If your life experience is anything like mine you know that the opportunity and urge to compare lies latent at every turn. Every car that passes on the road, every swipe through a news feed, every semi-filled shopping cart navigating through the grocery aisle seems to be begging for an assessment. Crying out for an evaluation. And, most importantly, demanding of a final grade in the form of ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’.
While there may seem like a clear cut winner in the game of ‘whose is better’ we need to get real – this is a lose:lose scenario.
First of all – we are outrageously sloppy in these reckless comparisons.
Let’s imagine that instead of pitting my whole foods shopping cart contents against yours I am comparing two branches of a particular business and have to present this information to investors.
Oh, I know. Those are very different scenarios.
But what makes them so different?
For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for accuracy.
If I am just casually comparing two “objects” like your vanilla almond milk versus my organic coconut drink (or, more likely, insert: “relationships”, “journeys”, “lifestyles”) I don’t pay much attention to the accuracy of my assessment. Apparently I don’t hold myself to the same esteem as I do imaginary investors. All that’s at stake for me is my self-talk, my emotional state, my self worth… no big deal.
Can you believe how ridiculous that is? We’d never stand in a board room, unprepared, in our yoga pants and flip flops, look at a quick power point slide summarizing the profitability of two branches, shrug, point, and label one as “better”.
No way! We’d do the work.
And here is why comparisons are a nightmare – allow me to set the stage:
Hang with me in the board room for a minute. It’s empty. The presentation is not until tomorrow. Yoga pants are acceptable for approximately eighteen more hours. We have more than just a single power point slide – we have a conference table full of reports and data – everything we could ever want to know.
Branch A is making $100,000 in profit per year – Branch B is making $185,000 in profit per year – and tomorrow we will have to say something intelligent as to why that is.
Before we can call one “better”, we need to dig. We also need to level the playing field. We have to get those businesses to look as much alike as possible.
This process always reminds me of something I learned (and admittedly no longer use) pertaining to fractions. Remember when you had to find a common denominator before the fractions were even allowed in the same room as one another? Same thing. Quite literally we need to find common denominators everywhere!
I need to know if the branches are in the same market.
If not, are they in comparable markets? (if not I need to make adjustments to the data in attempt to level-set)
I need to know how they’re preforming against themselves during the same period in the prior year.
I need to know what that profit looks like broken down by month.
Is it on an incline or decline?
Where are the patterns?
What are the leading indicators? What are the lagging indicators? Are external factors impacting both branches to the same degree?
How long has each branch been operating?
And those questions are just skimming the surface.
Order a round of Venti Triple Cappuccinos – we could analyze data all night!
Now let’s go back to Whole Foods – or FaceBook – or wherever your comparison weak spots are… do you ask ANY questions to validate your “conclusions”?
Or are you busy telling yourself a story to support your careless estimations?
It is said that COMPARISON is the thief of JOY. I say #preach.
Do we apply any of the measures we take when looking at a business into the conversation when looking at something in our day to day lives? Do we assess ourselves vs. the version of ourselves we were a year ago? Do we pat ourselves on the back for our positive trends and learn from our declining trends? Do we make adjustments based on external factors? Do we ever attempt to level set!?
Here’s why you’re absolutely guaranteed to fail when comparing any aspect of yourself to another – there is literally no way to level-set human experience.
While I can apply facts, figures, percentages, formulas and equations to get those two branches into the closest state of accurate measurement, there is no way to do this for people, relationships, possessions, perceived lifestyle and/or perceived levels of ‘happiness’ because there is no one, absolute, shared reference point.
Even comparing something as trivial and low-risk as our favorite movies is arguably pointless because I have not seen all of the movies that you’ve ever seen – and vice versa. Our reference points are inherently different – in EVERY aspect of our lives.
This is why I argue that judgements are lazy.
We see something that, on the surface, appears better than the reality we know intimately.
It’s apples to oranges.
…And if it were just a waste of time that would be problem enough! However we know the effects of judgment and comparison run much deeper than efficiency. Our self-worth and self-esteem are impacted on a daily (maybe even hourly!) basis. NEEDLESSLY!
I am not suggesting we stop comparing tomorrow – that sounds like a fast track to disappointment because we’ve been playing this game our whole lives. What I’m suggesting we consider is this: How many questions do we ask before making a comparison or judgement? How much accuracy do we demand from ourselves? How much effort do we put into leveling the field?
With each new urge to judge simply consider: Am I SURE this is apples to apples?
The additional questions may slow us down to help us realize the error in our ways.
Comparison is a nightmare. Judgement is lazy. And if we demand accuracy we’d learn there’s no such thing anyway.
