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Why the Grass is Never Greener and How to Be Happy Today

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ~Unknown

Lifestyle. Opportunities. Wealth. Just think how far we’ve come in the past 100 years—especially when you look at what we have today compared with our great grandmothers’ generation.

My great grandmother married very young, lived in the same place her whole life, and had 11 children. She never had a “career” and never got a chance to go on a vacation. Her life was hard, poor, and lacking in any real opportunity.

I wonder if she ever dreamed about moving to another city, or transforming her life, or about seeing the world with just a backpack. I bet she did, but back then there weren’t as many opportunities as we have today.

Thanks to technology, the Internet, and an improved society, our lifestyles are completely transformed. We have choices. We can live pretty much anywhere we want. We can travel and see the world.

We can secure jobs on the other side of the planet. We can start our own businesses and serve clients thousands of miles away. It’s definitely an exciting time.

But when there is a wealth of opportunities, choices, and places where we could choose to live, you’d think we’d all be happy, right? Wrong.

You see, the problem with having choices is that we become restless. We can’t settle on what we already have or be satisfied with what we’ve got because we’ll always be wondering about the next big thing.

It’s called “the grass is always greener” syndrome. We think someone else is having a better time elsewhere. We make ourselves miserable by constantly thinking about the unknown in an endless quest to find happiness.

We lie awake at night torturing ourselves over what we should do next, wondering if we’re missing out on something big. We feel we’re wasting our lives if we’re not doing something more important.

There’s also this sense of time pressure, particularly with my generation who had the saying “The World is your Oyster” drilled into us from a young age.

This means there can be a sense of urgency, because we feel like we’re running out of time and should be doing something greater or somehow we’ll fail.

We also think we’re special and that our lives are destined to be adventurous, thrilling, and hugely successful. And when they’re not turning out that way? We become depressed. We want more. We get “grass is greener” syndrome.

That’s when we become unhappy and spend all of our time and energy on focusing on what we don’t have rather than counting our blessings.

Some of us might start to move around a lot—often to find the “perfect” city or town, somewhere we can call “home,” somewhere we’ll be happy. Others might jump from one job or relationship to the next, never fully committing to anything.

But once we’ve made that leap to the other side—once we’ve moved to where we thought the grass would be greener and where we’d be happy—we discover that it is no different. We start to wonder about the grass being greener elsewhere.

We are never truly happy when we have “grass is greener” syndrome. It’s a fact.

Focusing on things we don’t have is a recipe for disaster. It only leads to a miserable existence and causes us to forget what’s most important—and that’s what’s happening right now.

As John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And that’s certainly true.

We all seem to be victims of ignoring what’s actually happening right at this very moment, which is only natural when we have so many choices and opportunities available to us.

We can all forget the whole point of happiness, and that’s peace of mind, acceptance, and mindfulness. Essentially, it’s being happy no matter where you are in the world, or what you’re doing, or whom you’re with.

Being mindful quiets the mind and brings us a sense of peace that no other quest for a “perfect life” could ever bring.

Mindfulness helps you to appreciate life as it happens. It stops us from agonizing over what might’ve been or what could be. It just brings us back to the present.

Don’t get me wrong—opportunity is a marvelous thing and I only wish my great grandmother had the choices I enjoy today. But I’m slowly coming to realize that my great grandmother might’ve been just fine with her lifestyle.

She was quite possibly happier than me. Her life was simple and perhaps there’s a clue in that. Maybe the simple life is where we can all find peace.

Yes—embrace everything that comes along. Yes—go out and see the world and enjoy everything this life has to offer.

But whenever you feel yourself losing focus and wondering about where you’ll be happy next, bring yourself back to the present, look at what you already have, look around you and enjoy the moments that are happening right now.

Find peace in reading a good book, doing some gardening, going for a walk in the countryside. Take in the sights, smells, and sounds and breathe deeply. Start to notice what is happening right now, and I guarantee you’ll find peace.

Because happiness isn’t about where you live or the things you do. It isn’t about being on an impossible mission to do everything, see everywhere, and accomplish everything you ever dreamed.

