It’s easy to see what’s lacking in ourselves and in others. Hence, it’s difficult to see the good and the progress we’ve made. And yet, our happiness depends on how we see and measure ourselves, and how we see and measure others.
Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy (The Gap and The Gain) call this tendency to see what’s lacking as GAP thinking. GAP thinking comes from a fixed mindset (Carol Dweck) focused on the need to be perfect or to be better than others (superficial), instead of focusing on being our best selves and continually learning and improving based on what’s important to us (meaningful).
When we think in a GAP mindset, nothing is or ever will be enough. Thus, we will always see what’s lacking and what isn’t going right in our lives, in our relationships, our businesses, etc. The GAP is a toxic mindset that stops us from feeling joy and appreciating the good in our lives.
The GAP is based on an unhealthy “need” or attachment to something outside of yourself. The GAP means you’re still trying to free yourself FROM something, and until you do you won’t be happy. When you’re in the GAP, you’re avoiding “here” while trying to get “there”—but never actually arriving “there.”Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy
When we think in the GAP, we compare ourselves to ideals (states of perfection) that in many cases don’t exist. Yet, these ideals are helpful to provide direction, meaning, and if used properly, inspiration in our lives. Therefore, ideals should never be used as a measuring stick or to show how often we might fall down.
Sullivan and Hardy visually explain the problem with ideals:
Ideals are like a horizon in the desert. No matter how many steps you take forward, the horizon continues to move out of reach. Psychology [calls this] moving horizon, hedonic adaptation. It’s the tendency … to never being satisfied, and to constantly seeking the next thing. … When your happiness is tied to something in the future, then your present is diminished. You don’t feel happy, confident, or successful. … When you’re chasing happiness externally, it’s because you’re disconnected internally. And when you’re disconnected internally, then you’re trying to fill a GAP.Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy
The Gap, Parenting, & Marriage
When I’m in the GAP about my son, I’m measuring him against where I wish he was as a person. I’m measuring his behavior against my ideals. By seeing my son through the lens of the GAP, all I can see are his flaws. I don’t see him for who he truly is, right now. I don’t see his growth. I don’t see his progress.Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Why do many parents tend to look at their children through GAP lens? Or, to look at our spouses using these toxic eyeglasses? In my experience, it’s one of the following:
- We don’t understand or have forgotten the characteristics of charity lived and taught by many great leaders, including Jesus Christ, who teaches kindness, patience, and love unfeigned
- We see what’s lacking in others because there is something similar lacking in ourselves
People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.Gary D. Chapman, The Five Love Languages
What is the horizon in the desert that you’re chasing?
What is it about your life that makes you unhappy? Why do you believe this future state or future thing you’re chasing will finally make you happy?
If you see your life as lacking without noticing the progress you’ve made and the good you’ve lived, your present will continue replicating your future.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”Theodore Roosevelt
The Gain & Positive Emotions
“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”Zig Ziglar
Positive emotions are the starting point of learning, growth, and high performance (Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, Broaden-and-Build Theory). Thus, positive emotions are more likely to be felt when you are the person determining how you will measure yourself, and not others. While you may not be in control of choosing how you will be measured at work, you are in control of how you will measure your life.
Free yourself by refusing to be compared to others. Set your own high standards. Love yourself. Recognize your goodness and feel the positive and energizing emotions that will strengthen and sustain you.
Measure Yourself Backwards
“Being in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before [not what could have or should have happened]. You measure your own progress. You don’t compare yourself to something external. You don’t measure yourself against your ideals. … Use the reality of where you currently are and measure backward from there to the reality of where you started.”Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Why measure your progress backwards? Recognizing how far you’ve come gives you hope that you can continue on your journey, and builds your confidence and generates positive momentum.
Wanting Instead of Needing
When you’re in the GAP, you have an unhealthy attachment to something external. You feel you need something outside of yourself in order to be whole and happy. You need to have a million dollars. You need that person’s approval. You need that position or promotion. You need to be a particular size or shape or to look a certain way. When you’re driven by need, rather than want, you have an urgency and desperation to fulfill that need. The problem is that “needs” are unresolved internal pain, not something you can solve externally.Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Wanting means you’ve identified something yourself that is an important value to have in your life. Thus, what you want isn’t dictated or pushed onto you by some thing or some one external to you.
What are you chasing in your life? Is what you’re chasing really what you want, or something you feel you need because you’ve seen someone else posting about what they have or pretend to have: maybe it’s a new car? investment success? beauty? a large social following? perfect children? a vacation to a tropical island?
What do you really want? What’s really important to you?
Ponder these questions and write down what you feel. You may want to take a vacation from all social media if necessary to be able to see clearly what’s deep within you.
- How have I been measuring myself? And why?
- What’s really important to me? What do I really want for myself? For my family?
- Will this thing help me become who I want to become?
- What will I do beginning today, to start acting on what I really want?
Our happiness is dependent on what we measure ourselves against.
Thus, when you’re thinking in a GAP mindset, nothing is or ever will be enough because you’re comparing yourself to ideals (states of perfection), perhaps to someone else’s strength, or perhaps to something that doesn’t exist at all.
However, being in the GAIN means that you measure your progress looking backwards, and you aren’t comparing yourself to others or to a future ideal.
Therefore, you can see things happening FOR you, for you to learn, for you to improve, and for you to become the individual you were born to become, or you can see things happening TO you and processing life’s experiences through a victim mindset.
Why does this really matter?
When you view life’s experiences as opportunities to grow and develop and to become who you really want to become, you act with greater conviction, confidence, excitement, and commitment. You see yourself as in control of yourself. And feeling in control of yourself feels good.
How will you choose to live and measure your life?