Playing the comparison game

Everyone who belongs to a yacht club owns a boat, and generally speaking, everyone who owns a boat has been afforded a level of luxury in life. But if you spend time talking to people in a yacht club, you may notice a certain restlessness.

As boat owners walk down the dock they’re confronted by bigger, better boats than theirs — boats with bedrooms, with kitchens, and yachts with three stories. It’s easy for owners of small boats to picture their future selves, happier and more fulfilled after buying one of these bigger boats. The pursuit of happiness becomes a never-ending cycle of boat-buying.

Something similar can happen with saving money. Some people have trouble saving money, but others have a safety problem. First you save $5,000, and you feel safe from harm. The feeling inevitably ebbs, and you need $10,000 to feel safe. Then $20,000. Then $50,000, and on. The pursuit of happiness becomes the pursuit of safety.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague about her personal training client. This client has a high level of physical fitness by any standard, easily handling push-ups and pull-ups with an impressive level of body fat. The problem she’s having is that she can’t lose the small pinches of fat on the sides of her body.

But that’s not even the real problem. The real problem is that her friend Tiffany doesn’t have fat there, so why should she?

The comparison game is dangerous. Play at your own risk.

[And even though it’s not relevant to this story, here’s a good piece on the myth of spot reduction.]

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