Ep #89: Happiness and Gap vs. Gain

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Happiness and Gap vs. Gain

If we want to reach a place where we’re loving life again, the way we measure our success really does matter. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is that most of us are willingly measuring our progress in a way that almost guarantees frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness. And that is not what any of us want for our lives.

In today’s podcast, we’re talking about why we want to measure our wins and successes using the gain instead of the gap as a metric of our progress. And the beauty of this whole concept is that you don’t necessarily have to do anything in your life other than what you already are. This isn’t about pursuing happiness. This is the process of expanding your happiness.

Join me on this week’s episode to discover why we naturally want to measure our progress based on the gap, and how to instead measure your success based only on the gain. I’m sharing where I have done this in my own life, how to see it in your thinking, and how this process will make every day that passes that little bit more rewarding.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why we use ways of measuring our progress that don’t actually serve us.
  • What the idea of gap versus gain is.
  • The difference between the pursuit of happiness and the expansion of happiness.
  • How I see widows measuring their success in a way that only serves to make them feel terrible.
  • What you can do to start measuring your life in a way that actually compounds happiness and self-belief.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 89, Happiness and Gap vs. Gain.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. When it comes to loving life again, the way we measure success really does matter. And unfortunately, what I’ve found is that most of us are doing it in a way that almost guarantees frustration and disappointment and hopelessness. And so, in today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about why we want to measure using the gain instead of the gap and how, when we do that, we can actually create more happiness.

So, before we jump into today’s episode, just a little update on my life. It is Monday night, 9:45pm and here I am recording a podcast. Because I am committed, there will not come a Monday when I do not get you a podcast. There will not come a Wednesday when you do not get a Widow Wednesday email from me.

Those are the two things I am committed to in this business. And my daughter had a volleyball tournament that I didn’t expect this weekend. I did not plan my time as well as maybe I could have. And so, here I am though. I am going to get this podcast recorded for you.

And I’ve been thinking about it for a while and how I know you’re going to use this information, so I’m pretty excited to bring it to you. Because I think it’s going to be really valuable. Also of note, on year with the boyfriend coming up. It will be only a couple of days from when this podcast releases.

Wow, just looking back on where I have been in the last year with COVID and dating again after not dating since Hugo died, just a crazy, crazy year. But going well. Loving life. And ready to teach you a little bit more about how you can use happiness and gap versus gain to love your life.

So, I learned about this idea from one of my business mentors Dan Sullivan. And he is the founder of Strategic Coach, which is a business coaching program for entrepreneurs that I’m a part of this year. I don’t actually start until May, but I’ve been following Dan for a number of years and so many of his teachings resonate with me. And this is one of them.

And so, as I go through his program in the next year, when I learn things that I think will help you, if they’re applicable to grief and to loving life again after a loss, then I will be sure to bring it to the podcast. So, happy to teach you Dan’s concept here and relate it to the Widowed Mom life, right?

So, we all know that we have a brain that’s designed to look for the negative. If you haven’t listened to episode 86, Negativity Bias in Grief, this would be a good one to listen to because this concept really does build on the preexisting negativity bias that we all know exists in our brain.

So, the three things that I want to teach you in this podcast, I want to teach you what gap versus gain actually is. I want to talk to you about the pursuit of happiness versus the expansion of happiness. And I want to make sure that you have a way to implement this information into your life so that you start recognizing when you’re measuring yourself in an un-useful way and can intentionally set yourself up to create something that actually has you measuring your life in such a way that compounds happiness. That’s what I want for you. So, gap versus gain, pursuit of happiness versus expansion of happiness, and then a way to implement those ideas.

So, I think before we get into the specifics of how to measure, we can pretty much all agree that measurement is valuable. It’s how we know that we’ve made progress.

In my old corporate job, we used to throw around this phrase regularly, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” And we were maybe bordering on a little obsessed with key performance indicators and scorecards and dashboards and measuring because we knew that we couldn’t manage what we didn’t measure.

