Spend more time in the developing world! That will help get over the western obsession with more and more and more. So many things that people get used to & take for granted. Just start with water. Clean water that you can drink from a tap, water coming into your residence through plumbing, just that is something that everyone should have but billions don’t.
Kathy F. says
I really needed to read this today! This can be especially hard when it’s your lifelong best friend who has more than you! I don’t begrudge her the financial stability she and her husband have. They worked hard, made great choices. But my life turned into a string of setbacks, most of which were not my making (think divorce, being widowed, health issue after health issue). My bestie has been there for me through it all, but sometimes it still is hard to accept your own life in comparison to others.
But, as Sir Thomas Mallory said: “Enough is a Feast”. I need to focus on all the intangibly good things in my life, instead of what others have. When I really sit down and think about it, for most of them, for one reason or another, I wouldn’t want their life anyway.
Laura Hoog says
Great article and reminder for me. Not sure who said this (I tried to research withinconclusive results): comparison is the thief of joy.
So SO true!!! I loved this article!
Lisa Bilinski says
I also think a lot of people may find themselves jealous or envious of others because they see people or a family with less and see how happy they are. Things do not bring happiness. Happiness is within yourself and by giving of yourself. After my February luncheon with a group that raises money for our Children’s hospital my goal is to do a second round if decluttering in my house. My husband and I spent 5 months decluttering our home and I know there is more I can free us from. One of the bes t things we have done together!
Tiffany Johnson says
Great post. This also goes beyond possessions. A friend of mine would always compliment her children in a competitive and comparative style. “You were the prettiest one on the stage!” or “You’re the smartest kid in that entire class” or “You’re a better skier than all of them.” These statements were made in an attempt to build them up, and they may or may not have been true. What happens when they grow up and they suddenly realize that they’re NOT the best at everything?
My kids have been raised knowing that they are so loved, but that there will always be someone faster, prettier, and more intelligent than they are. The lesson is to do your best, be your best, and celebrate others doing the same.
Clarence Dawn J. San Pablo says
This article made me feel better. *deep sigh* Thank you.
This is SO RIGHT ON! IT took me 30 years to figure this out. Life is so much simpler, peaceful and HAPPY when you don’t compare yourself to others. A friend used to tell me people typically compare their “insides” to other’s “outsides” or what they appear to be on the outside. Not always what we think either.
Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’… they’re poor…