In a perfect world we would celebrate and genuinely enjoy the joys and accomplishments of others. Yet if we use others as a benchmark to evaluate ourselves, that creeping twinge of jealousy may undermine our ability to truly cherish the good things that come to others. Just remember: over time, things may even out, and a friend’s success may enable him or her to support and make opportunities for others.
Here are two ways temporal comparisons can help us.
1. Structuring our Goals
Thinking about where we’d like to be in the future and comparing that to where we are today helps us to structure our goals in sensible ways. Whether we’re an adult dreaming of a career change or a college student hoping to go to medical school, having a clear idea of what we need to do, what we have been doing, and what has to change can help us to take realistic steps to reach our goals.
Temporal comparisons can be thought of us fact-finding missions. Are you struggling with a two-mile run today, but sailed along a five-miler last week? If so, what’s changed in the past week? These answers help us isolate possible obstacles to doing the best job possible. Maybe we got a bad night’s sleep, or have too many work worries on our mind, or have an undiagnosed illness, and our run is suffering as a result.
Fact-finding may help us pinpoint problems that could have otherwise gone unnoticed, and may help us remedy those obstacles preventing us from doing our personal best.
By focusing on self-improvement rather than one-upmanship, we’ll have a more realistic and insightful strategy for reaching our goals, and ideally, our friends and loved ones will be there to support us along the way.
Escape the Comparison Trap
After each week of training and games during the season, write down personal successes and how you might improve based on games or practice sessions.
Each week, review your notes from the previous week. Note your progress.
Are you keeping the focus on you? What areas of your game have you improved? To feel confident, you want to focus on your talents and abilities you bring to the game instead of what others have.
Awareness: Often we do these social comparisons without realizing we’re doing it. It’s a natural act, and as a result it’s something done without consciousness. So the solution is to become conscious – bring these thoughts to the forefront of your consciousness by being on the lookout for them. If you focus on these thoughts for a few days it gets much easier with practice and soon it’ll be hard not to notice.
Stop Yourself: Once you realize you’re doing these comparisons, give yourself a pause. Don’t berate yourself or feel bad – just acknowledge the thought and gently change focus.
Count your blessings: A better focus is on what you do have, on what you are already blessed with. Count what you have, not what you don’t. Think about how lucky you are to have what you have, to have the people in your life who care about you, to be alive at all.
Focus on your strengths: Instead of looking at your weaknesses, ask yourself what your strengths are. Celebrate them! Be proud of them. Don’t brag, but feel good about them and work on using them to your best advantage.
Be OK with imperfection: No one is perfect – intellectually, we all know that, but emotionally we seem to feel bad when we don’t reach perfection. You aren’t perfect and you never will be. I certainly am not, and I’ve learned to be OK with that. Sure, keep trying to improve, but don’t think you’ll ever be the perfect person. If you look at it in a different way, that imperfection is what makes you who you are, you already are perfect.
Don’t knock others down: Sometimes we try to criticize others just to make ourselves look or feel better. Taking someone else down for your benefit is destructive. It forms an enemy when you could be forming a friend. In the end, that hurts you as well. Instead, try to support others in their success — that will lead to more success on your part.
Focus on the journey: Don’t focus on how you rank in comparison to others — life is not a competition. It’s a journey. We are all on a journey, to find something, to become something, to learn, to create. That journey has nothing to do with how well other people are doing or what they have. It has everything to do with what we want to do and where we want to go. That’s all you need to worry about.
Learn to love enough: If you always want what others have, you will never have enough. You will always want more. That’s an endless cycle, and it will never lead to happiness. No matter how many clothes you buy, no matter how many houses you own (seven, in the case of one famous candidate), no matter how many fancy cars you acquire … you’ll never have enough. Instead, learn to realize that what you have is already enough. If you have shelter over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back, and people who love you, you are blessed. You have enough. Anything you have over and above that — and let’s admit that all of us reading this blog have more than that — is more than enough. Be good with that, and you’ll find contentment.
“To love is to stop comparing.” Bernard Grasset