Greener Grass: Separating Ideas from Work

Note to my future self..

There’s this idea that I’ve been trying to define for a while but I’ve struggle to find a good term for it so here’s my best effort to describe it.

Lately, I’ve realized that when I am evaluating future choices I tend to imagine them in a more positive way that what they actually end up being. More specifically I tend to discount all the negative outcomes that come with that decision. This behavior holds particularly true for choices that are an alternative to something that I currently or that I am currently doing.

For example, in college I always wanted to become a product manager because I thought I was a great fit for the role and I was susceptible to social proof based on what I saw was going on around me. Furthermore, I thought I could be a great PM at specific companies because these also tended to be well-known companies or they were breakout companies.

However, this selection bias towards positive aspects of an opportunity can be quite dangerous because I couldn’t separate the idea of this opportunity with the actual work that I would be doing. In other words, I evaluated these opportunities based on how great they sounded in my head and not the reality of the work that I would be doing. It took me a couple of months and several internships to figure this out.

Now pinpointing this phenomenon is hard. The best term I’ve come across so far is this idea that “the grass is always greener” alluding to how other opportunities will always seem more appealing. However, to that I would add two underlying cognitive mechanisms that drive this behavior* :

  1. **Wishful Thinking**: is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality, or reality.
  2. Selection Bias: the idea that we selectively choose the attributes that we pay attention to for a given option (there’s probably a better concept for this one).

I am not a psychologist. I have no clue if these are the actual mechanisms driving this behavior. Send me some material if you have any info on this. Sorry for the pseudo-science ¯\(ツ)*/¯

Why does this matter?

If I know that I am susceptible to this glitch, then I can catch myself whenever I start thinking that the “grass is greener”. This should also help me grind through things in the face of adversity and stick to things instead of jumping on to the next opportunity.

As with everything else, this is an ongoing process of discovery and development so my views on this subject are from definitive.

Now back to work..