Have you ever heard the phrase the grass is greener on the other side? Is it really greener elsewhere, or could it be greener where you water it?
My dad always considered himself lucky, and he kept an upbeat attitude even after he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Whenever the doctor asked how he was feeling, my dad would say, “Any day I wake up is a good one.”
“You know,” he once told me, “a lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side, but most of the time, it’s not. People think they need big houses and expensive cars, so they waste their lives looking around at what everyone else has and feel bad about what they’re missing out on.”
“I never felt that way. I didn’t have much money, but I retired young anyway. I love retirement, and I told all my friends to quit,” he told me.
The Grass is Greener Where You Water It
“I didn’t need a big house,” he said. “I bought one I could afford. I was happy being a husband and a dad, and other riches wouldn’t have made me any happier.”
I’ve been thinking about my dad’s words lately. There have been periods in my life when I looked longingly at my friend’s grass and thought it looked much greener than mine.
Sometimes life seems easy for others. On the outside, we see perfect jobs, kids, and marriages. We compare all the things that are right in someone else’s world to all that are wrong in ours.
When we look over our shoulders at what everyone else has, we fail to notice the good in our lives. But what if we stopped eyeing the neighbor’s grass and started nurturing our grass instead?
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
If we spend too much time staring at the neighbor’s grass, we lose sight of our own. Comparison is the thief of joy, and when we compare ourselves to others, we allow feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, envy, and jealousy to swell.
What if we stopped and counted our blessings? What if we looked down at our feet and decided to water our grass instead? When we invest the time and energy in focusing on the positive, our grass can grow just as green as our neighbors.
Will it turn lush green overnight? No. Will it take work to refocus our energy on the good rather than comparing what we lack? Most definitely.
But wouldn’t you rather build a solid foundation below your feet than waste a lifetime feeling envious of what others seem to have?
We Think the Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side
Where do we begin? First, recognize that other people’s lives are an optical illusion.
When your friend tells you about her amazing, high-paying job, she’ll leave out details about her long commute, late night hours, and super stressful deadlines.
When your sister tells you about her trip to Europe, she’ll talk about fabulous restaurants and exciting sightseeing tours but fail to mention jet lag, airport delays, and fights with her family.
We see our challenges and struggles but fail to see everyone else experiencing those same ups and downs.
Green grass is an optical illusion. Sometimes it looks like everyone has bigger houses, higher-paying jobs, and picture-perfect children.
But those images aren’t real, and if we don’t question them, we’ll see our friends and family surrounded by luscious fields of green grass while we stand in dirt piles encircled by weeds.
Comparing Your Whole Self to a Part of Someone Else
Comparing your whole self to a part of someone else is not a fair comparison.
We focus on our friends’ fitness but ignore their financial struggles. We covet a friend’s job title but disregard her work-balance battles.
The grass always looks greener when you compare your whole self to the best parts of others.
Unfortunately, our grass won’t turn green just because we stare at our neighbors. In fact, the more we think about that green grass, the more bitter we become.
To rid our garden of weeds, we must pay attention to the good in our lives and search for ways to improve. We can look elsewhere for happiness while our grass withers below our feet or plant new seeds and watch them grow.
How Can We Make Our Grass Greener?
So how can we make our grass greener? How can we appreciate all we have rather than long for what we’re missing?
1. Water Your Grass by Fostering Your Relationships.
If you look down and see dirt below your feet, it could be because you feel lonely and disconnected.
At the end of our lives, we don’t count the dollars in our bank accounts or the number of exotic locations we traveled to in our youth. We look for connections to people we love, so make those connections today.
Call your mom to say hello even though you have many other things to do. Call your friends so you can hear their voices, set up plans with your husband, and mark time to play games with your children.
If your relationship is struggling, pretend like you’re dating. Try new activities, ask them questions, and try to fall in love again.
To grow green grass, you have to nurture and care for it. When we foster our relationships, we add water to the grass. The more we care for our grass, the greener it will grow.
2. Be Vulnerable
In shallow relationships, we project the highlight reel of our lives rather than sharing our deepest thoughts or talking about our struggles.
Don’t be afraid to share deep secrets with those you trust. When you are in pain, share your hurt with others who can support you.
For years, I silently suffered through infertility because I was ashamed to tell others I was struggling. Years later, I met a friend who outspokenly told me she was undergoing IVF.
I was shocked by her honest admission but immediately felt close to her. I’d held my infertility secrets for so long, and finally, I could let them out.
I lived alone with sadness, as I know many other women do. But now, I allow my vulnerability to help others experiencing the same pain.
Those picture-perfect baby carriages and pregnancy announcements don’t come easily to all of us. Share your struggles, so others feel less alone.
Learn to talk and share things that might make you uncomfortable. Vulnerability leads to deep, lasting relationships.
3. Grow Your Grass by Listening
We talk a lot in conversations but don’t always listen.
