Most of us have a vision of what we want to do, where we want to be, or who we want to become. We understand that the journey ahead of us is filled with unforeseeable pitfalls and challenges that seek to test our knowledge, skills, and our mettle. We embark on this lifelong journey if not to be the best we can, but also to understand more about ourselves and improve through our experiences by working our asses off in the gym and in the office, but we also recognize the importance of enjoying what we do—it reinforces our purpose, our drive.
If this was a perfect world, we would be able to put in an honest day’s work and be satisfied with the progress we’ve made and the accomplishments we’ve earned. But as you know, we do not live in such a system, and we sure as hell are far from being perfect.
You might put in an exorbitant amount of work day in and day out to reach that weight goal, run a personal best, or improve your position in the company, but somewhere along the path of progress we occasionally lose focus; even if it’s just for a moment. And that’s perfectly natural. Everyone is guilty of this. Whether it comes from a place of competitiveness, curiosity, or doubt, we eventually deviate from our core principles and feel the need to compare ourselves to someone else.
In an age of information and sensory overload, it becomes too easy to divert our attention to external stimuli rather than properly focusing on cultivating our own abilities and experiences.
Like I said, it’s a natural reaction and there is a time and a place where competition warrants a specific kind of comparison. This is almost always done systematically and with completely measurable goals that meet agreed upon criteria in order to achieve a very limited objective.
That being said, comparing ourselves to others outside of this context could very well be the greatest impediment to our personal development and the quickest way to sending us on the wrong path of self-doubt.
It sacrifices gratitude for our accomplishments and replaces it with resentment toward someone else’s. It’s the habit most closely related to envy, frustration, and misery, and the furthest from self understanding. Regularly comparing ourselves to others doesn’t just distract us; it diminishes our self-esteem and distorts our self-identity by shifting the focus of our attention and the locus of our control to outwardly concerns we neither have the ability to manage nor the proper information to fully comprehend.
Rather than serving as a helpful metric for performance, we slowly but surely begin to doubt our own aptitude by unfairly comparing our experiences to another’s. We start guessing everyone's abilities or state of affairs, and begin to second-guess ourselves. This is a cyclical process that asks irrelevant questions which for the most part are impossible to answer without knowing more than what is beyond our experiences. We start to worry about the "Why?" or "Why not?" instead of the "How".
“Why him, why her?"
"Why them, why not me?"
Whenever we introduce another variable to the equation, our process changes and we’re left trying to solve multiple problems with no tangible way to answer them. The questions we should be asking instead are “how can I get to where I want to go from here?” or “how can I use this situation to advance my position for the future?”
Shit happens that will be completely out of your control. So the more effective you are able to leverage your knowledge and strengths, the farther you'll be able to take yourself. The beauty of focusing on what you can do is that your resulting self-growth and continued self-understanding is never predicated on what other people do.
The person you were yesterday and the one you will be tomorrow are the only metrics you need to evaluate yourself with. Even then, we must remind ourselves that these comparisons won’t always measure up to what we want, or even what we’ve worked for. We’ll have good days and bad days, but by remaining focused on our own process we can learn how to be more grateful for even the smallest improvements and look forward to the challenges that are still waiting for us to conquer.