• Kevin B Ebert

Why Change Your Frame of Reference?



About this #MyDay Post


In a podcast from the Happiness Lab, Dr. Laurie Santos dives into the nuances of Olympic athletes who achieved silver medals versus gold medals and how miserable they were as a result when compared to those who won bronze medals.


Do you remember McKayla Maroney who won the silver medal in gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics? Do you remember that when she was on the podium receiving the medal, she made a contorted face for a couple of seconds clearly showing her disappointment in the achievement? If you remember at the time, it didn’t make sense to a lot of us. We felt why should she be disappointed, she just won a medal. Why wouldn’t you be happy for the achievement? The reason why is the “frame of reference”. You see, to you and me, achieving a silver medal in the Olympics is just something we can dream about but never achieve. So the idea of achieving a silver medal, or any medal for that fact, would be the culmination of our dreams. But for McKayla, her frame of reference was a lot different than ours. She had worked many years training and competing at the highest levels, motivated by one goal, win a gold medal. And anything short of that meant that she didn’t meet her own expectations. Standing on the podium with a silver medal around her neck, she didn’t see it as a victory of all the years of passion she endured competing in her sport, rather all she could think about was the one person who beat her, the gold medalist winner and thus, fell short of her goal.


In the podcast episode, Dr. Santos walks you through the scientific evidence around how people perceive and achieve happiness based on the frame of reference they are using to measure that happiness. Finding happiness is something we can all do and a key element to finding it is having the right frame of reference which provides the right perspective for happiness.

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