Once again, the photo doesn't have anything to do with the post, but isn't Tuukka a beautiful pup?
I was listening to a podcast recently (Short Wave: Humans Want to Make Everything Better, Jan 13, 2023) that reported on two scientists who asked people versions of the question, how could X be different?
Before you keep reading, please answer the following questions, and I'll let you know how you'd sift out in their research:
- How could your house/apartment/abode be different?
- How could your job be different?
- How could your friend/partner/spouse be different?
- How could your country's government be different?
Did you notice any pattern in your answers? Did you note ways that your living space or job or person or government could be better? Almost all people (90%, they said), when asked about how things could be different, automatically focus on how they could improve. The scientists argued that part of being human is continually striving for how ameliorate our situations.
I think there's more to it than the desire to improve. I'd argue that changing things up, making them different, is often a path to better, even when the specific changes we make end up for the worse. What I mean is that if we stay in what's comfortable, we stagnate, but we stay because we fear that our changes might make things worse. But if we make a change that doesn't work out the way we hope, we've learned one path not to take.
From there, if we go back to the way things were, we no longer wonder about the what if's of the other choice, so we feel better about where we are. If we then try yet another new path, we do so with more information and more confidence. We do so knowing both that we've eliminated at least one worse path and that taking a wrong path won't irreparably harm us. We can regroup, recover, and redirect.
Sometimes, fear of the unknown keeps us where we are and doing what we're doing, but whenever we're not excited about the place we are, we shouldn't stay there just because it's easier or less scary. Just like lots of kinds of fish, we're better off if we keep moving forward.
What are some of the hard changes you've made? Do you agree that making unknown and scary changes when we're not happy is better than sticking with what we know? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.
8 thoughts on “225. Why Different is Better”
My dad taught me an important lesson. He was a rocket scientist and was fed up with the lies made in order to get gov’t contracts. They would say that it would take 3 years to develop a certain rocket and would cost 30 million knowing full well that it would take 5 years and 50 million. What could the gov’t do once they were invested in the project!! He left his job to follow his hobby of postage stamp collecting. He took a job at an auction house that sold stamps and part of his job was to evaluate the market value of the stamps in preparation for the auction. He took a major cut in salary, had to commute into NYC by bus vs a 20 minute drive west of where we lived in NJ. But he was happy. I trained as an elementary school teacher and got into the system I wanted to be in (had grown up in the town) but soon discovered that it was not something I wanted to do. I was making decent money (11+K a year) but chose to go work for Nature’s Classroom as a teacher. Starting salary was $40 a week and was seasonal. Lucky for me I had 4 years of public school teaching and outdoor ed. experience and got the top salary of $60 a week. But I was happy teaching kids in the woods!! I also had my summers off so I could continue at Camp Thoreau and TIV. I thank my dad for that lesson!
I love this. Different doesn’t have to pay more to be better. On a side note, both of my kids loved their Nature’s Classroom field trips.
Diversity. How house, job, partner, government different? I was thinking of how could become bad/worse. Maybe a lawyer’s trait. Recently dealing with a corporate friendly “divorce” among a few entities. Still, there are some lower probability possibilities of difficult to bad outcomes. How balance this different/better 90% study report with the gratefulness perspective. Cf children’s story of child who was offered to exchange her “bag of worries” for those of another, and decided rather keep her own.
Yes, this makes sense. If we think about as much as we can through a gratefulness lens, we’re less likely to imagine how everything could be better rather than worse. At the same time, if we don’t imagine how things can improve, we’re less likely to work towards improving them.
Yup, I only thought of ways things could be better. I will try to absorb both your lesson that different is better even when it’s worse and Uncle Daniel’s reminder to be grateful things aren’t worse!
Both important and hard to do in the moment.
Risking a different path has mostly been rewarding. I believe it takes courage to be happy.
I hadn’t thought about that part of it, but you’re so right. To switch away from the thing we know, even if we’re not happy with the current situation, takes a huge act of bravery. And at the same time, it’s the only way to get from here to happy. Thanks for that comment!