Just When I Thought I Hadn’t Done Much In My Life, I Looked Back a Decade

The other day I picked up an old journal and started reading. I wrote the same thing throughout, page after page, month after month, and it went something like this: I don’t exercise enough, I don’t write enough, I don’t read enough, I don’t travel enough. Nothing I had accomplished thus far meant much to me—because there was always more to do. This is not an uncommon feeling. I call it the “Silver Medal Syndrome.” Here’s what I mean: Winning the silver medal obviously isn’t as satisfying as winning gold. But bronze medal winners are actually happier than silver medalists because they almost didn’t medal at all. It’s all about perspective. Research done in 2012 back this up: It’s a phenomenon explained by something called counterfactual thinking, when people compare their objective achievements to what might have been. Silver medalists look at how closely they missed the gold; bronze medalists see how close they were to not medaling at all. If you compare yourself to, say, someone who seems to do/have/be everything—social media only makes this information more accessible, whether it’s accurate or not—you’ll never be satisfied with your life. You’re chasing what you don’t have. But if you stop …