Compared to who?

compared to who-“Did it really take you all day to do that report?  Gosh.  Shirley used to be able to do it in under two hours.”

“It’s funny that you’re so short – everyone else in your family is so tall.”

“Research shows the average thirty-year old today has little or no savings compared to their peers from 1970.”

What do these three statements have in common? They’re all comparisons. They’ve all been made by someone else. None of them are of any use to you.

Here’s an excerpt from the book that goes into this in more detail…

“It’s not realistic to put two people in the same environment with the same tools and necessarily expect exactly the same outcome. Even twins would perform differently from each other because we all come with our own motivation, baggage, skills, issues.”

It might not be realistic, but we all do it. We all compare ourselves to other people – our peers, our predecessors and our competitors at work, as well as our family, our friends, and the versions of ourselves the media tells us we should be.

The problem is, we don’t always use these comparisons to help us. We use them as a stick to beat ourselves up with. I’m not sure how helpful that is. When I took my dog to puppy training classes one of the first things they taught us was that treat based training gave much more successful results than punishment based training.  I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of treat based success – the pooch can still be persuaded to try almost anything if I wave enough treats at him.

So why do we punish ourselves with useless comparisons?  Partly I think it’s because it’s the norm.  Everyone else compares us too.  Ever since we were children we’ve been taught to compare ourselves – exams, family traits, bank balances, height, age, weight, social status, annual appraisal grades – there are countless ways we’re being compared and measured and judged.

We can’t stop other people using these comparisons but we can stop ourselves from using them, especially from using them as a way to beat ourselves up.  Let’s make a pact not to do that to ourselves, or each other if we can help it.

The only useful comparison I think you can make is to say ‘Am I doing the best I can?  Am I getting closer to my goals than I was yesterday.  Am I moving forward?’

Compare yourself to you, only you, and only as a means of moving forward.  Everything else is meaningless.

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