Source: Michael Josephson, Josephson Institute of Ethics
Have you heard about the man who was feeling sorry for himself because he couldn't afford new shoes until he met a man with no shoes? And the man with no shoes was almost overcome with grief about his lot in life until he met a man with no feet?
Comparisons can help us put our lives in perspective and know what we ought to be grateful for. But they can also build barriers to happiness. For some, it's not enough to have something good. It's important that no one has anything better. So the man who was happy to have a warm place to sleep will become discontented when he meets a man who owns a house. Why is it that our happiness is diminished when we think someone may be happier?
One way to deal with the seduction of comparisons is to develop the concept of "enough" by thinking more clearly about the difference between our wants and our needs. It's OK to want and enjoy comforts and pleasures beyond the necessities, but when we convince ourselves we need whatever we want, we mount a treadmill that can never take us to happiness.
When we confuse our wants with our needs, we diminish our ability to appreciate and enjoy our lives. And when we feel cheated in life, we are more likely to become cheaters, sacrificing integrity, the one thing we can all have in abundance. And when integrity goes, no amount of material success will make a difference.
Knowing what is enough need not sap ambition to get more than we have. It merely frees us from the sense of deprivation that could cause us to be less than we can be.