Happiness is a state of mind.

How you achieve it is by building a life around your current location. Making new friends, settling into a routine, finding ways in which to enjoy “the moment” rather than dwelling on all the things you could be doing or the places you could be visiting.

Remember that all we ever have is right now. Forget about the past. Don’t worry about the future. Take each day as it comes, and most of all, stop thinking that the grass is greener, because it never really is.

Photo by Hello Turkey Toe

About Katy Cowan

Katy Cowan is an author, journalist, and marketing professional based in the UK. She runs her own digital agency in Manchester and during her spare time she loves to help other creatives via her creative industries magazine Creative Boom.

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  • Donna

    Thank you soo much for this. We can’t be reminded enough of the importance of slowing down, root where you’re planted and simplify our lives…EXCELLENT message!

  • Thank you Donna! Appreciate it. It’s something we all go through and sometimes it’s just a case of enjoying the moment. We all have so much choice these days, I do wonder if it causes more harm than good. I suppose balance is key. But it’s always the very small things that make us happy.

  • Marie121

    This sums up what I’ve been going through and continue to go through every day. I’m constantly worried about time passing, getting older and catching up on life.  Trying to get qualified in law is proving difficult, all my friends have emigrated and I definitely feel lost and stuck.  Thank for so much for this post I’ll have to read it many times!

  • Thanks Marie – I know how you feel! But life is what happens right now. And I don’t believe that there’s always someone, somewhere having a better time because all of our lives are made up of happy moments here and there. We can be happy no matter where we are in the world and we can also be sad. It’s all a state of mind. Good luck with the law degree! 😀

  • Bluventures

    Katy, this is such a great message that so many people don’t even realize they are doing. I have my moments now that I am older and feel like I know there something I’m supposed to be doing and where I want to be but I attribute that to battling cancer on my spine three years ago that left me partially paralyzed. It ripped the carpet out from under me just as a new career as an RN was starting and all the pieces were in place that I had planned. It was the first time in my life that I had worked really hard toward a particular long term goal. I had always lived life like a gypsy, taking opportunity of doors that opened in front of me. I lived a very fulfilling life and appreciated every experience I had. I traveled many places, talked to many people, and learned a lot about myself as well as the world around me. All of this while I battled many health issues my whole life, including a liver transplant at the age of 29. I had a one year old baby and luckily an amazing husband that kept me going. I think my feeling that I was going to die young, even long before I knew I was sick is what inspired me to appreciate and love everything in the moment. Even with all the busyness of my life, nothing is more comforting than just relaxing and being in the moment and loving what I do have, even if it’s not everything that I want right now. I know in time I will get what I want, even if I don’t know exactly what that is. I know though that if I appreciate what I do have then that is enough for the moment. I still sometimes have to breathe and remind myself of that though. Thank you for the article. You cut straight to the heart of the matter.

    Jacquellyn

  • David J. Singer

    Katy:
    Thank you for a beautiful piece. It resonates greatly in difficult times (I mean the economy etc.)
    David

  • Sarah

    While I have done well for myself, I can’t stop thinking it needs to be better and comparing my life to what others have accomplished. I let myself disqualify all the amazing things in my life, inlcuding my husband and my successful career but yet it is not good enough. This post was very helpful and much needed!

  • Beautiful post. Thanks for the reminder. Can’t change the past, have no idea what tomorrow is about, but I have today and it is a present. 

  • Graham

    Thank you for the timely reminder Katy – a wonderful piece filled with wise words. I hope this finds you healthy and happy.

  • Liononethirty

    Let’s be peace and exude peace! Internal success is the most rewarding of it all, that’s where we truly live

  • This is the kind of article that compels me to copy/send to others. I can definitely relate with it. I get so caught up in what others expect of me and how I have yet to fulfill anything. Most especially, feeling worthless when having lost my job. I love reading the comments by others. It’s good to know were not alone. My biggest challenge is living with a lifelong pessimist. I thought he’d change, because I read it was possible. But he won’t. Keeping positive in a negative environment is a challenge indeed. But it’s MY life to live. And I will remain focused on the positive and that which I have, rather than don’t have. When I hear the grass is greener on the other side, I just try to focus on taking care of my own lawn.

