Introduction

I just came back from Hongkong where I met my agent and planned the speaking activities for 2018. One day we were on the way to a restaurant for a meeting and I got distracted by all the blinking lights and big promotions hanging outside of a store. They were selling different types of gadgets and to be very honest, I’m not even a gadget guy. But it felt that due to all the lights and people screaming about the promotions I got pulled into the store. I suddenly became a gadget freak and needed to have the iPhone X, the newest Fitbit and a new camera all at once! We arrived heavily delayed at our meeting and it made me think about how distractions and specifically comparison can really make us lose our focus and direction.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong distractions

If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better. ~ Anonymous Click To Tweet

Why do we compare?

According to research done by The Tavistock Institute, we compare with others because it is part of our basic human desire to understand ourselves and our place in the social world. In other words, we look at how well we are doing, by looking at others and measuring if we’re behind or in front of them. In 1954 Leon Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory tackles the fundamentals of how a person forms beliefs and opinions about one’s own capabilities. According to him, human beings have the drive to assess their opinions and to know more about their abilities and when they are incapable of evaluating their opinions and abilities, they tend to compare themselves with others. In general, there are two types of comparison:

  • Downward
  • Upward

The downward comparison involves comparing yourself to someone you perceive as worse off than yourself. Think about a person that has not achieved your type of “success” or is just further back down on the ladder of life. The upward comparison involves comparing yourself to someone you perceive as better off. This could be people that are higher up in rank in the office, people that are in better physical shape or just peers that have achieved more in their life than you have. In general, comparisons are based on appearance, intelligence, social status or wealth.

Why comparison has no value?

Today's increased awareness has decreased our contentment. ~ Anonymous Click To Tweet

Social media is an amazing platform that can be leveraged for your life and for your business. But at the same time, we have to be very careful in how we use social media or how it is using us. Who has been on Instagram to check “something” for 5 minutes and then finds himself still looking at pictures 2 hours later? You’re looking at pictures and find some old friends. You see they have a very nice new car and have been travelling around the world. You start to think about where you are in life and compare it with where they are, and feelings of depression or insecurity start creeping into your mind.

Focus on what you can control

Focus on what you can control
Focus on what you can control

These feelings can take control of your life and you start drifting from good things that have been happening in your life. You start focusing more on what your friends have been doing instead of where you are heading. How good or bad someone else is doing actually has nothing to do with where you are. The only thing you can impact is what is in your hands and in your head, and use that to catapult you forward. Nowadays people too often talk about other peoples’ success instead of creating their own.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world, if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” ~ Bill Gates Click To Tweet

Focus internally

Being better or worse than someone else is very subjective and thus those definitions only apply in your own mind. So how do you determine excellence and become the best without looking too much to other people? It starts with defining what “the best” means to you. It starts with recognising that being the best is something relating to you, and only you. It’s about achieving your best and growing into your potential future you. Some exercises that can help you do this are:

  • Be aware. In today’s transparent world, comparing is almost a second nature. Be more aware of your thoughts the next time your scrolling down your social media feed. What thoughts pop up in your mind? Once a thought of comparison comes up, just shift your focus inwardly and think about how you can become better at your strengths.
  • Start within. Think about your own talents and abilities and write them down in a list. How can you further develop these talents and abilities? Be aware that becoming your very best will take an ongoing effort of improving the talents you already have. Your full potential can only be discovered when natural talents and abilities are combined with hard work.
  • Embrace imperfection. Nobody is perfect and neither are you or me, and that is totally fine. Be at peace with that. Focus on your key skills and think about how you can become better in those specific areas.
  • Let others be. If other people are making more money than you, drive bigger cars than you, live in bigger mansions than you. It does not matter. What others are or are not doing has no impact whatsoever on your own life, so why waste your time on that?
  • Every day a bit better. I’ve always been a strong believer in the “every day a bit better” theory. Recognize that every day we are the result of every past decision we have made up to that point. And tomorrow we are going to be the direct result of the decisions we are making today. This mindset will be continuously focusing on progress on a daily basis. Some daily questions you can ask yourself are: “What decisions will I be making today that will lead me to higher levels tomorrow?” and “Do I have goals in place to help improve me tomorrow?”.

Conclusion

Let’s remind us daily that our goal isn’t to be better than anyone else. Our ultimate goal is to be better than yesterday and have a plan to help us become even better tomorrow. The comparison game can influence all areas of your life. It’s time we start to refocus on what is important and live life to our full potential.

Let’s run our own race.

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