Comparison Shopping Doesn’t Create Happiness

By Patrick McNerthney 

I was covered in new car smell last week after test driving two trucks and one sedan. Whooooo boy the difference between driving a 2006 and a 2022 is massive, indeed. The extravagance of not having a rattling suspension, leaky windows, unidentifiable smells, or disturbing, if not downright alarming, readings coming from the dashboard, was quite enjoyable.  

Car people kind of baffle me – I mean, I’m doing this out of necessity; my 2006 Subaru simply won’t make it another 2-5 years without significant investment. Combine this financial reality with the transformation in passenger safety improvements over the course of 16 years and it means: Crud! It’s time for a new car. 

This is way different from what “car people” think.  They just love cars so much they’d keep my Subaru as a “project” car, AND buy a new car with custom, latest-in-everything stuff installed. Weird.

However, I must admit, after driving a new car, then going back to my old car, I was all like, “Oh, look at that guy’s cool new car, and that lady’s – is that a rolls? Oh man I want that and that and that…”

(And that.)

Which brings up something I’d like to point out using my favorite example: Me. 

Do I feel rich? The best way to answer this question is to understand that feeling rich is very different from being rich.  Compared to my relatives from the 1800s (it’s weird to think that, yes, we all have relatives from the 1800s, and 1700s, and 1600s…I’ll stop there lest ye olde brain explodes) I’m magically rich. Let’s examine the facts: I have instant access to information through technology that was unimaginable a century ago, not to mention running water, heat (without fire), a roof (not thatched), only marginal fear of being attacked by a wild animal–okay, sharks, but my relatives were not seafaring folk… Suffice it to say, that feels pretty darn rich. 

At the same time, compared to the guy one mile up the road from me with the huge house and BRAND NEW awesome red Toyota Pathfinder with all the right accents, or some handsome version of me in the future, I’m behind, WAYYYYYY behind. This doesn’t feel rich. And there’s the rub. “Rich” is a story we often tell ourselves using “ours” versus “theirs,” which is a problem because we’re basing our happiness solely on comparison with those who have more.

(The only thing that’s gonna make the small pineapple taste bad is comparing it to the large pineapple.)

What makes this worse is that we conveniently leave out the reality of what we’re comparing: “I’ll have the $80,000 truck…” (but not the stressful lawyer job it takes to pay for it). Or, “I want that 5,000 square foot house…” (but not the traveling 52-weeks a year to afford it because (insert reason here).

The point is, it’s helpful to remind ourselves we’re making assumptions, and omitting parts of reality, when we comparison shop our happiness. So it’s useful to turn our thinking around. It’s possible to create happiness considering what we have rather than create unhappiness by dwelling on what we don’t have

It’s the paradigm of ownership. What we do with what we have is a choice. We can create the feelings we want…or, if we’re not careful, the feelings we don’t want. 

Fine Art Miracles (FAM) believes the reason you care for your residents and loved ones is, at least in part, based on your inherent generosity, kindness, empathy, and desire for connection. Of course, caregiving is not an easy path, seldom heralded, full of daunting challenges, and brimming with emotional labor. That’s why FAM champions creative expression as a great tool to add to the traits you possess that inspire you to do this work in the first place.

Art Therapy, Dance & Movement Therapy, Music Therapy, Multi-Sensory Sessions, Drumming Exercise, Drama Therapy, and ART2GO packages (a quick and easy way to get started!) open doors that lead to what underserved populations need most: feelings of confidence, relevance, self-worth, mastery, and community. The elderly, children with challenges, and anyone needing assistance with daily living often experience anxiety and depression because they feel forgotten and left behind, especially in the face of social isolation. Now is the time to change that, and FAM’s borderless services support what you already have – you – and provide some extra juice on your journey to create happiness.  

Sound good? Give FAM a call, or drop them a note, they’re happy to help!

Well, I have to take my kid to school. Since I don’t have a new car yet, I have to add water to my Subaru’s radiator before we go. It’s ridiculous. But when I think about it, compared to hitching the nags to the wagon or even walking him the two miles in the rain, it’s not that bad. In fact, I’m rich.


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