  • SJustS

    I always have the “grass is always greener” syndrome in regards to feeling restless and thinking about the next big thing. I just moved to where I wanted to be 5 months ago but I’m finding that it isn’t the life for me. However, in order to get to the next place, I still have to focus on the present. You can’t go anywhere else in the future if you don’t let the present work in your favor. While I obviously know this, it is easier said than done. Little reminders like this post put things back into perspective.

  • Helen

    This is universal wisdom Katy, that transends all cultures. Thank you for helping us be conscious of our thoughts and goals. Today I choose to enjoy the rain falling outside this bus window, and appreciate the home I’m traveling toward. Although I look forward to what I can achieve in my lifetime, I enjoy this moment, this hour, these choices.

  • This is a great post! For me, moving location was definitely one of the best things I ever did and I am grateful I had the opportunity to do so. But it’s important to do things for the right reasons I guess 🙂 

  • Beverleigh

    I wish you a blessed life and long health.

  • Jo Jo

    Yes the grass may seem greener but it still needs mowing 🙂

  • Beverleigh

    Such a wondeful piece, I definitely have this syndrome and tend to always wonder if anyone else feels these self same things.

    Thank you for enlightening me always.
    Much love
    Bev

  • Piki-98039

    My grandmother also married young, bore 11 children, and lived in the same place all of her life (Minne-SOH-ta).  Are we related?  :^)  Good article.

  • Excellent piece that couldn’t be more timely for me 🙂 Thanks, Katy.

  • Pingback: Which place has the greenest grass? « thinkwonderfulthoughts()

  • Edwin0901

    This is great!! Thank you, Katy
    I enjoyed reading it, it’s exactly what I needed to read.

  • I relate to the part of me that wants to reach for happiness through the external world (‘If I could just…’). I am reminded through your article that I can empower myself to choose happiness at any given moment…or at least choose my relationship with and perspective on happiness any given moment.

  • This is the distilled essence of what Buddha said, Happiness is a State of Mind. It’s good to be reminded of it over and over, cos it’s soooo easy to forget over and over.

  • Thanks Jacquellyn – it sounds as though you’ve had quite a journey so far. I’m sorry to hear of the illnesses you have suffered. I hope you’re ok and I’m happy that you’re happy. ‘Counting our blessings’ is something my nana always used to say. It’s all we can do. Thank you for your message. Katy

  • Thanks David – It’s reassuring to know this. Have a lovely day, Katy

  • To wake up happy – I think that’s all we need to achieve. All the successes we accomplish are important but I wonder why we constantly strive for the next, and the next. Thanks for commenting Sarah 🙂

  • Mine was in the North East of England. Three of her children were the world’s heaviest triplets! She’s still in the Guiness Book of Records today! 🙂

  • Cree-nah

    WELL SAID!

  • Debra

    Your posting brought me to tears,as I truly believe the God of our understanding gives us what we need,when we most need it!First the article was fantastic,then to read where you weren’t able to complete
    your nursing goal made me so aware of what I take for granted(being a nurse)complaining about all the stressors of trying to provide good care for patients in today’s world.I love patient care and what I provide,and am BLESSED.Wish you health,and happiness.Thank you for your sharing.

  • Acarranza622

    This is an awesome article and what great timing. The grass is greener on the other side oh boy. What ifs? This! I’ve been dealing with day to day for about a year now. I don’t feel I’ve accomplished much, i’m constantly struggling financially and i’m unsure of what I want to do in life 🙁 i’m turning 28 in a couple of months. Depressing and always thinking of what my future looks like brings me down. You are so right I should focus on today and be thankful for it. Sigh

  • “I just try to focus on taking care of my own lawn.” – That’s a really nice metaphor – I’ll use that with my clients.

