Innovate Mississippi

Point Innovation Magazine Winter 2013

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INNOVATION WORKS Greener Grass Tony Jeff E veryone is familiar with the expression, "The grass is always greener on the other side." It's important to note, however, that the word "always" is a critical part of that expression, and if it gets left out, the meaning changes entirely. Without the word "always," the expression might be interpreted as a factual statement. With "always," the expression becomes a cliché that is recognized as a basic human assumption – but one that should be approached with skepticism and doubt. It's important to realize – in our home, work and community lives – that belief in that expression can have both positive and negative impacts. The positive impact is that it can motivate us to try to reach the "ideal state" that we seemingly perceive around us. Often though, the negative impact is to allow envy, jealousy or perceived failure to add to our collective inferiority complex. It's my opinion that the inherent thinking in this cliché limits our ability to reach our full potential. It's amazing how many examples I see of this cliché in action. From the way parents behave with their children to the way communities look at the world around them, our instinct is to see the faults in our own personal situation and idealize the situations of others. 6 Pointe Innovation I'm sure everyone has seen the flaw in this cliché exposed many times. Someone's "perfect life" is revealed to be – like the rest of us – not perfect after all. This same type of thinking is also applied with rival communities, cities, states and countries. While it can be a motivator to do better, we're often missing the point in celebrating the achievements of others. The message isn't, "Poor old us, they've really got their act together," but rather, "What did they do to get that way?" In other words, "The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where you water it." As a parent, I've witnessed other parents at restaurants telling their children something like, "Why can't you sit still like that child is doing?" or "Look, that little boy is eating his vegetables and not just his fries." While these are certainly not the worst things a parent might say to a child, I think it can translate negatively on two levels: First, while it's meant to point out preferred behavior, it is setting the child up for a feeling of comparative inferiority. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you probably caught the other well-behaved child at the one time that day they were being "perfect," now setting yourself up to wonder if your child is, in fact, inferior. While the point of this article isn't to give parenting advice, the larger lesson is to focus on the behavior, not the comparison.

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