And so, I’m not encouraging any of us to obsess over measurement. But I do believe that it’s important that we set ourselves up for success with the way that we think about the way that we measure our progress in our lives. Because what I have found is that most of us are doing it all wrong. We’re really setting ourselves up to feel discouraged and defeated. And we’re pursuing happiness and we’re measuring ourselves against the wrong things. We’re measuring ourselves against the gap instead of the gain.

So, what does that mean, gap versus gain? Why do we care? Unhappiness comes from measuring ourselves against where we are relative to where we want to go. Unhappiness comes from measuring ourselves against where we are to where we want to go.

Happiness, on the other hand, is what we create when we measure the progress we’ve made based on where we’ve come from. Are you following? Okay, I hear people say all the time, “I just don’t feel like I’m living up to my potential.” Or, “I just don’t think my child is living up to his or her potential.” Have you said this? Have you thought this, “I just don’t think I’m living up to my potential?” Or, “potentially I could be happy.” Or, “potentially things could be better.”

Okay, I think a lot of us think this. But what’s really true – and it’s good to know – is that none of us will ever live up to our potential. This doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t fall in love with our lives again. It’s just to say that our potential always exists in the future. And we live in the present. It’s impossible to measure ourselves against our potential. What is our potential even?

Our potential is just an idea. It’s not a thing. It’s a concept. Our potential just describes our idea of what’s possible. But it’s not a fixed point. It’s not a tangible thing that exists. So, until we die, none of us are ever living up to our potential. And it doesn’t mean we’re not loving life and doing amazing things. It just means that it’s an impossible thing to measure ourselves against because it’s a concept.

Just to give you an idea of this here, I don’t really watch football because I’m just really not interested. Never have been. But it’s about Superbowl time and the Kansas City Chiefs have made it to the Superbowl and I live in Kansas. So, you get a sports metaphor.

The Superbowl will be measured based on who scores the most points. It will not be measured relative to the combined total of each team’s hypothetical potential. It wouldn’t make sense.

Both teams are going to start at zero and at the end of the game, we’re going to look backwards in time and we’re going to measure each team based on the points they gained, right? Okay, that’s focusing on the gain. That’s how we want to measure a goal.

We wouldn’t just say, “Well, I think this player is capable of this and that player is capable of that and put them all together on that team and really, they scored this many points but they could have scored that many points.” We don’t do that. We don’t score them based on potential. We score them based on what actually happened relative to starting at zero.

Another way to think of this is think about running. If we were measuring ourselves by our potential and we were running, that would be like trying to measure ourselves based on how close we are to the horizon. We would run and run and run and run and the horizon would still be equally far away because the horizon isn’t a fixed point. Are you following?

The horizon is an idea. It’s not actually somewhere that physically exists. We couldn’t measure our progress based on how close we were to the edge of the horizon. We would never even try because we know better. We would never try to measure a sports team based on their potential. We know that we measure the based on what they actually do.

But I want you to think about how we forget this when it come sot happiness, how we forget this when it comes to our own lives. Now, I’m not saying that potential isn’t useful in terms of goal setting. It absolutely is. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more in a minute. But it’s definitely not useful in terms of measuring success.

So, what I want you to take away from this is that none of us ever live up to our potential, and that’s okay. Because our potential is just an idea, not a fixed place. But when we measure ourselves based on where we are and what we could potentially do, or how we feel and what we could potentially feel in the future, we are focused on the gap.

The gap is the distance between where we are and our idea of where we could be. The gap is based on where we are relative to potential. On the other hand, the gain is what we find when we look backward and measure how far we’ve come based on where we started. Can you see how much more useful this is in terms of measuring?

So, again, unhappiness comes from measuring ourselves against an ideal, because we’ll never hit it because the ideal will just keep changing, just like the horizon. And happiness is what we get when we measure the progress we’ve made based on where we’ve come from.

And I really want you to hear me here. Because if you don’t change this, you’re never going to be happy. If you continue to focus on the gap, which so many of us are doing, it’s literally a recipe for unhappiness.

As I was thinking about this podcast, it reminded me of just a little episode from my own life. And I want to share it with you because even at this time I understood this teaching and I wasn’t applying it to my life. And so, we all do it. I want to show you where I was doing it.