Learn to ask questions of others and to listen even when you want to talk. Make sure you spend at least fifty percent of a conversation listening to your friends, coworkers, and family members.
When we listen, we can empathize and offer comfort and support.
We must nurture our relationships like a gardener nurtures the soil. When we listen and tend to others’ needs, we can see the depth and quality of our relationships.
The grass looks greener when we support others and feel supported in return.
4. Cultivate Your Relationships
Have you ever killed a plant? Maybe you overwatered it or forgot to give it any water at all. Perhaps you planted it in the sun, and it required shade. Or you left it in a shady spot, and it craved the sun.
It’s easy to toss a plant into the compost pile, but sometimes we need a new set of instructions to keep it alive.
Tell your friends and family what you need. I tell my husband when I need a hug, and he asks me to cook dinner when he’s exhausted.
Try to see the good in those you love. Focus on the positive characteristics rather than the negative ones. Try to complain less often.
Tell people you love them. My dad told me almost every day. Tell your husband he’s a good father, and snuggle your kids.
5. Seek Gratitude
Longing for something better won’t change anything. If you want to grow greener grass, you have to recognize how green it already is.
There are over seven billion people in this world, which means there is likely to be someone faster, prettier, younger, and more successful than you are right now.
You can waste your energy lamenting this fact or recognize that a lot of people out there have it worse than you do.
Start a gratitude journal and write down the good parts of your life. When you’re envious, refer to this book and remind yourself of the good.
6. Remember, Green Grass Comes at a Price
Have you ever heard a singer or movie star talk about their path to fame? They’ll often say, “I didn’t get here overnight” or “it took a long time to make it here.”
Success often comes at a cost. Are you willing to spend long hours at work to buy a bigger house or drive a fancier car?
Rather than sacrificing time would you rather live with less so you can spend less time at work? Can you find contentment without buying more?
Some people sacrifice their time and energy to build wealth. How many regret those choices later in life? When you sit on your death bed, will you hope you worked longer hours so you could buy more? I doubt it.
Minimalism helped me feel less envious of my friends, family, and neighbors. I don’t care how big someone’s car or house is anymore. I care about time freedom.
The stuff you admire comes at a cost. Are you willing to sacrifice your time to achieve it?
Think of time like water in a watering can. You have just as much water as everyone else, but where will you pour it? Do you want to waste your water admiring your neighbor’s grass or pour it on your grass by doing things you love?
Watering the grass is a vital part of helping the grass grow. Define your priorities and decide what matters most to you.
7. The Grass Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side
We often think life would be better if only we could leave our little pile of dirt for the bright green meadow on the other side.
But that’s rarely the case. Have you ever moved to a new position because you knew the next job would be better? Have you ever left a relationship because you were confident the next one would be perfect?
What happened once you quit your old job and left your ex in the dust? Did you ever look back and realize the grass was pretty green in the place you left?
Moving to a new city, meeting a new partner, and finding a new job won’t necessarily lead to greener grass, especially if you take your negative thoughts or bad habits along for the ride.
Sometimes we need to jump ship, no doubt about it, but sometimes we need a change of attitude. We need to seek out positivity and happiness right where we’re standing.
Tend to your soil by focusing on the good rather than the negative. Then plant your seed and water your grass. Take care of your relationships and health, and seek gratitude for all you have.
I’ll leave you with this poem by Erin Hanson. I know my dad would’ve loved it.
What if grass is greener on the other side,
Because it’s always raining there,
Where the ones who never fail to give,
Hardly have enough to spare,
Where the people with the broadest smiles,
Have pillows filled with tears,
And the bravest ones you’ve ever known,
Are crippled by their fears,
It’s filled with lonely people,
But they’re never seen alone,
Where those that lack real shelter,
Make you feel the most at home,
Maybe their grass looks greener,
Because they’ve painted on its hue,
Just remember from the other side,
Your grass looks greener too.
10 thoughts on “The Grass is Greener Where You Water It”
Great article touching on many aspects of comparisons! I’m reminded of this adage:
“Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides.”
That is a beautiful quote!
This article resonated with me by focusing on the non-financial side of pursuing FIRE. I keep snippets from articles and books I read in notes to myself organized by month. Several additions to February’s notes pulled from this article. Thank you.
Thank you. I’m glad you found it useful.
I wasn’t sure how else to reach you, so I hope you don’t mind me posting here.
I am the producer and creator of a podcast called Minds of Mothers. The podcast is in its infancy stage at this point. Right now, I am slowly building my network of forward-thinking authors and bloggers and gathering permission to feature their writing on my podcast.
I am basically requesting permission to narrate your writing on my podcast. I would love to provide you with more details in a more appropriate space – please feel free to reply to my email (I believe you’ll have access to it as I’ll be entering it below).
I hope we can connect!
Brilliant! Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.