A while back I started listening to the book Nudge by Charles Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I found the entire book rather fascinating, although I didn’t manage to finish it before it expired and zoomed back to the library or someone else’s listening device.
There is one section in the book, where they talk about the concept of Anchoring and Adjusting. It is a term associated with economics and financial decisions, but I thought it also connected to our tendency to compare ourselves to others.
Anchoring and adjusting is essentially when you look at a price point, or a number of some kind and then make a guess or estimate based on that original number.
For example, if I asked you to estimate what the cost is of a new laptop, and you knew that your sister just bought a laptop for $500, then you would probably use the $500 price point as an anchor for your guess, and you would adjust and estimate somewhere close to that number.
When negotiating, this concept of anchoring and adjusting can be extremely important for the person who makes the first bid, because all subsequent bids will be based on that original anchor.
The problem with anchoring and adjusting, is that the anchor can often be the apple, while you are guessing about an orange. The anchor isn’t reliable, nor the adjustment accurate because we are often lacking important information.
So what does this have to do with you, personally?
Whether we realize it or not, we use anchors throughout our daily life.
Whenever we compare ourselves or our lives to someone else’s, or even to our own experiences, we are using anchors. The other person acts as the anchor and we adjust our thinking and feelings based on what we see or perceive.
Just as Thaler and Sunstein talk about the inaccuracy of using anchoring and adjusting in the world of economics, it is also inaccurate in the world of life.
When we set about comparing ourselves to others, we can often end up in despair. We don’t measure up. We haven’t achieved the same amount of success, wealth, happiness, beauty, etc.
The problem is that we often do this comparison without all the information. We use an anchor and adjust, but without the proper background.
Social media does not help with this phenomenon.
What people post online is just a snippet of their reality, but we often look at those posts as an anchor, and then compare our own achievements, success, happiness, and life to those posts, asking ourselves “Do I measure up?”
If the answer is “No,” then what do you do?"
Brené Brown talks about how “comparison is the thief of happiness’ and the work of Thaler and Sunstein backs up her claim. When we set an anchor and adjust to that anchor, we are left with an inaccurate assessment, thinking, and feelings.
Anchors weigh us down, rather than buoy us up.
I wonder, who or what are you using for anchors in your life? How is it working?
I encourage you to look to others for inspiration, but don’t use them as an anchor for your own happiness. It will just weigh you down.
It's Your Life. Live It Boldly.