So, it was about a year and half ago. I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Dallas and I was talking with one of my business mentors at the time and friend, Kara Loewentheil. And if you’re in the coaching world, you know Kara is a force to be reckoned with.

And so, we were at a mastermind event for life coaches and a newer coach came up to us and introduced herself. And I had just won an award. I had just earned my first 100K as a coach and I was also given an award for the most improved player, which basically meant that my community had recognized me as having made significant accomplishments between that year and the year before. So, they measured the money I made based on where I’d come from and they measured my improvement based on where I’d come from, and they gave me awards for this.

And so, this newer coach introduced herself and she congratulated me on my award. And Kara had also won an award. She was in the two-comma club, which is for coaches that made over a million dollars in their business. And so, the coach congratulated both of us and she said something like, to me, you know, “That’s impressive.”

And my first response was, “Well thanks, but it’s not like impressive-impressive.” And I kind of motioned to Kara, who had a multi-million-dollar business at that point in time and was reaching easily over a million women with her podcast alone.

And without missing much of a beat, Kara picked up a pillow from the couch and hit me with it, and pointed out how I was minimizing my accomplishments. I was, even with my coaching brain, I was focusing on the gap. I was doing exactly what I am telling you not to do.

Instead of giving myself credit for what I had accomplished based on where I came from. I came from nothing in this business and I created my first $100,000, which was a big deal. And my brain wouldn’t even give me credit for it. My brain was like, “Well, yeah but compared to the two-comma coaches, it’s nothing.”

And so, I want you to see that even those of us that know this information still have human brains with a built-in negativity bias. We still all have to work at making sure that the way we measure ourselves is based on where we’ve come from and not where we can go. Because the ideal is going to continue to move. And we’re going to be perpetually frustrated if we’re measuring our progress against the gap, the ideal, instead of the gain.

Because it never ends. No matter how much you change your life, no matter how much you create different results in your life, if you’re measuring it incorrectly, you’re just going to be more frustrated. You’re just going to be more frustrated.

So, I want to think about how this might be showing up in your life, especially as it relates to grief. Because most of us are really focused on the gap and not the gain. So, here are some examples. And some of these are grief-related. Some of these are just life-related.

But let’s say you’re measuring your progressed based on the items left on your to-do list as opposed to the items you’ve completed on your to-do list. If you’re measuring your progress based on the items left on your to-do list, then you’re in the gap. Because your to-do list is growing all the time.

It never stops growing. It’s virtually infinite. You finish one thing, and then poof, two more. So, measuring our progress against infinity makes no sense. Of course it’s a recipe for frustration. And there really is no such thing as to-do list zero, unless you’re checking out of life, and I don’t think you are or you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast, right?

So, why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we not stop and look backwards and say, “Good job, you. Good job. Look what you did today You did all these things.” And give ourselves credit for what we did instead of wat’s left to be done, because we’ll just keep adding to the list.

When you go to measure your current life against the one that you had with your husband, you’re measuring against an ideal. Now, some of you may not have had the happiest of marriages. And so, maybe what you had with your husband isn’t actually what you are wanting in the future. And I hear you if that’s you.

But for those of you who think that it can’t get any better and you’re measuring how you currently feel against how you felt with your husband, you’re measuring against an ideal. It seems like you’re measuring yourself based on where you came from, but that’s not completely accurate. Because between then and now, something major happened. He died. And in that case, what we used to have is now an ideal of what we want. It’s now the potential that exists in the future.

And maybe we don’t want exactly the same thing, but we want to love life. And that is not a measurable thing. It is an idea. And if we’re focused on where we are versus the potential of where we could be with a relationship, with happiness, with whatever it is that’s related to the next chapter, if we’re focused on what it is we want in the future then we’re in the gap. We’re not in the gain.

So, we want to measure the progress that we’ve made since he died. That puts us back in the gain. Measure how you feel now against how you want to feel in the future, and you’re going to be in the gap. And that’s not where you want to be. That’s a recipe for misery.