  • This is a great piece and nicely written about a simple and honest truth. If more people took it on board, there would be greater happiness in the world…Now I had better get off all this social media and internet stuff and appreciate my present life situation.

  • BrittanyLGilmore

    Just what I needed. Great article. Thanks!

  • komal

    A very brilliant post about me. I know how i cant spend one day with a feeling of everything is okay, when if u see from a general point of view, everything is fine. Its just grass is greener thing with me. Thanks.

  • Sharon Esquivel

    I did enjoy this article immensely.  I am trying to live my life more optimistically and reading positive articles daily is one way I am doing this.  I collect Buddhas, in particular Laughing Buddhas, as a way to remind myself not take life so seriously.  Hence the name “Tiny Buddha” is what brought me to your site.  Coincidence? I think not!

  • Guest

    If the grass looks greener on the other side, you need to water your own lawn, not buy a new house – Alexis, RHOC. Best quote!

  • Thanks Helen – the funny thing is – that person out there across the world who is supposedly living my ‘dream’ life… could be thinking exactly the same thing about me. We are never happy unless we stop, take a look around at what we already have and count our blessings 😉

  • Thanks Caroline. And it’s not the easiest thing to achieve – but I’m certainly trying! 😀

  • That’s such a good saying, thanks JoJo 😀

  • Well i’ve just turned 34 and I was fine leading up to the big day, but bam! On my birthday it hit me – and there was a sudden sense of panic… But then my gorgeous family and friends came round to celebrate my special day, and with so much warmth and love in the room – I kind of stopped worrying about the future 😀

  • Haha! Thanks George!

  • Maria

    I needed to read this

  • Manuel Pereira

    “Remember that all we ever have is right now. Forget about the past. Don’t worry about the future ” Don’t agree, I think the past and the future have to be in our life, because memory is a powerful thing, it’s the ultimate “weapon” for who we are…

  • tim

    Its a saying we all know describes something supposedly foolish, but I had until recently been failing to realise was happening to me. In spades. I enjoyed your article. Thanks.

  • Nina

    Fantastic article.

  • JPH

    Katy, this is such a great article. I needed this. I have jumped from job to job since being laid off from my factory job in 2005. I worked there for 10 years. It’s now 2013 as you know & I have been through literally dozens of jobs. It’s crazy, it’s like after investing 10 years into a place and then losing it, I won’t commit to a new job. As soon as I learn a new job & become comfortable I leave and end up having to repeat the whole process over. I blame the weather where I live, I blame the town, I’m constantly talking about moving away and starting over somewhere else. In my mind I think that there is something so much better. Deep down I realize that when I get to what ever place it is I might go, I’d miss my family and my routine and perhaps begin to think yet another new place would be the answer. I see what you mean. Unless you fix the problem from the inside, the outside environment will never be good enough no matter where it is.

    Thank you for this eye opening article.

  • Kristen

    Katy, thank you so much for this post! It really spoke to me and quickly snapped me out of the nasty funk I was in. 🙂 I appreciate it!
    ~Kristen

  • Dilpreet Bhatia

    Wow… Thanks for a wonderful insight.. I have noticed that concentrating on the Breathing immediately brings me back if i am too much lost in planning.. But I think most of us plan more and do less….

  • KatyCowan

    That is a nice metaphor. And one I’ll borrow too if that’s ok? 😀 Glad you enjoyed reading my article.

  • KatyCowan

    I think it’s good to explore and move around if that’s what you feel is needed. I’ve done so myself. Change can be a wonderful thing. It’s just when it becomes relentless and you can’t settle anywhere, that’s when it becomes a worry. I hope you are happy anyway – and find what you’re looking for 🙂

  • KatyCowan

    I think sometimes we search for something that isn’t there. We hope that by moving we’ll be happy. But actually you’re right – it’s a problem on the inside that needs to be fixed. I wrote this article some time ago and I’ve since learnt a few more lessons and I’ve realised I no longer wonder about ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that’. I’m very settled and happy where I live now. I guess that’s because I solved all the other issues that were niggling at me at the time.

