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.
Limiting beliefs are sneaky little pests that can do some serious damage. They’re like the mental equivalent of termites. They can be hiding anywhere – in fact, I once found several in the last place I would’ve thought to look… my goals!?
This is a PSA. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. We need to find these suckers and exterminate them. Leave no thought unturned… even when casually daydreaming.
Manifesting a Plane
One day I was out on a “database drive” with a salesperson who reported to me. A “database drive” might be exactly what it sounds like but in case you’ve never been responsible for a sales territory I’ll explain: Imagine a road trip, except much less fun. You drive up and down the roads in your territory and with painstaking detail you record observations from each building you pass – what is the company name? How big does it look? How many cars in the parking lot? Etc.
I see the value in this activity but I’ll admit… my mind wanders. After about 20 minutes this pseudo road trip gets very old for me.
So I was on this drive with a salesperson – I was driving, she was taking notes, and I noticed a structure set back from the road with a sign that read “Airplane Hangar For Rent” with a phone number. Immediately I thought: Man, I am dreaming too small!
I imagined that somewhere there was a couple that woke up this morning and, as they were talking across the bedroom getting ready for their respective days, one said to the other “…and after that I’m going to check out a few airplane hangars.” I marveled that this was occurring in someone’s day. The term “Airplane Hangar Rental” was blended into someone’s otherwise normal dialogue. Wow.
Why wasn’t I trying to figure out how to get a plane? What was I setting goals about?
Whatever they were they suddenly seemed too small.
I had an epiphany during that database drive. I was setting goals and intentions and using my thoughts to manifest material things but my limiting beliefs were putting a cap on my goal setting itself. (Disclaimer – I do not think that material things are the path to happiness! I know the plane will not make me happy. But having a plane would still be pretty f*&%ing cool. Why not mentally ‘go there’?)
I understand the position that aiming low could be a byproduct of staying grounded in reality… but personally, I rather aim high than be grounded.
After that day I started to, very casually and in an unattached manner, think about hangar rentals – and other absurd/cool things that might come with owning a plane. I found it fun to visualize!
A few months later the topic of private planes came up in a conversation with girlfriends and, in an outer-body experience, I heard myself say (warning – this is embarrassing – but it happened) “I know! I decided the next man I date needs to have his own plane.”
(Insert the sound of a record scratching to a halt.)
W. T. F!?
How did that happen?
To give you some context, I am above average on the independent-woman spectrum. I have never relied on a man to buy me anything (well… that’s not entirely true. I asked my college boyfriend to buy me a bunny once… but that was a disaster for 11 different reasons and is truly the only example I can recall of a time where a man purchased more than a dinner on my behalf) but somehow an imaginary man found his way into my aim-high goal setting.
Why does that dude get the plane?! And why am I creating this?!
Time to exterminate that sh*t immediately.
Enter Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been famously quoted as asking “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?”
I say “Right on! How can I?!”
Why do we place limits on how things come to us?
Why do we place limits on when they come?
I do this all the time. I write that I want to be earning X dollars by the time I am X age. But… like… WHY!?
Why the timeline?
Or, perhaps more importantly, what is that implication of that timeline?
If I personify my subconscious as a mini version of myself I can visualize her hearing the first part of the desire “I want to earn X dollars” and perking up! She grabs her mini running shoes and steels herself thinking ‘We have work to do!’ but then part two comes across her wavelength (or loudspeaker or however those things work) and she hears part two: “by age X” ‘Oh!’ she sighs ‘Jumped the gun! We have time. Let’s nap!”
I can’t help but wonder: Are we unnecessarily delaying our rewards by allowing our limiting beliefs a seat at the goal setting table?
Of course, they weren’t intentionally invited to the meeting – but have we made certain that they’re not around? Not in the walls? Not under the table? Not gnawing away on the legs of the very chair we’re seated in?
Here’s my recommendation and now-personal practice: Keep an open mind and unattached spirit in regards to how and when things come to you in general. Let the universe do her thing. But regularly double check your goal setting framework to ensure it’s structurally sound. Pay special attention to the language you use and investigate all time-related parameters. Don’t let your limiting beliefs delay, restrict, or diminish the full expression of your desires.
PEACE, LOVE, MANIFESTING & AIRPLANES (if that’s your thing).
Twice this week I have been asked about positive and negative thought patterns. “How do I think more positive thoughts?” “Why do I perseverate on the bad, annoying and negative things?” (BTW ‘perseverate’= her word, not mine. I thought it was an autocorrect situation until I received a follow-up text with the dictionary.com screen shot. Thank you. Always learning.)