I’m guessing, because I’ve heard it so very many times and heard it myself so many times, that people are telling you how strong you are and you’re not really resonating with that, most of you. But those people who are telling you how strong you are, they’re measuring you against where you’ve recently come from, or at least what they imagine it’s like to be in your shoes based on where you’ve come from.

You’re telling yourself that they don’t know what they’re talking about because you’re measuring yourself based on how you feel relative to how you want to feel. You’re measuring yourself against how you could potentially feel. And you’re not feeling as strong as you know you could potentially feel. They’re measuring you based on where you came from.

Now, sidenote, you might also be telling yourself that they don’t know what you’re talking about because you had no choice. And I used to say the same thing to myself. But the more widows I’ve coached, the more I have learned that this just simply isn’t true. You actually did have a choice.

You could have thrown in the towel and you could have given up. You didn’t. You kept putting and you keep putting one foot in front of the other. Here you are. You’re listening to this podcast. That’s something. So, I encourage you to own and take credit for it. Build on it. Give yourself credit for not giving up. Give yourself credit for being the resilient woman that you are. Measure yourself based on how far you’ve come relative to where you were, not how far you could still potentially go.

Okay, so that’s gap versus gain. When we’re focused on what’s in front of us, what’s between where we are and the ideal of where we could potentially go, that’s a recipe for disaster. We want to focus on where we are and look backward from where we came. We want to set a goal and then measure ourselves based on where we came from.

Now, looking forward into the future is incredibly useful when it comes to goal setting. So, we definitely want to do that. I’m not discouraging that. I want you to dream. I want you to think about what you want to achieve. I want you to consider your potential and your ability to grow and dream bigger and think about what you want for your future and spend time in your ideal so that you have a reference for setting a goal that you’d like to achieve.

But then, once you set the goal, we want to measure our progress against a fixed point in the past. So, we want to turn around, look backward, and measure our progress from where we were to where we are, not where we are to where we could go.

Okay, that’s gap versus gain. Now, pursuit of happiness versus expansion of happiness. I know you’ve heard this term many times, you know, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when Dan Sullivan opened my eyes to this, it just really kind of turned a lightbulb for me.

How many of us think about pursuing happiness? And when we think about that, it assumes we’re not happy. It assumes that happiness is something we haven’t yet attained and so therefore we must pursue it. Can you think about that just for a second?

How does it feel to not have something and try to go get it? You’re trying to get something from scarcity, from lack, from limitation versus expanding on something that you already have. If we’re pursuing happiness, it’s because we have no happiness and we have to go find it.

If we’re expanding on happiness, it’s because we already have some and now we’re just growing it. One comes from lack and fear and not-enoughness. One comes from abundance and fullness and wholeness.

So yes, we could say it’s a little bit of semantics. But I do think, in circumstances like this, semantics matter. If we’re always pursuing love, we’re basically telling ourselves we don’t have any. If we’re always pursuing money, we’re telling ourselves we don’t have any. If we’re pursuing happiness, we’re telling ourselves we don’t have any.

So, what is there already in your life that you’re happy about? And I’m not saying fake it. Please don’t. Please don’t fake it. But where are you genuinely happy? What is the littlest of little things in life that creates happiness for you? What are you grateful for?

And once you find it, even if it’s just, “I have a roof over my head,” even if it’s just, “I am currently not in the hospital,” even if it’s just the littlest tiniest thing, even if it is, “I have my sight,” or, “I have my hearing. I have a body that allows me to move. I’m above ground.” We find the truth in the happiness that exists. We find it now and we expand on it.

I also did another podcast episode about powerful questions for widows. And you might relisten to that one as well. It’s episode five. And the idea is that we’ve got this really powerful tool in between our ears; our brain. It’s always looking to solve a problem for us. It’s always looking to answer a question for us. And it will find evidence aligned with what we believe.

It will find evidence aligned with the questions that we’re asking. So, when we’re asking questions like, “Why do bad things always happen to me?” It gives our brain really no other choice but to go and find evidence of the bad things that are happening.

