See how many are better off than you are, but consider how many are worse. – Seneca
What does that mean?
To me, this quote is about perspective. It also shows that ‘Keeping up with the Joneses‘ has been going on for quite a number of centuries.
The quote starts by implying that looking at how others are doing in their lives is a natural and human thing to do. It acknowledges that we will look to those who are doing better than we are.
However, it also encourages us to look at those who are looking up at us. That is the point of the quote, in my opinion. It is reminding us to look both ways, not just at those doing better than we are.
To me, the overall impression is to use this information to get a feeling for where we are in the overall picture. If all you see is people doing better than we are, our perspective becomes our reality, but it would be false.
Why is correct observation important?
When we do not observe correctly and honestly, we don’t get the data we need to make decisions. That’s why bars tend to have dim lighting. You really don’t want to see what the other patrons look like, or you might not come back. Just kidding. But you get the picture.
Or do you? Consider advertising. An entire industry devoted to shaping your perception of their product in a favorable light. With manipulated data and carefully crafted statements* (*often with asterisks, leading you to print too small to read), how can you be expected to correctly observe anything?
This applies to the quote because we have a great tendency to wish we had more, but rarely give thanks for what we have. If we only look at those with more, we get a distorted view of reality, and are no longer observing correctly. Seeing both the good and the bad, those doing better and those who are not, allows us to correctly observe, and make better decisions.
Where can I apply this in my life?
There is an old story of a Roman invasion fleet being met at the beach by a group of Celt warriors. As the Celts battled in the shallow water, the Romans kept coming out of their boats, and everywhere the Celts looked, they could see few, if any dead Romans, but there were dead Celts everywhere. They assumed they had lost the day, and fled.
In reality, they had killed a great number of Romans, and the last of the reserves were coming out of their ships. But the armor of the Romans caused their dead to sink, so very few were visible. But the Celts didn’t know that they were on the brink of victory, and so ensured their loss.
The lesson here is that if you are ever in a battle… No, that’s not right. The point is that things are not always as they seem. Many things are very different than we believe, because we don’t correctly observe what is going on, or it is concealed or well hidden from us.
Consider the fancy gowns and jewelry seen at most of the Hollywood ‘red carpet’ events. Very rarely do they own the jewelry or the gowns. They are just renting or using them for the evening. You are seeing them after thousands of dollars of preparation for their hair, face, etc.
Yet people still try to compare their every-day selves to this pinnacle of excess. First off, those people don’t even look that good except for one night a year. The rest of the year, they look a lot more like you or I than you might imagine.
However, if all we see is the beauty shot on the Red Carpet, before they’ve been all nervous, as well as sweating and crying, we might think we’re really lousy by comparison. We have to have a clear view of what life is really like, or we will have issues trying to ‘keep up’ with an illusion.
Where in your life do you compare yourself to others? Is it even something you can control? Is ‘everybody’ taller than you? What about material possessions, do you compare your car or house to those your friends have? What about relationships, do you compare those as well?
No matter how much we have there will always be people with more, and people with less. We will be in the middle somewhere, and should take comfort in that we have something. Even if it’s less than we’d want, we don’t have to complain. But we can try harder, work smarter, or be better prepared.
From: Twitter, @mister_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/luciusanna165756.html
Photo by Martin Cathrae