This is one of a series of brief posts to get you thinking about enjoying business more. Feel free to comment.
The plight of the Western middle class is perfect fodder for today's comedian, highlighting the ridiculousness of people getting stressed about not having a decent wi-fi connection or Waitrose running out of Halloumi, when other parts of the world are having to deal with war, famine and disease.
Of course, the basic premise is absolutely right, there is no comparison between them, but it is imperative that judgement is not passed too quickly on those who appear to be out of touch with reality. The temptation is to look at anyone who meets the traditional definition of success – money, cars, houses etc and decide that they don't deserve to have any problems. They just need to get some perspective.
However, it's not always as simple as that.
In my first book, Hope Won't Pay the Wages, I interviewed business owners that had experienced a business failure. One interviewee was telling me about how he reacted when he watched television and saw a news report about starving kids in Africa.
You might think that realising that there was someone much worse off than himself would have given him the sense of perspective he needed to take stock and realise that things weren't so bad.
On the contrary. It made him feel worse.
Not only did he feel bad in himself, but now he thought that he had no right to feel that way. Now he felt bad about feeling bad – and the situation worsened.
What people don't realise is that stress is relative. Each person operates within their own unique emotional range and events that stray them away from that norm will impact them accordingly. In addition, it's not really possible for one person to appreciate somebody else's norm, without fully experiencing it for themselves and being able to accept that position for themselves.
Visitors to India are shocked by the slums of Calcutta and consider those who live there to be experiencing a life of misery. They can't understand that the full range of emotions, including joy and happiness, exist there as much as anywhere else. That doesn't make the situation right, but don't patronise those who live there by thinking that they have a miserable existence.
Similarly, for those of you who live a 'fortunate life', don't beat yourself up whenever you feel bad. It is perfectly normal and healthy to have negative reactions to negative situations, even ones that appear trivial in the grand scheme of things. What is important is the action that you take as a consequence.
If you are stressed, do not obsess about the “Nice problem to have” mentality of the media and the general public. Instead, start talking to someone about what is going on and explore the reality.
If you get a sense of perspective and the stress melts away, then fantastic. But if it's something more severe then, whatever you do, don't stop with the talking.
Just as a pauper can be happy, so a millionaire can be miserable and the support of others is needed to get through it.