Where’s your focus?

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.
Harold Coffin

I recently read about an interesting psychological study and wanted to share the story with you. Researchers conducted a series of experiments where groups of two people were presented one hundred dollars to split between them. One person would decide how to divide the money and could split the funds in any fashion. Once that choice was made, the other person would either accept or reject the split. If the person accepted the proposed split, the two would share the money as agreed. But if the person rejected the proposed split, neither would get anything.

As you can see, this scenario puts the first person in a conflict between greed and fear: he wants to keep as much money as possible without the second person rejecting the split. What the researchers found was that both people were generally content as long as the proposed split didn’t exceed 60/40. When a more inequitable split like 70/30 was proposed, it was always rejected.

The researchers began to speculate that the results might be invalid because the amount of money involved wasn’t significant to most people in affluent societies. So they conducted the same test on people in third world countries. They thought the results would be different, given that twenty-five or thirty dollars would be significant to a person whose average income was less than $1,000 per year. But the same thing held true: when a 70/30 split was proposed, it was almost universally rejected.

Here’s the interesting part: the people who rejected the split didn’t focus on what they were getting. Their focus was on what the other person was getting. They would have been $30 better off if they had taken the money. But because the other person was getting more than twice that amount, they gave up the $30.

The question, of course, is what this lesson has to do with life. Well, when we focus on what another person is getting, we might cheat ourselves out of something of value.

We often refuse to pay someone for valuable goods or information because we think they’re charging too much. We shouldn’t look at what they’re charging, but at what we’re gaining. If we get more value than the cost, it’s still a bargain. If we don’t get more value than the cost, we shouldn’t buy the product or service, no matter how low the price.

But all too often, we focus on what the other person is getting. Learn to shift your attention. It really shouldn’t matter to you what someone else is getting. The only thing that matters is what you get. When we exercise our veto power because another person is getting too much, we limit what we can get from life.

Don’t be concerned about what anyone else is getting; learn to focus on the value you receive. As long as you’re gaining value, you’re still coming out ahead.

There is no greater disaster than greed.
c. 604 -531 B.C.

Copyright © 2017 John Chancellor

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