We are taught many lessons throughout our lives. We learn every day through education, our careers, relationships, social lives… I believe the most valuable lessons we can learn are through our tougher life experiences and hardships.
One debilitating habit that needs to be stamped out and left behind for good, is comparing ourselves and our circumstances to others. It’s perfectly normal and even beneficial to look up to, admire and even idolise others. It can push us to better ourselves, keep us focussed and even instil stronger life values and self belief. However, be careful not to make unfair comparisons between your own situation and that of the “looked up to”, “admired” and “idolised”. Comparisons can turn into disappointment, demotivation and sometimes even jealousy and trick us into focussing on the wrong areas all together. You’ll never be the same as someone else, but you can be just as good in your own way!
The truth is, we can’t possibly be the best at every endeavour and we’re all at various stages of a lengthy journey. It’s simply unfair, to compare.
Let me share a story about the early stages of my rehabilitation. A young guy who was the same age as me at the time (18) was admitted to rehab a few weeks after I arrived. He’d come off his dirt bike travelling at 140kmh wearing shorts and a singlet. Broken ankle, arm, jaw and he’d lost his right leg below the knee. I remember thinking how lucky he was to be alive. I also remember watching him churn through his rehab program like a champion and literally within days, he was up standing on his new leg.
I remember comparing that to my own situation where just trying to sit upright for 5 minutes without throwing up was a massive challenge. Within a couple of weeks he was riding the exercise bike, walking with a stick… then without a stick. Finally he was discharged and free to go home just over 3 weeks after arriving… 3 weeks!
Meanwhile, my own progress seemed like it was non-existent and while I was inspired by his determination and happy to see him doing so well, it made me feel helpless. The light at the end of the tunnel I was trying so hard to focus on dimmed and the sobering realisation of how far behind him I really was hit me with force.
I remember how negativity crept into my mind when I was comparing our vastly different situations. I wanted to accelerate my return to health, what I required was patience. I wanted to go home, but I couldn’t even transfer from a wheelchair to a damn car yet. I wanted to walk, but I had to get the hang of being upright first.
I made the decision to focus on myself and my own situation for what it was. I refocussed, concentrated on small goals and worked hard to get there. It may have taken weeks, months even, to see any progress but I did get there. Sitting, standing…walking, my progress became something I valued. No longer comparing myself with anyone lifted my progression and mindset and it was easier than you might think.
Here’s 3 easy steps to break out of a “Comparison funk” and shift back into a more positive, productive mindset:
* Be selfish – Focus on yourself for a while, on your own strengths. Constantly focussing on the things others do and things we don’t control will be to our detriment.
* Quit comparing – Get out of the “grass is greener” mindset. Use those comparisons as inspiration to trigger action, not jealousy!
* Carve your own path – A brilliant quote I read recently from Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century poet who was seen as a champion of individualism, reads ” Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” Says it all really…
Don’t be afraid to walk a unique path. It’s great to model yourself on the success stories of others but be your own success story, take risks and when you fall, don’t be afraid to jump straight back up!
You can get there – make the only variable “when”, never “if”