Reframe, to Make the Grass Greener

Published on 2014-05-23

Source:  LUH 3417 @ Flickr
ACCORDING TO THE UN World Happiness Report  China ranks 93rd happiest countries, out of 156. Denmark was number one. As the repost states, ” China is an interesting case study. It has delivered an enormous reduction in economic poverty as a result of people moving from rural areas to large cities. However, these “migrants” are not as happy as you might expect given the increase in their incomes. They clearly miss many aspects of rural living that raised their well-being.”
It would appear, that not only is the ‘grass greener on the other side’, but that many in China used to own that grass before giving it up for the big cities.
As a side note, it may interest you to know that, in fact, the grass is greener on the other side; or at least it looks that way from our perspective. According to James Pomerantz, who wrote a scientific article entitled ‘The Grass is always Greener’ in 1983, looking at grass from a distance will always make it look greener than the grass at our feet. When we look down at our feet, we can see right past the grass and down to the brown dirt.
Looking through to the ‘dirt’ also happens in life. It’s easy for us to look past our own green grass and focus our attention on all the brown stuff. We look past our friends, family, health, job, and instead look just at the things we don’t like, what we don’t have, what we think others have better, or at that taller mountain we’re not standing on.
Here’s an example I notice almost daily in my life. No matter what queue I choose to stand in, whether at the supermarket, movie theatre, airport, bus stop, or anywhere else, it’s always the slowest one. I’m convinced that I have the worst luck when picking them. In fact, according to Pomerantz, it’s actually true! I do pick the slowest ones…at least most of the time. It’s actually a fact of probabilities. If there are three queues, than chances are that one in three times I will be in the slowest one.
What I rarely ever notice though, is the one in three times that my queue is the fastest. When I am in the fastest queue, I rarely bother to look around at the others, but when I’m in the slowest one, I’m tapping my feet, getting frustrated, and looking around for the ‘greener grass’. Plus, when I remember past events, it’s those unlucky moments that I always remember. It’s this observational bias, “selection of negative cases” as Pomerantz calls it, or “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome that I, amongst many others, commonly suffer.
So how can we be cured?
The cure is all in the mind. It’s called ‘Reframing’ and it part of our Problem Solving program. Reframing means to give a new meaning to a situation that we previously had given a negative one to. For example, when Thomas Edison had tried unsuccessfully numerous times to develop the light bulb, he didn’t give up in failure, instead he said, “I’ve not failed, I’ve just found a thousand ways that do not work!”
So, next time you’re standing in the slowest queue, or admiring the greener grass, know that you have a choice. You can either fall victim to your observational bias, or choose to reframe, and improve your happiness.  After all, there is ‘nothing like a Dane’, when it comes to happiness!