As part of the Instagramed, hyperconnected culture we live in, comparison has gotten a bad rap lately, becoming as universally despised as stealing candy from babies or pushing the elderly down elevators shafts. I’ve even taken part in that conversation.
– Your friends are in relationships, eating wedding cake (mmmmmm!) and having all the sex while you stare wistfully out the window, waiting for your one true love to appear as a single tear rolls down your cheek.
– You hit a personal record in the gym, only to watch someone warming up with your newfound max.
– You pull out of the lot after just buying a used car, only to have someone pull up next to you in your dream ride. For added insult they’re also making it rain like they’re the King of Zamunda.
But what if comparison could actually be used as a tool for growth?
We’re often told to avoid comparisons completely, but by doing so we take a major catalyst for our own evolution off the table.
1. Don’t use comparison as a tool to measure or define your self worth.
We only deal with the productive around these parts, and using comparison in this way is as unproductive (and messy) as trying to eat ice cream with your forehead.
You are great right now, as is. You are enough, as is.
This is your mantra. Come back to it as often as you need to. It’s absolutely true and is the basis for any self improvement going forward.
Now, let’s go about making great even greater.
2. Their success does not detract from yours.
Unless you’re one of the immortals from Highlander, that is.
Life isn’t a zero-sum game where for you to win someone else has to lose.
My swole doesn’t take away from your swole. Her accomplishments don’t take away from his.
A scarcity mindset will grab your life by the neck and slam it face-first into the dirt if you let it.
There is enough out there for all of us.
The sooner you incorporate this into your daily operating system and stop focusing on what you don’t have, swimming in a pool of emo, finger pointing and excuse making, the sooner you can free up your mental and physical resources to cut loose, go out there and get yours.
Abundance: it’s more than a word describing dancing bread.
Now that my terrible pun is out of the way…
3. Comparison is rocket fuel for growth.
Two of my favorite writers are Julien Smith and Mark Manson.
From the seemingly effortless manner in which they convey messages sticks like Spiderman webbing, when I read their content I feel something stir inside me (insert dirty joke here) and I want to stop whatever I’m doing and write until the lead of my stubby little pencil snaps off.
Here is my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu instructor Gabriel Gonzaga, a UFC heavyweight fighter, 4th degree blackbelt and a stand-in for the Rocky Mountains on the weekends.
On a regular basis I witness him and my other teammates perform moves that look straight out of a comic book – and I compare myself to every single one of them.
They’ve shown me another level of what’s possible in areas that are important to me, and I’m better because of it.
Ultimately, comparison can serve as a spark for asking better questions:
What do I admire about what they do and how they do it?
What lessons can I learn about myself?
What virtues do they display that I can personally improve upon?
What inspiration/mojo can I glean from their feats that I can take back to my own unique practice?
As humans we are wired for growth and are happiest when we’re doing so.
When you surround yourself with and compare yourself to greatness, or at least those who are further along the path than you are, with the right mental framing the only option is motivation to step your own game up.
Don’t coddle yourself into living a life any less magnificent than the one you want to lead by refusing to stare wide-eyed into the accomplishments of others and turn inward.
Success in any area leaves crumbs, so eat ‘em up and get to work on bringing the best out of yourself as only you can.
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.
There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better – there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.” – Neil Gaiman