    It’s funny – one minute you spend every waking hour trying to be happy and solve that by changing things in your life… the next – you realise you’ve not thought about any of those things for a long time, and actually realise you’ve settled down and are happy. Realising you’ve figured it out is the best feeling of all. And I became happy by forcing myself to live in the moment, build a life where I live, establish a routine, make lots of new friends, etc. You soon have no time to wonder about the next adventure – and actually, you realise that once you have a nice little ‘base’, somewhere to call home – you can go and explore the world as much as your bank account will allow – if that’s what you really want to do. And you have to realise you’re never trapped or out of options. You can always move if you want to. Knowing that helps me anyway! 😀

  • KatyCowan

    You’re not foolish. You’re only human 🙂

  • KatyCowan

    Hi Manuel – that’s interesting. I never like to dwell on the past. Obviously, I love my cherished memories and the happy times. But I don’t live with regret or past mistakes – that’s what I failed to get across. As for the future – I don’t worry about what could go wrong, because it’s just wasted energy. That’s why I think it’s important to live in the now.

  • BFLY

    The only place the grass is greener is near the septic tank, and we know what that is full of. Great piece Katy.

  • Raj

    Good Article. I always think about the past and appreciate what God has given me so far to reach to this stage but again future worries me a lot. I just say to myself “It’s(fate) already written, nothing can be changed”. Sometimes sitting aside in a corner with tears in eyes relaxes a bit.

  • Else Casado

    if we focus on just achieving the things that we want, sometimes we lose sight on the things that we have, great article btw 🙂

  • Carmen

    I honestly want to thank you for this. I recently graduated from school, i don’t have the job of my dreams, i’m not able to enter the school i dreamt of and you know what..i read that not getting that job you wanted just means you were meant for a different one, one that may be better for you. And the thing is that we just focus on other people’s life and we don’t focus on our own. We think that if we move or get another job, we’ll be happier.. not realizing that this our life and we have to live the present. I have no words to thank you for an amazing article. God bless you.

  • bud fox

    Sounds like wisdom but we can all think of relationships or cities or jobs that are a genuine source of misery. The grass IS greener on the other side in those cases… So maybe it is in your own case too? Arnold said; we are not here to survive. We are here to conquer and to crush our enemies! Arnold saw the grass was greener and those fears that he wasn’t living up to his potential drove him to do the impossible.

  • Brandon

    Hello there! I like what you have to say however the grass is never greener on the other side makes no sense to me. Go live in the Antarctica for a year and then go live in Los Angeles. I can assure you that the grass is greener in Los Angeles both literally and metaphorically. It would also explain why the population of the Antarctic is about 15 people and Los Angeles has about 15 million. It also depends on your preferences, which means taking the time getting to know yourself so then you can situate yourself in the right area of the world, doing what you love. Someone who doesn’t like the cold isn’t going to like living in the Antarctic, they are going to want to live somewhere warm, which would make them happier to be alive. So I understand what you are saying, you can be happy almost anywhere, but at the same time people have their preferences and prefer certain lawns over the next one.

  • BW

    Really interesting, well thought out article!! You make a lot of good points about modern life. I decided to follow the Christian path a couple of years ago and its really helped me. I notice there are similarities between the Judeo Christian faith and Buddhism. A spiritual path really brings life back to life so to speak and takes the focus off of self and puts paid to unhealthy levels of ambition. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. Its certainly done the trick for me and its a great relief to let go off life’s worries and find some quiet time.

    Keep up the good work! 🙂

  • Hayley.c

    Thanks Katy, its reassuring that a successful creative has had the same thoughts I have. Searching for my place in the creative industries is filled with uncertainty and fear for me, but I had let it take over my life and I was constantly anxious and became scared of everything, in my personal life as well as professional. It is difficult not to compare yourself to others, see the successes other people have, but looking at these successes out of context does no good! I must find my own way, and remember, nothing worth having comes easily. In fact, when I do finally find my place in creative work and get settled, it will mean all the more to me, I will cherish it, because I will know I have worked hard to achieve it.

