HUGH CULVER

Why Your Grass is Always Greener Thinking Won’t Make you Smarter, Richer, or Thinner

Updated to Productivity on December 14, 2022.

The iPhone 6 is here. Yippee.

There is a grass-is-greener attitude about new stuff. Sure, the last app you downloaded, or on-line solution you subscribed to didn’t solve all your problems, but “This one.” you say to myself “This one is going to be the game changer.” 

So, at 11:00PM, when your willpower has dropped to Death Valley depths, you hit the BUY button. 

For a while, there’s that familiar warm fuzzy feeling. “This will make ALL the difference.” you try convince yourself.

A day goes by and you were too busy to try it out. Two more days, and you’ve added a reminder to your To-Do list. Meanwhile, you’ve discovered two new and AMAZING apps that look really promising.

You realize you can’t remember the name of that wunderkind app that seemed so exciting a week ago. The entry to your To Do list is simply “Try that thing.

Here’s the deal. A new app, faster phone, more expensive shoes, or gym membership won’t make you smarter, richer, or thinner.

Just like:

  • a snazzy new sports car doesn’t make you more attractive (sorry).
  • graduate school won’t make you worth more (tried that one).
  • going to conferences doesn’t get you more business.
  • and wearing a buzzing, blinking exercise-tracking wrist band won’t make you thinner.

unless…

You do what few do. 

You use what you’ve got, before you move on. And that’s all about out-smarting smart marketers.

WHAT SAVVY MARKETERS WON’T TELL YOU

There are five motivators savvy marketers are so enamoured with they’re probably tattooed on their chest. They are: fear, guilt, exclusivity, greed, and approval.

You see these being exercised so often you might not even recognize the road you’re being taken down:

> FEAR: “Cutting your sun exposure is easier than cutting out a skin cancer”images_key

> GUILT: “Disconnected?” (father checking phone during son’s birthday party)

> EXCLUSIVITY: “Only 100 tickets will be sold at this price.”

> GREED: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

> APPROVAL: Think about the brilliant “I’m a Mac” ads from Apple.

And all of these (plus others listed by Robert Cialdini in the must-read Influence) feed into one classic twist in our insecure mental machinations: we believe the grass is always greener over there.

I call it the “as-soon-as” myth.

THE “AS-SOON-AS” MYTH

I work with lots of entrepreneurs – many in the public speaking, expert field. And most fall into the trap of thinking they are lacking. It’s easy to do. Start comparing yourself to someone with more: success, letters after their name, employees, or whatever and pretty soon you feel like a gooey mass of smallness. Been there.

It doesn’t take long before you’re convinced that as-soon-as you get over this one hurdle you’ll enjoy the lottery of success. And when that fails to hit the mark, you convince ourself the next time will be better (maybe that’s why the North American divorce rate is over 50%?) 

Yesterday I was working with a group of engineers and planners. All hard-working, dedicated people. In their work, it’s easy to start thinking “as-soon-as.” “As soon as I get through this project…”, or “As-soon-as we add more staff, then…”, or “As-soon-as I take that course, then I could…”

It’s a no-win cycle – you will never be happy with where you are.

MY DAILY BATTLE WITH AS-SOON-AS

As I write this, I’m in that place. In the next three weeks I am delivering 11 speeches, for 11 different clients, in 11 different cities, all requiring a specific list of unique preparations. Plus, I’m coaching my clients, busy adding more clients to our S.O.S. social posting service, marketing two of my own events, blogging, shooting videos, and managing our small team. You get the picture.images_key

Every day I’m pushing down the “as-soon-as” thoughts. It actually scares me to go there. From being in these trenches many times before, I’ve learned to never allow myself to think that right now is anything less than perfect.

“The reason this [the grass is always greener] attitude undermines mental health” said Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D., psychologist, in Psychology Today, “is that it leads us to turn away from the main task of life, which is to make the most of what we have.”

When I step on stage, go onto a conference call with a potential client, or prepare for a keynote – I remind my insecure self (the gooey mass of smallness) that this is the perfect time for me. I’m 150% here. And I don’t want to be anywhere else. The time for rest will come soon enough. For today, I am savouring the privilege of my labours.

I heard a great distinction at a meeting, last night: instead of saying “I have to…”, turn that around and say “I get to…” Try that today – it’s a beautiful synapse-twister that can instantly flip your energy from resenting and resisting to ready and rejoicing.

LOTTERY WINNERS ARE BROKE IN SIX MONTHS

Sure, all of those future events would be great. No question. The problem is that today, you’re still you, fighting fires, building the fort, and feeding the hungry.

In computer programming, they might call “as-soon-as” thinking an endless loop. By definition, it means once you get what you are hoping for, you STILL won’t be happy, you’ll just have a new “as-soon-as” to think about.

It’s like the lottery winner who is broke six months later. They never learned how to take care of what they’ve got. So when they get more, they just blow it. “He who is not contented with what he has” wrote Socrates “would not be contented with what he would like to have.” 

“As-soon-as” thinking also takes you out of today, the present, and weakens your ability to hunker down, get focussed, and get work done. The trick is to maximize the use of what you already have.

It’s like going hiking into wilderness – you take what you need on your back. And you make do.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS WITH YOU

Img00033When the last sounds of the tiny Pilates Porter STOL airplane faded away over the horizon, our little team was very alone in the centre of the Kluane. The Kluane (the largest non-polar ice fields in the world, nestled in the South-West corner of the Yukon) is a daunting, roughed, awe-inspiring piece of real estate, at the best of times. Being alone, in the centre, at the foot Mt. Logan (Canada’s highest at 5,959M, 19,551F, and second highest in North America only to Denali) tends to loosen the bowels, and force you to take stock. This is not a great time to remember the rope you left at home, or phone call you forgot to make. All_I_Really_Need_Know_Robert_Fulghum_compact_discs

You are there, with what you brought. Now, get on with it.

It’s no different every day, with the kids, cleaning your bathroom on Sunday, or steeling yourself to pick up the phone one more time and make that sales call. You have what you need. You “get to do it.” Now, get on with it.

“The grass is greenest where it’s watered” wrote Robert Fulghum, in the much beloved All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. “tend the grass wherever you are.”

Now, get on with it.