Looking for Greener Pastures
Bill Cottringer

“The grass on the other side of the fence isn’t always greener. Sometimes it is just a different shade of brown and other times it comes with unwanted weeds and underground pests. ~The Author.

Having played fierce musical chairs for over 5 decades now with careers, jobs, relationships, living locations and even with politics, religions, and schools, I can attest to the truth of the opening quote. Here are just a few honest views of both sides of the fence:

Big vs. Small

We all have a basic choice to swim as a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. And either choice involves both sides of all these other fences. You can easily get lost or left behind being the small fish in the big pond in any of these fenced swimming spots. And choosing to be a big fish in a small pond may result in lack of challenges, unwanted leadership responsibilities or unsatisfying rewards. The key to success on either side of this fence is to first fit in and then gradually and thoughtfully make needed changes from inside-out.

Of course, there is always a middle ground here, at least with jobs,. relationships and living locations. For example, I worked in a large city for a medium sized company offering resources and benefits from both sides of the big vs. small fence, while living in the mountains in a small community where we aren’t too far from the benefits of the big city. Truly the best of both possible worlds, despite Seattle’s rain, annoying traffic and overly liberal politics!

Simple Vs. Complex

People seem to be driven towards simplicity, but that is getting more of a challenge in today’s world of nothing-but complexity. The best compromise may be to simplify the most important things in your life and develop the attitude and skills to be effective in dealing with the inevitable complex problems that come our way.

Obviously, there are outside forces determining the landscape on both sides of this fence. We have all become painfully aware of the value of the simple things when COVID-19 started chipping away at the complexity maze but eliminated some of the simple pleasures at the same time. If this pandemic had a silver lining in its dark cloud, this is probably it—letting us all know what should be most important in our lives.

Easy vs. Difficult

Unless you are a glutton for punishment, easy is usually the right side of this particular fence, at least for most of the time, so as to be able to deal with all these other choices. But on the other hand, if you are ambiguity-tolerant or easily bored, then big, complexity, change and difficult may be the preferred side of these fences.

Maintaining the status quo is relatively easy and doesn’t take much effort to preserve simplicity and stability, but changing it is difficult and takes courage, tenacity and creativity. On the downside, improvement and growth usually don’t come with easy, and can be painful when you are willing to learn, grow and improve in approaching difficult situations. Which side of this fence to be on, may be a similar one as the leader vs. follower one below.

Positive vs. Negative

Seeing both sides of this fence clearly is a real challenge for two reasons. First you can’t really know one side of the pair without experiencing the other to compare. And then you have to rely on memory, which is rarely accurate or objective. Secondly, the positive or negative quality of each side may be more of an invented human judgment and not necessarily an inherent value belonging to the experience itself, more than our judging minds project.

People generally lean to being positive and optimistic, negative and pessimistic or somewhere in between. So, when choosing which side of the fence to be on, it is probably a sensible idea to know where we are on this positive-negative continuum and align our true self with the corresponding job, relationship, living location, political party, religion or school. Conflicts between well-defined positive and negative sides of this fence usually don’t have good outcomes. Unfortunately we often don’t see or overlook this core conflict ahead of time to avoid getting trapped in an unwinnable situation.

Stable vs. Changing

This fence may just be a variation of the easy vs. difficult one above. Once again, though, both sides of this fence offer desirable and undesirable outcomes. Stability offers security, familiarity, and peace, whereas change brings insecurity, fears and anxieties about the unknown, and sometimes utter turmoil. But on the other hand, stability can be boring and unchallenging, while change brings opportunities for growth, improvement and fulfillment. The middle ground here is when you get to be in control of managing the right changes that won’t turn everything completely upside-down or inside-out, unless that Is what you want or need.

The greatest challenge with choosing sides on this fence is when the choice isn’t driven by you, but by other people who suddenly decide they no longer want to be stable and predictable and start doing everything they can to be unpredictable and a change monger. That generally results in a very difficult fence-hopping decision and choice for you, that you only know which direction to go when the time is right.

Leader vs. Follower

In any of these areas, we can choose to lead or follow at different times and circumstances, or to be one or the other most of the time or even all the time. Each side of this fence offers rewards and obligations. Leaders have autonomy in where things go and sometimes even how, but that freedom normally carries awesome unwanted responsibilities, anxieties and fears.

Freedom and choices may be somewhat limited for followers but there are usually no accompanying daunting responsibilities, anxieties, or fears. The trick is to know which side of this fence you are more comfortable with and made for, and then accept that “assignment” at least until the right timing and circumstances appear for a change to be seized at the right moment. The other alternative is to learn how to best lead yourself whether you are a leader of follower.

Alone vs. Together

In all these areas you can choose to be alone or joined together with others. You can be a single, self-employed person living in a remote location with no memberships, and school, religious or political affiliations. Or you can choose to be an employer with employees or an employee with and employer and living in a community with all sorts of belonging affiliations. And of course, you can mix and match any of these “opposites” for balance.

Going it alone it can be all your way or the highway, without any need for collaboration, cooperation or compromise with others. But teamwork absolutely requires these things. One middle ground that some people choose, is to compete against yourself while cooperating with others with the perspective of being inter-dependent rather than autonomous vs. overtly dependent. A definitive place on the introvert-extrovert continuum can influence this choice significantly.

We can be reasonably happy and content being on either side of these fences when we resist the temptation of judging our experiences as good and desirable or bad and undesirable. But that ability is a bit elusive to capture and hold onto for very long.

In the meantime, the best we can do is to find a comfortable place that meets most of our important wants and needs without sacrificing any deal-breakers. We can always move when we get too uncomfortable and unhappy where we are at, when the right time shows itself and by going into the move knowing the truth of the opening quote, when the outcome isn’t quite so unexpected or unpleasant. And you usually get what you expect, so expect the best and let go of fears of the rest!

“When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it I the holy spirit telling you to fertilize and water the grass you are standing on.” ~Eugene Cho.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.