Although this is a very broad question it is important and valid. While I think the best suggestions and recommendations on this topic can be individualized, the following is my attempt at some one-size-fits-most potential solutions. But first, some housekeeping:
Housekeeping item #1: It is so natural to have negative thoughts! Unfortunately, it’s as if our culture demands it. In my humble opinion (and this is all just that – my opinion) there is nothing wrong with you for having negative thoughts! Let me repeat: There is nothing wrong with you.
This is important to grasp this because if you’re dipping a toe into the pool of ‘maybe I want to consciously try to shift my thoughts to the positive’, things are going to get uglier before they get clearer. So make sure you’re not beating yourself up for having thoughts that do not serve your highest good. We all have them! Thinking this is a ‘problem’ will only give us an additional thought to shift later – so please, be kind to yourself!
Housekeeping item #2: Every thought holds an energy and there are only two choices – love, and fear. There is no neutral. What you perceive to be neutral is probably fear just ‘doin it’s thang’ to trick you into keeping it around.
In saying this I do not mean to suggest you’re always thinking about “romance” or “things that frighten you”. On the contrary “fear” thoughts come in the shape of: Worry, Jealousy, Lack, Anger, Bitterness, Resentment, Frustration, Stress, Anxiety, Desire, Gossip, Judgment – and so forth. Thoughts that are rooted in “love” present themselves as: Joy, Peace, Gratitude, Serenity, Service, Creativity, Courage, Tolerance, Abundance, Health, Vitality, Freedom, Oneness, Faith, Hope, etc.
Love or fear. That’s it. Keep that in mind for later.
Housekeeping item #3: BRAVO for asking the question of how to shift thoughts from negative/neutral to positive (from fear to love) because your thoughts shape the way you experience your life! So this subject has major implications and fantastic potential upside! This is work worth doing! Whatever you focus on (think about) EXPANDS and MANIFESTS – so let’s get rocking and make sure that you’re expanding, manifesting, and experiencing as much love & positivity as possible!
Before we can shift we must DISTINGUISH.
Distinction is powerful. Once you can distinguish something you are in the driver’s seat. If we want to control our thoughts we must first learn to really notice them. (I find creating a meditation or mindfulness practice the best way to equip yourself to do this – you can start with as little as 3 minutes per day and I have several posts on how to do this – but if that’s not your jam, I understand.)
To shift your thoughts you must develop enough self-disciple and self-awareness to be able to metaphorically stop a thought in its tracks, pick it up, examine it, and label it (honestly) as fear or love.
You’ll want to slip on your sleuth shoes and look for patterns. Are the negative thoughts/self-talk surrounding the same subject or subjects? Are they occurring at a particular time each day? If you’re serious about improving your state of mind I would carry a small notebook and jot down your observations. In business as in life, I am a steadfast proponent of “whatever we measure always improves.”
Once you’ve brought awareness to your patterns we can begin to try on some potential solutions.
3 Strategies to Consider for Shifting Self-Talk: Eliminate, Restructure, Override
It is possible that you’ll notice that your negative self-talk or thought patterns derive from a particular subject. If that’s the case you may want to put some serious thought into eliminating that subject matter from your life altogether.
Here’s an example from my own discovery: In developing a mindfulness practice and tuning into my thoughts I noticed that I had a lot of negative noise surrounding alcohol. If I woke up after a night of drinking my morning self-talk would be absolutely consumed with this conversation: “OK so I had two beers at that first bar… but we were there for at least two hours… so that was spaced out well… and then we had that bottle of wine at dinner which we probably split equally. How much did that bottle of wine cost? Oh and that shot. Right. Why do we ever take shots? But I think I feel fine. Right? Or am a little foggy? I wish I could tell. I really shouldn’t drink on weeknights…” This would go on for hours. Literally. Sometimes days. So finally I did the only thing I knew would stop that conversation for good – I eliminated alcohol.
I am NOT suggesting you stop drinking alcohol to produce more positive thoughts! I know plenty of people who can go to happy hour and NOT engage in this conversation with themselves the next morning. I am not one of them. All I am suggesting here is that by eliminating the subject matter of the energy draining conversation, the energy draining conversation seizes to exist.
Unfortunately, elimination may not always be possible. If your negative noise is produced by work or school (for example) and you’re not in the position to quit or make significant changes, you’ll need an alternative solution.
Chances are your negative thoughts are in one of two formats – either statements or leading questions.
I am going to take a page straight from Tony Robbins’ playbook here and suggest that if you cannot eliminate the thoughts you restructure them.
