The Chip Bowl Theory

Why our idea of perfect is always changing

You’re sitting at the table looking at a bowl of chips. Which one do you grab?

The best one, of course!

In this scenario, we all want the biggest, most complete looking chip. Nobody wants to intentionally grab the broken chips. We’re looking for perfection.

So, you grab the biggest, fullest chip and eat it… but then you want another one. Which one do you grab next?

The answer is the same. No matter how many times you go back to the chip bowl, you will always grab the chip that looks the best. Interestingly, there is always a next best chip no matter how many times you go back. Even when that next best chip is smaller and less complete than the ones at the beginning, you can easily justify why you would pick that next one.

That’s my Chip Bowl Theory.

This is more than a theory to me though. It has always taught me lessons about happiness. Here are a few.

Perfection is relative

Throughout our lives, we experience different circumstances which influence the way we see things. We develop perspectives based on where we are in life emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. At any given time, the worth or value we give to something is going to be dependent on the state of mind we are in.

For example, if you are happy and things in your life seem to be going well, then getting a flat tire could feel like little more than an inconvenience. By comparison, if your life has been challenging recently, that same flat tire could feel like the final straw that makes it seem as though everything is against you.

When we are honestly looking at the good things in our life, we feel content with things the way they are. In contrast, when we are focused only on the negative, everything else appears bleak and disappointing. In those times, there isn’t a chip in the bowl that looks good enough for us. Remember that what looks like a perfect chip to you may look very different to someone else.

Potato chips on a white background.

One chip, two chips

Something else my Chip Bowl Theory has taught me is that there are usually lots of chips to be had. I consider each chip a blessing from my Higher Power, bringing me satisfaction and joy. Most of us have a plate full of chips in front of us at all times, and we don’t even realize it.

The chip bowl of life is an endless supply of choices and blessings. Just because they start looking differently than what we might expect, it does not change that they are all chips.

Surprise, The Chip Bowl Theory is not about chips

I promise that the next time you walk up to a bowl of chips you are going to remember this discussion. You are going to start noticing it in everything that you do.

You will find that you always have choices, and your choices will always be swayed by what appears to be the very best. This is normal. Generations of mankind have evolved into more capable and intelligent decision makers. You will face The Chip Bowl throughout your life.

The challenge is to remember that there is always going to be a next best chip. When other choices are removed, you will still find the best of what is available. You will not even think back to what may have been before your choice. You will just choose.

What does this mean to the Upright Man?

Make the best decision based on your given circumstances, and take joy in that decision. You will find that every single chip ends up tasting delicious, no matter how it looks. That’s because all of the “chips” come from the same source, and they are intended to bring you satisfaction and joy, like a room full of presents.


More than a chip bowl

I want to point out one way that The Chip Bowl theory differs from my otherwise appropriate comparison to life.

In life, the chips do not ever run out. The “crumbs” never really appear. There are never lesser quality blessings. There are just blessings.

Furthermore, if we keep asking for more chips, we will find that they keep coming. In fact, the server will be bringing you more chips even before you ask. Sometimes you may feel that it takes awhile for the chip bowl to be refilled, but there will always be more chips.

Remember that you’re not alone. We’re all seeking those chips, hoping the good ones won’t be gone before we get there. Fortunately, they never are.


Question: What example can you share of a time you thought all the good “chips” were gone, but then you realized there were plenty more? Leave a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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