Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

A man in a village is given a horse. All of the people in the village tell him, “This is wonderful! You’ll get so much more accomplished on your land with this horse.”

The man says, “I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

The horse runs away a few weeks later. “Oh, this is awful,” the people say. “Your friend and worker is gone.” The man says, “I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

A few days later his son finds not only the horse, but a half-dozen other stray horses and returns to the village with them. “Hurrah!” the visitors shout. “We are truly fortunate!”

Again the man says, “I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

Weeks later the son is thrown from one of the horses, breaking both legs, and the people are completely despondent. “Your poor son!” they say.

The man says “I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

While the son is recovering the village is attacked by a hostile neighbor. The village is able to defeat the enemy, but some of the villagers are killed. “It’s fortunate your son was unable to fight due to his legs.”

And again, the man says “I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

This tale illustrates my point nicely. The man doesn’t assume that because something ‘good’ or ‘bad’ happens, that similar consequences will follow. It might be good or bad in the moment, but no one knows what will happen later because of it. When you look back on failures or bad luck, you can’t ever claim with perfect accuracy that your life would be better had the past been something other than what it is. You can only state that your life would be different. Whether it would be better or worse is something you’ll never know.

To challenge this way of thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, you can remind yourself, its one theory you would be happier, but what is another. This questions allows you to explore alternative ways of thinking about a ‘what if’ thought. For example, it doesn’t cross many people’s minds that the dream job that was never obtained, might not have been as fulfilling as originally thought. That is one theory, what is another? It may require too many hours. That’s a second theory, what is another? That job may have caused you to miss the next job opportunity that will come along. Or you don’t consider that if you had gone out with that woman you might have gotten married and then suffered a painful divorce. That’s one theory, what is another? You may not have met a future partner. Could the car accident have served as a wake-up call to help you to drive more safely, and avoid the more tragic collision that may have occured a week later? You have no way of stating with certainty that any of these things would have been better if things had worked out as you wanted. Its only one theory that life would be better if something had happened your way, but you may very well have been worse off. Yet, some just can’t get their minds around the idea that an unrealized outcome may have been harmful and that plan ’B’ may be a better plan. Fortunately, when you begin let go of ‘what if’ thinking, you can start to focus on what’s in front of you, rather than what is already over and out of your control.

* the author is unknown and the story is considered public domain

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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