Negative statements are garbage. They are declarations that “This is the way life is. I have no control. I am a victim. I am a martyr.” Statements are a dead end. I picture your subconscious hearing them and, with a hopeless and deflated shrug, thinking ‘she wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true’. A negative declaration is like our sign to the subconscious that it’s cool to just roll over and play dead – and we can’t have that if we’re trying to build a positive life! We need our subconscious out there on the hunt for solutions on our behalf! And for this to occur we need to restructure and ask quality QUESTIONS!
Tony Robbins teaches that you only have a “problem” because you haven’t found a way to turn it into a quality question. Problems (and the negative self-talk associated with them) GO AWAY when you learn to reframe them.
“Quality” means that the question is structured without negative presuppositions. A negative declaration such as “this job totally sucks” does not get any better by reframing it as “why does this job totally suck?” – There’s a bit more heavy lifting involved.
Here are some of the questions that Tony suggests you ask:
- What’s great about this?
- What can I learn from this?
- What’s not perfect yet? (An example of a question with a positive presupposition)
- What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
- How can I make this enjoyable in the meantime?
Again, if you’re truly committed to doing the work and shifting your thoughts, I recommend pulling out that little notebook, copying down these suggested questions, and writing out as many answers to each as possible. Something powerful happens when you physically put pen to paper. It’s worth a shot!
In short: Restructure negative statements into quality questions because complaining will just bring you more stuff to complain about whereas asking the right questions will inevitably bring you SOLUTIONS.
This final recommendation requires little to no effort on your part aside from just doing it (and doing it consistently if you hope to experience results).
It is impossible to hold a fear-based thought and a love-based thought at the same time so if you recognize the time of day or circumstances that bring on your most fear-based thoughts, simply employ a system to override them. A good defense is the best offense.
Here’s another personal example: I am a morning person. I wake up 1.5-2 hours on average before I actually “have to”. Since I live alone this means I am usually awake 3-3.5 hours before I am engaging in dialogue with other humans. This also means that I expose myself to 3-3.5 hours of internal dialogue each and every morning. Luckily, through the strategies above and the one I am about to explain I have turned this time in a serious competitive advantage for myself – but it wasn’t always this way.
When I began this work for myself I noticed that the influx of my negative thoughts happened first thing in the morning – literally starting when I opened my eyes. I noticed I would start my day in a very reactive state of “What time is it? Did I sleep too late? Do I have enough time to get ready?” and that stressed-out chatter would accompany me right into the shower, shifting form to mental to-do lists and worry. Finally, my dialogue took an even nastier tone when I was doing all those girly morning things like blow-drying my hair, putting on make-up, etc. Welcome to the scene insecurity, vanity, jealousy – yuck, yuck and more yuck.
I made the life changing decision to override it all!
For me, this starts with very intentional thoughts first thing in the morning. I do not allow myself to worry about sleeping too much or too little or any of that. I wake up and firmly tell myself that “I am grateful. I have plenty of time. There is nothing to worry about.”
(Then I write in my 5MJ to further ingrain the feelings of gratitude but I’m not going to get into my entire morning routine here – remember, it’s a 2-hour ordeal.)
When it’s time to get ready I turn on my shower speaker and play a positive podcast* while I shower and get ready. (*I will include a list of my favorite podcasts at the conclusion of this post.)
This may sound simple (well, good, it is simple) but it’s been a game changer for me.
If I am feeding my mind with positive and productive information I simply do not have the time or opportunity to entertain fear-based thoughts. (OK, we can be real – can my mind slip and wander? Sure. But with positive content flowing in the background, it is so simple to course-correct. I would wager that 90% of my thoughts are positive and love-based while listening to valuable content.)
Notice where your negative thoughts congregate. Is it in the morning? On your ride to work? On your commute home? Fear-based thoughts tend to creep in when we’re alone which is an opportune time to put on valuable audio, feed your brain with productive content and start your ‘override’.
Your thoughts create your life so I believe there is no work more worthwhile than this! Distinguish, Eliminate, Restructure, Override, rinse & repeat.
PEACE, LOVE & POSITIVE THOUGHTS!
*My favorite positive podcasts are: The Tim Ferris Show, Wanderlust Speakeasy, Revisionist History, Action Catalyst Podcast, Beautiful Writers Podcast, & Smart People Podcast. When it comes to podcasts the options are endless but these are my personal faves. I have never heard any complaining or negativity on any of these shows which is what you need to adamantly avoid if you’re using a podcast for the purposes listed above!
