Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

I hate the phrase "the grass is always greener on the other side".  It purports to be about the grass on the other side, but it's not.  It's about the grass on this side is often used to make soul squashing statements.
  • The pessimist: You'll never be really happy so stop trying.
  • The "benevolent" dictator: You have everything you could want here.  You're just going to be unhappy on that side.  In fact on that side it's probably worse.
  • The cult leader: Their grass isn't really grass.  It's poison.  Eat our grass.
The phrase is never (rarely?) used to inspire joy/peace/etc.  It should be used in a "both and" way.  That is you should BOTH appreciate the grass you have with all of your heart AND constantly seek better grass.

I also don't like that the phrase isn't axiomatic.  That is, it's not applicable equally to all things (further proof that it's being used as a tool of the dictator or cult leader, etc.).  For example a manager might say to a disgruntled employee "competitor X has problems too...  you won't be happy their either... you need to find a way to find job satisfaction here...." ("the grass is always greener").  That SAME manager is NOT going to make a similar statement about their product; "customers will never really be happy and our current offering does enough so why look for a better solution?"  So basically the person saying that "the grass is always greener..." will say it when it serves them (to retain an employee, etc.) but won't say it when it doesn't (i.e. when it stifles innovation).

1 comment:

  1. A teacher once told me a story. He said he was standing on his porch looking at his yard with all its weeds in it, and his neighbor came out to get the paper. He complimented her, saying he wished he had her yard. She replied, "Oh, Jim, if you had my yard, a month or two would go by and then it would look like YOUR yard!"

    This really struck me. I think it's not an illusion that the grass is greener on the other side. It's just we ourselves who make it not green on ours. We're all at different places on our personal paths, and we aspire to be better. When we feel powerless to change things or resent how much work it would be to do so, it's easy to fall into the idea that things would be better if we just HAD something different. But like Pogo, we have found the enemy and it is us!

    Also, if people stepped back, I think they'd find other yards that were even worse than their own to notice. I'd say we just focus on what we DON'T have.