“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” – Marshall McLuhan*
Do you have a goal or dream that you’re ignoring because you’re not sure you’re worthy of it? Have you ever considered one of your aspirations only to think “but who am I to accomplish this?”
This is your wake-up call!
That goal or dream is yours for a reason! It’s calling you to fulfill it! And the fact that you have it, the reality that it ever danced across your brain, that’s the goals way of telling you “you’re enough!” and “start moving!”
Allow me to recap the serendipitous conversation that jolted me awake to this same conclusion…
I was chatting with a girlfriend and I was telling her about my attempt at starting this blog. I was explaining how it’s been a serious challenge to come up with topics to write about.
Luckily for me she replied with the BEST. THING. EVER.
She said “I know, I’ve thought about writing a blog too, but seriously, what would I even write about? Kindness!?”
The reason this was so helpful for me was because I would never in a million years think to write about kindness – and I still don’t intend to! Don’t get me wrong, kindness is fantastic and I am a fan! I just don’t care to be the Subject Matter Expert on Kindness – but she does!
She made that “but seriously, what would I write about?” comment so authentically that it was a total ‘fish didn’t discover water’ experience. My friend was innocently projecting her natural inclination and interests onto me (and the rest of the world)! I could practically hear her thought process of “writing about kindness wouldn’t make me special – anyone could write about kindness!” #mindblown.
So I started to wonder… how often do we keep quiet because we think “well surely everyone is thinking this”?
How many blog posts go unwritten because we shrug and ask ourselves “who wouldn’t write a blog about ‘kindness’?”
Me! I wouldn’t! So, please – you write it – we need you!
I feel like this epiphany has Seth Godin written all over it. This is my favorite quote from the book “Linchpin”:
And this is a quote that I have displayed on my vision board:
And yet even as I write this I am still working through it myself. It’s not easy to discover the water as a fish – but we must keep trying!
Are you ready to take on this challenge with me?
Consider these 4 steps to get started:
- Share your goals and dreams. Authentically share the things you expect people will hear and react with either a “well, duh, me too!” or a “you really think you can do that?!”
Ok. Right. That’s probably scary. So start small. Grab a trusted friend who’s into self-development too and do the exercise together! Each come up with something you feel is a “moonshot” and something you believe “everyone” (including you) wants. Share and see what happens. My guess is that you’ll end up learning something interesting about your friend and encouraging him/her to go after what they want! I bet that they’ll hold up that same mirror for you.
- Take steps (any steps) toward your goal! I believe we grossly overestimate the competition and underestimate ourselves. I think we also miscalculate the length of time and level of pain it will take to accomplish what we want. The only way to correct these errors in judgment is to step into the arena. See the competition firsthand and throw yourself into the training regimen. Don’t overthink. Just act. Just move. Remember, the very fact that the goal is whispering in your ear is reason enough… because that same goal is not whispering in mine!
- Practice intentionally taking a step back. Practice awareness of the water. Remember that the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable. Don’t dare let that go to waste!
- Embrace abundance. We need to know that there is ‘enough to go around’ in order for this to work!
If I operate from a place of lack (i.e.: there are a finite amount of goals that can ever be accomplished/wishes granted/dreams fulfilled) then I will believe that you accomplishing your goal decreases my odds of achieving mine.
I would guess this is one of the reasons we miss those golden opportunities for encouragement so often! If I project that you have the same dreams as me (if I believe you want to blog about ‘kindness’ too) and I believe there are a finite number of dreams fulfilled, then I will be less likely to be open with you about my plans, goals, and insecurities thereby giving you no opportunity to help and encourage me (and tell me that you don’t actually want to blog about ‘kindness’… at all).
When you understand and embrace abundance you understand that someone doing the exact same thing that you hope to do – even if they’re doing it with a greater skill level than you’re currently at – only increases your opportunities to be great!
The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync didn’t steal market share from one another… they expanded the market. (Forgive that ridiculous analogy… but I do think it applies.)
There are an unlimited number of dreams that can come true.
The world has made it so damn easy for you to be remarkable.
Please, do not settle.
Step back. Look for the water. Be you. You have work to do.
PEACE & LOVE.
*I know absolutely nothing about Marshall McLuhan so I am not certain if this is the correct attribution. I googled. This is what I came up with.
I love goals. I love setting them. I love writing them down. I love talking about them, checking them off, re-reading them, exceeding them… I love it all.
I was 24 years-old when I very randomly got my hands on the audio version of Brian Tracy’s Ultimate Goals Program. It was a game changer. I had never heard of Brian Tracy before and his message blew my mind! (Despite the direction I am going to turn in here, I highly highly recommend reading or listening to this work. I can’t stress that enough!)
