Though it defies common sense, Olympians are often more elated that they won a bronze medal than a silver one. Yet, their reaction makes sense once you realize how strongly our emotions are influenced by our expectations and by the comparisons we make.
Athletes who win silver often experience it as losing the gold. “I almost made it… I should have made it… If not for the tiniest fraction of a point… If not for a judge’s biased score… If only… If only… If only…” And the disappointment continues to swell.
In contrast, athletes who win bronze often experience it as distinguishing themselves from all the other contenders who will return home without a medal. Placing third means you stand on the podium to be recognized as one of the greatest athletes in the world. You gain far more prestige and recognition than the athlete whose score was just one fraction of a point behind you. How lucky can you get!
Yes, the way we experience life is relative. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “When you’re courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second; when you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity!”
It’s not only in competitive games that our assessments are relative; it’s in almost all aspects of life. The oysters that are delicious for you are disgusting to me. The purple hair you view as so au courant is so absurd to me. The way you communicate online is posh to you, yet it’s pointless to me. The time you spend courting fame and fortune is so arousing to you, yet it’s fizzle and flop to me.
Yes, everything in life is relative. How you perceive what’s happening in your life (or someone else’s life) is highly affected by understanding the context in which it occurs.
Here are two examples:
In contrast, Elaine says, “Thank God, we’ve got no money problems. My husband’s a good provider. He makes $75,000. Our family is not rich but we’ve got so much more than my parents ever had. I feel blessed.”
All is relative, even in money matters.
Or, perhaps you ….
Or, as Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”