It’s a very disempowering question. Because baked into that question is a belief we don’t really want. And though it’s not a question, the idea of pursuing happiness also has a belief baked into it that we don’t really want. Which is, “I’m not happy and so now I have to go find happiness. I have to pursue it.” Versus, “I’m expanding my happiness because there’s already some there. and if I’ve got a little, I can turn that into more.” Which I just think is so much more useful.

Okay, so that’s pursuit of happiness versus expansion of happiness. The last thing I want to give you is a tool to make this practical. And it kind of combines what you learned about negativity bias in that podcast episode, and gap versus gain.

We want to get our brain focused on what’s going well because it naturally wants to focus on what is dangerous and threatening and troublesome. We have to do this on purpose. Because it’s not our default state. Our brain is wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient. It is not wired to find the wins for our day.

So, if we are always looking backward and measuring our success from where we have been and that is a recipe for happiness, let’s do that on a regular basis. And I challenge you to, every day at the end of your day, look back and find three wins. It doesn’t matter how small they are.

Some days, a win might be that you got up and took a shower. Some days, a win might be that you got food on the table for the children. Some days, a win might be that you were not in bed all day crying. There’s no judgment from me.

Whatever your win is, take credit for it and find at least three of them. Then, anticipate three potential wins for tomorrow. Not because anticipating those wins means that you have to go and create them, but because it then gives your brain a homework assignment that serves you.

And then, tomorrow, your brain is already working on how to create wins for you. It’s already working on how to create something so that, at the end of the day, you can look back and see where you came from and measure yourself accordingly.

And if we do that over and over and over, we’re always celebrating our wins and we’re always looking for more wins. We’re making them measurable. When I anticipate that my win tomorrow is going to be recording a podcast episode or getting on my Peloton, that’s measurable. And then, tomorrow I can look back and say, “Yes, good job, me. I recorded the podcast, even though it’s late. I did it. I recorded it. Good job, me.”

And I’m looking backwards. I’m looking at where I came from and what I did. I’m not looking at, “And, oh by the way, I would still like to record two more podcasts this week.” I’m not doing that. I’m looking at where I won. So, come up with, every day, three wins; as little as you need them to be. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about them being big. Then anticipate three wins tomorrow knowing full well that those wins might be different tomorrow than the ones you anticipate, and that’s totally fine.

The point is not to give yourself a longer to-do list. The point is not to obsess about getting those things done. The point is not to beat yourself up if you don’t. the point is to get your brain thinking about how you could win tomorrow to set yourself up for it.

So, that’s what I want you to be thinking about, “How can I stop measuring myself based on the life I used to have? Because that’s now the potential for the type of happiness I can create in the future. How can I stop measuring myself based on what I’m capable of? Because there will never come a point in time when I actually reach my full capability or potential, it’s just a concept that exists, like the horizon. And instead, how can I look backwards and measure my success based on where I’ve come from?”

And when you notice yourself feeling down about your progress, I want you to honestly ask yourself, “Am I in the gap or am I in the gain?” And if you’re in the gap, you know what to do. You’re measuring yourself against the potential, which is an idea. It’s not a fixed point.

You’re measuring your progress like a runner would be measuring their distance based off of how far they are from the horizon. It will cause you nothing but negative emotion; hopelessness, defeat, frustration, overwhelm.

And I want you to think about what that would be like if you were a really committed runner. If you were a really committed runner and you really wanted to improve, then probably you would start training harder and running longer and running faster and eating better and strength training. You’d double down to try and make that progress.

But as long as you’re still measuring yourselves against the gap, against the horizon, you’ll never celebrate any progress. And eventually, if you were that runner, you’d probably stop trying. So, when you notice negative emotion, chances are very high you are focused on the gap and you need to bring your focus back to the gain. Measure yourself against where you’ve come from, not where you’re going.

Use where you’re going as a way to set goals for yourself. But then measure your progress, your gain, against those goals. Don’t pursue happiness. Expand on it. And then every day, look for wins. Anticipate what your wins will be the next day and the smallest things always count.

Okay, that’s what I have for you this week. I hope you have an amazing week. Remember, I love you and you’ve got this. take care and I’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about, even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.

Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than what you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click Work With Me for details and next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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