1: “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Teddy Roosevelt said many years ago.
Dr. Ben Hardy learned it’s still true today on his family vacation to Disney World.
It was lunchtime. One of the meals they had ordered came with a cookie. Ben’s wife split the cookie into four pieces so each of their four kids would get a part of the cookie.
“After eating his piece, my son complained that his had been the smallest piece,” Ben and Dan Sullivan write in The Gap and The Gain: The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success.
Ben’s son was in the GAP about his piece of the cookie.
What does it mean to be in the GAP?
There are two ways to see our progress. The first option is to measure backward from where we started. When we do this, we appreciate the progress we’ve made. We are in what Dan calls “the GAIN.”
Or, we can measure where we are now against our ideal. Where we wish we were. Dan calls this “the GAP.”
Being in the GAP makes us unhappy.
“The GAP robs us of enjoying our lives,” Dan and Ben write. “It robs us of appreciating what we already have. It completely kills the reward of any positive experience we have or progress we make.”
2: Which is what Ben’s son was experiencing about the cookie.
“Before getting the cookie, it was the only thing my son wanted in that moment,” Ben recalls. “He was obsessing about it, even begging for it. Any amount of cookie would have been amazing.
“After he got the cookie, he quickly compared it to something else—the size of the other cookie chunks the other kids were eating. Not only was he unhappy, he got zero satisfaction out of his cookie. He may as well have not eaten it.
“He was actually worse off than before he got the cookie,” the authors observe.
When we are in the GAP, we don’t appreciate what we have or the progress we’ve made.
Ben’s son had gained, but he didn’t see or feel the GAIN because he was “swallowed up by the GAP,” a belief about what he “deserved,” Dan and Ben write.
“He was in the GAP, feeling he’d been treated unfairly, and bitterly envying the microscopically bigger cookie chunks his siblings were eating. He wasn’t embracing his own GAIN. He was comparing his experience to another person’s experience.”
3: Dan and Ben cite research that shows that people with low emotional intelligence are highly sensitive to “fairness violations.”
“They really want everything to be ‘totally fair’ or ‘weighted in their favor’ or they’ll be upset—essentially throwing a tantrum to get what they want or trying to prove that they’re in control.”
It’s the reason people will reject a deal outright if they don’t think it’s “fair,” even if doing so leaves them with nothing rather than something.
“To be clear,” Dan and Ben write, “being in the GAIN doesn’t mean we’re a pushover. It doesn’t mean we accept unfair treatment. It simply means we appreciate our GAINS and don’t get overly reactive or in the GAP when our situation isn’t exactly how we felt it should be.”
Instead of being emotionally reactive, we intentionally appreciate our GAINS and learn from each experience.
Reflection: When was a time I went into the GAP because I was comparing myself to someone else?
Action: Look for an opportunity today to see a situation as a GAIN rather than being in the GAP.