As a result of Tracy’s program, I started writing down my goals on a semi-regular basis and then eventually adopted his full blown recommendation of listing your goals in the positive, personal, present-tense every single day without exception. I did this for years.
The results never disappointed. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find a ‘goals notebook’ from several years back, open to a random page, and realize that nearly everything I had set my intentions on had either come to pass or was on track with almost frightening accuracy.
Naturally, I wanted to share this positive experience so I gifted both the audio and written version of this book to a handful of people. Get me started on the subject of Brian Tracy and/or goal setting and I will happily and enthusiastically talk your ear off. This is my comfort zone. I am happy here. I am certain of the power of goal setting.
So imagine my surprised when I was chatting with a group of girlfriends this week and I completely blanked when the subject of long-term goals and ‘lasting legacy’ came up! My brain short circuited. It wouldn’t compute.
I know there are things that I want to do in the next 10 years (for example) but I don’t know where I want to be 10 years from now. Or, oddly enough, maybe I realized that part of me wants to be in the same place I am today. (That’s a trip!)
In trying to mentally reconcile why I could no longer wrap my arms around this concept I recognized that I may have abandoned the idea of a ‘destination’ altogether. I don’t know when it happened but I suppose along the way between that first audiobook and today I acquired and blended different ideas about the world that have reshaped my once solid “10 Year Plan”.
Those ideas that I have collected include (but I’m sure are not limited to):
I no longer personally feel that there is a finite end. There’s an end to ‘earth school’ as Gary Zukav (author of “Seat of the Soul” among other works) calls it, but I don’t feel like I’m up against a deadline.
In the same manner that you do not have a finite amount of time to learn things in College, I don’t feel I have a timer placed on my ability to learn while in this ‘institution’. Sure, you may not pass the exam if you don’t learn the lesson by the end of the term, but life goes on. If it’s a lesson you need, it’ll present itself again. You’ll learn once you need to apply it. You’ll get there if you must.
I am sincerely working on adopting a mantra of “It Won’t Make Me Happy.” In order to enforce (and reinforce) the truth that if it is external, it is fleeting at best.
At one time I really wanted a Kayak. I wrote it down every day. I lived near the water. I thought it was unfathomably oppressive to live on the water and not own a Kayak. I finally got it. I think it was yellow. There was a particularly fun (sarcasm) incident where it repeatedly fell off the roof of my car. I used it a few times but never got it out of the harbor. I left the Kayak in New York when I moved. The fulfillment literally could not have been more fleeting. Goal accomplished. (And it’s not the kayaks fault. The examples are endless)
My Universe is occurring inside of me – and yours inside of you. Nothing I can ‘leave’ (in terms of legacy) will mean anything to you unless I can affect you to become more aligned with you because nothing outside of you And if my affecting you is about me and what I’ve affected… it has no value anyway. (I know, it’s trippy.)
Your universe is all about you. You don’t need me to ‘leave’ you anything.
When I think of 10 years from now I imagine that I’ll want the exact same things I want now. I believe I’ll also want these things in 9 years, 11 years, and tomorrow at 3:07pm.
The opportunity to be creative
To choose love
To show up
To feel productive
To do “the work”
To solve puzzles
To breathe deeply
To feel free
None (not one) of the words on that list ever landed on a ‘goals page’for me.
That’s not to say that they couldn’t! Or shouldn’t! Maybe I’ll take this new perspective right back to the habits I created at 25… it’s probably not a bad call!
But what the recent “10 Year Plan” conversation revealed to me is that I’ve found unexpected and deep appreciation for ‘goals’ that cannot be scratched out in a notebook or stored in a closet.
I don’t want to “get there” with any of the above these feelings or ideas.
I don’t want to solve the puzzles and then rest.
I don’t want to contribute and then retire.
I want to be present in those ways every day. If you ask me today, that feels like the ultimate achievement.
There is an annoying cliché (I’m sure you’ve heard it) that “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life” and (begrudgingly) I can’t help but agree.
(Side note: I’m aware that I find clichés annoying because they’re overused. I am acutely aware that they’re overused because they’re so friggin tried and true.)
It’s simply not a destination for me anymore. I can no longer draw the map. I am throwing out my 10 Year Plan and trading it in for a daily internal/emotional inventory. I’ll continue to accomplish things along the way because it’s fun – and why not? Let’s test the limitlessness of manifestation! And no disrespect to the brilliant Brian Tracy as I suspect he learned this lesson long before I did – but I have a new Ultimate Goals Program – and it feels a lot like wholehearted living.
PEACE & LOVE.