I was sitting in Lambert airport early this morning engaging in a rapid fire text session with a girlfriend who’s currently going through a breakup. We were talking about why this guy was wrong for her and how to find the “right” one and thoughts were pouring out of my brain (heart?) and onto my phone at lightning speed.
As I paused to re-read the messages I had sent I realized that they had a common theme: It’s going to be very difficult (if not impossible) to attract a healthy relationship until you really, really love yourself.
The summarization of “you need to love yourself first” is not something I’d walk around saying… and certainly not in that language (it’s just not really ‘me’ – hence the “No, but really” above). I’m not sure I even consciously knew how much I believed in this concept until I read my own words – but MAN, yeah. This is important!
I know my friend is not alone in her despair over this relationship ending and her desire to find a new one… and lock it down. Home girl wants to get married. Stat. And I get that. But for all of my Universal “home girls” who are in this same boat I say to you: make sure your side of the street is clean… and more than just clean… make sure you LOVE all of the unclean, imperfect crap you’ve got laying around. If you don’t truly love yourself first, this is not going to work.
Now I know what you might be thinking:
That sounds like a lot of work. I mean, getting to a place where you can honestly say that you “love and accept everything about yourself”!? That sounds hard.
And hard work takes TIME. And I don’t have time. I want to be in a relationship now! I want to get married and have kids and I am (fill in the blank) years old! I thought I’d be there already!
My answer to all of that?
Yes! It IS hard work – but please point me in the direction of work that’s more worthwhile to do? (Go ahead, I’ll wait.. but I won’t hold my breath).
Hard work takes time and “you don’t have time?” (I’m going to do a whole separate post on that very popular lie that we tell ourselves). Well, do you “have time” to be in another failed relationship? Do you “have time” to fake it down the aisle to check some imaginary check box just to end up divorced? Do you “have time” to be a single parent?*
*Caveat: I know many tremendous people who are divorced single parents – I was raised by one of the best – and I sincerely do believe that in many circumstances “the obstacle is the way”… however, if there’s way to avoid this fate and create a healthier relationship from the get-go, isn’t that worth a shot?
You really DO need to love yourself first. Scars and all.
If you’re sweeping stuff under the rug and entering a new relationship hoping you can tap dance on top of said rug and no one will be the wiser, 2 things will surely happen:
- You will be exhausted from all of that tap dancing. Seriously. And that exhaustion will come out of you in different ways:
– You might blame him for not understanding you (well sister, he can’t possibly understand you the way you want him to if there are parts of you that YOU are not willing to understand about you.)
– You might feel like something is missing
– You might feel like there are parts of HIM that he’s not being forthcoming about
– Or you might just feel bitchy and irritable
- It will create distance.
There is no way that there can be parts of you that you don’t love and accept and someone else will love and accept those same parts. It’s impossible. You’ll keep them hidden. You’ll be inauthentic about them. Your partner won’t be able to fully SEE them in order to love them. There will be distance. You don’t stand a chance.
Worst part? You’re not likely to make the connection that these feelings and experiences are tied to the crap under the rug because of the denial you’re in about the crap under the rug, so you’ll experience the above symptoms without understanding why. (Cue Big Pharma to compound the problem – also, a whole other post/rabbit hole.)
Some of that may sound a little bleak – and it is. As long as you are hiding, shit is going to be bleak – but let me shed some hope and light here:
This is all (ALL!) within your control.
Doing this work requires only YOU and your own desire to show up and live more fully in your relationships. Getting real with you – learning to love yourself – has ZERO potential negative outcomes. It is ALWAYS work worth doing.
So to all my soul sisters (and brothers) who are frustrated by wanting to be in a relationship but the “right person” just isn’t showing up – consider this:
And to all the warriors battling to make their relationships work, to find deeper fulfillment – consider this as well:
It is never too late to pull up that rug. NEVER.
Your relationship with yourself is truly the most important one you’re in. It allows you to show up authentically for the people you love now and will love in the future.
You actually DO need to love yourself first.
PEACE & (SELF-)LOVE
PS: Here is my favorite quote on this subject that I re-read often. It helps me to make sure I am being raw and real in my relationships and with myself:
You learn that you put your partnership most at risk by avoiding that which you are most afraid will destroy it. It is not easy to express what is inside you; especially that which makes you feel vulnerable or painful or angry or upset. These are the emotions that empower words that can do either damage or can do so much healing, You learn that sharing your concerns with consideration and the intention to heal and trust in the process is the only appropriate avenue.” – Gary Zukav , Seat of the Soul