  • Camille

    This is exactly what I need to hear right now. I moved to a different city, a bigger city, to live a more exciting life and “be happier” or “find my happiness” and now that I have been here for almost a year, I feel the same as I did before, only more poor as it is expensive to live here. My relationship is also on the rocks as I have commitment issues and the word marriage terrifies me and I always think “what if he is not the one for me, what if there is someone else out there that is better for me” and in the end I feel he will leave me and I will end up being alone and never finding someone as great as him, yet I still can’t seem to just be happy and live life in the present. I am always searching for more, yet I never find it.

  • Hippy82

    Love this! Exactly what I needed to read!

  • Hippy82

    I’ve been married 12 years this year. I married when

  • Sangram Dash

    thanks Katy 🙂 I really enjoyed every line of it. indeed, I found it to b an interesting topic for my next speech in my class

  • deb

    How come almost everyone who’s divorced, says it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Isn’t that saying the grass IS greener?

  • bob

    This is a good article but in some cases the grass is actually greener and some places are better then others

  • Lary Vaga

    REAL article, BEAUTIFUL article, An article that is full of essence, Life changing and uplifting, Little and simple facts yet so powerful to liberate entangled lives. Thanks a million Katy!

  • vivek kaushik

    Thank you so much metaphor its really great idea and very helpful in different different situations… ..

  • Tamara

    Your grass may seem greener, but I’m too busy tending to my own patch to notice 😉
    Good quote to help you feel strong and happy with your life!

  • Miranda

    I don’t know how to fix this problem, because even though I should be so thankful and grateful which I am – I can’t help but feel like I am never happy. All my friends and so many girls on Social Media have the perfect lives – in relationships, beautiful inside/out, successful in business or school, travel alot , talented in something. And I feel so useless cause a lot of those things I dont feel I have and it just makes me feel down and I feel like I spend so much energy focusing on others and seeing what they have and wishing I could be like that then focusing on myself but I dont know how to start or what to do?

  • Natasha Dodge

    I needed that. Thanks

  • Emerald Lee D

    I really enjoyed this,I suffer horrible from the grass is always greener complex. For me its housing and location. Im constantly planing on the next move its truly exhausting but I cant stop. I got my house for a amazing deal and should love it, but I dont. I keep thinking the next place will have this and the location will have this. I spend hours a day everyday looking at real estate. I have also gotton my spouce into this fixation. I lay awake at night and its become a source of stress and the feeling that I will never be able to find a place I truly call home.

  • LVB

    Great article !
    I have pondered on this subject for a while now. My question is can the grass be greener on the other side, when you can’t do what your passionate about in your current location due to geographical reasons ? For example somebody who is passionate about the outdoors but now lives in a big city 5 hours away from the mountains/ocean. Thus the “other side” signifying a city closer to the outdoors to be able to fo the things he/she loves on a more frequent basis.
    Thanks for any input!

  • Blair

    Bless humans, they try so hard to convince themselves their lives are meaningful. They evangelize the inherent value of human existence. Zen quest ad nauseaum. If the current particulars of their lives don’t meet their original expectations – no problem! Simply reframe the argument, rephrase the goal, manage those expectations. Build your life around now. If you tell yourself your life now is beautiful, eventually you might believe it. Such industrious little beavers, spinning golden lies out of excrement.

  • Craig

    Hi!!!

    Great article.

    I am 34 and And originally from the suburbs and moved to the country about five years ago. I have since discovered that the countryside is full of beauty and love but it’s also very difficult to meet people so I have become very depressed with that fact as well as the fact that making money is extremely difficult.

    To make things easier to meet more people and advance my career I wants to move to the city. My thought is that the grass is greener on that side.

    Thoughts anyone?

  • Rob

    This seems like a mirror life experince to mine

  • Rob

    Great response..this is exactly how i feel

  • Rob

    You are an inspiration Katy ..Ive just picked up on this chain i can relate to so many things said here..Thanks

  • rob

    Im in the same prediciment if that helps