Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." The more we use other people to gauge our own success or failure, the more miserable, stressed and self-conscious we become.
Has this happened to you?
You’re walking down the street with your morning coffee, feeling great. Your family, your work, your health—all great. You’re happy, optimistic, and ready to take on the day.
Suddenly, you see someone on the street, or open your social media account, or get an email, that causes you to compare your life to someone else’s. In one instant, everything changes. The optimism you felt just 30 seconds ago comes crashing down. All the things you felt great about are no longer enough. You’re not enough. You feel like a failure.
How productive do you think your day is going to be after that?
That’s the destructive power of comparison.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The more we use other people to gauge our own success or failure, the more miserable, stressed and self-conscious we become. If that was true before today’s hyper-connected world, it’s 10x truer now.
And yet, we all compare ourselves to others, despite how much it hurts and demotivates us.
But here’s trouble with comparison: we don’t know what’s really happening in another person’s life. People tend to share their accomplishments while conveniently leaving out other details. We don’t know if we’d trade what we have for their situation (most likely, we wouldn’t). In short, we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. If you don’t know the full picture—and you never really know—you cannot compare your life to theirs.
So here are a few Ptex Practical Pointers to help you stop the unhealthy habit of comparison.
1. Practice gratitude.
The bulk of the answer to fighting comparison lies in shifting our mindset, and gratitude is the most important muscle that we can exercise to do so. When we routinely look for things to be grateful for—whether it’s a roof over our heads, food on our table, wonderful relationships, or work we’re passionate about—we automatically become happier and much less likely to measure ourselves against others. This is something I discussed at length in my recent podcast episode with Charlie Harary—check it out here.
2. Turn comparison into goal-setting.
Instead of becoming envious when you see someone else’s success, turn the focus on yourself. What you can do to achieve what that person has achieved? If someone wins an award you’d like to win, what can you do to put yourself in line for it next year? If a firm just landed a big client, what can you do to work toward achieving your sales goals? This shift in thinking turns potential comparison into something much more productive: motivation.
3. Turn away.
If you find yourself comparing yourself to others on social media, stop. Unfollow, unsubscribe, block, stop receiving alerts—whatever it takes to avoid the temptation to compare. While it’s important to know what others are up to in your industry, spending an unhealthy amount of time and energy on them, especially if you’re making comparisons, will harm you more than it will help you.
Remember: There’s only one instance in which comparing is good, and that’s if it’s for the sake of learning how to expand your horizons, how to serve your customers better, and how to offer more value through your business. Otherwise, it’s a dangerous path that will leave you bitter, upset, and unable to lead effectively.
It takes discipline and a change in mindset, but avoiding unhealthy comparison is one of the keys to success in business—and happiness in life.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Is comparing yourself to others something you’ve struggled with? Did you find these tips helpful? Please comment and let me know! I am sincerely interested in hearing and learning from you.