In my last blog post, “Who Are You Comparing Yourself To?”, I described “the Comparing Mind”, or “keeping up with the Joneses”, and how it’s a great recipe for discontent in our lives. Spending your mental energy on comparing yourself to others can be motivational in some circumstances, but much more likely it just leaves you feeling inadequate, unsuccessful, and unhappy.
Do you think you have the comparing mind? Answer these questions to notice how your mind and emotions work:
1). Who do you compare yourself to, either in your career or your personal life?
2). How long have you been comparing yourself to these people?
3). Why do you compare yourself to these people, and not somebody else?
4). Are you “winning” the competition? According to what criteria? How would you know? When would you know? Is it even possible to win?
5). How do these comparisons make you feel? Are they making your life better? Or worse?
In contrast, here are five other ways to journey through life with a different mindset which might serve you better:
1). Instead of obsessing over those who have more material things than you, be grateful for both the people and things in your life. As part of your daily routine, spend one minute every day writing yourself an email entitled “I am grateful today for…”. This practice is simple yet very powerful. While you’re at it, every day tell the people you love one thing which you appreciate. “Honey, I’m grateful you cooked dinner,” or “Sweetie, thanks for taking out the trash,” are fine ways to start.
Realize that probably the easiest way to become a “happy” person is to become a “grateful” person. And keep in mind what a 74-year old Jamaican taxi driver in London once told me: “Don’t worry. Things could always be worse!”
2). Recognize what money can buy, and what money can’t buy. As Bruce Springsteen said in an interview long ago, “If you’re making more than $500 a night, you’re gonna have more than $500 a night problems.” And as Harvard Psychology Professor Dan Gilbert said, “We are happy when we have family, and we are happy when we have friends, and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” So the next time you have the opportunity to make some sort of sacrifice of family time or friends time, in order to make more money, ask yourself if this is really getting you what you want in the first place.
3). Rather than worrying about people who appear to be more successful in their careers, compare who you are today to who you were yesterday, last month, or last year. Like it or not, you are where you are right now. Accept that fact. Then start the journey to become the person you want to be. And make sure to have pleasure, purpose, and peace along the way.
4). Learn from wonderful, inspiring role models and heroes. Celebrate Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Mother Teresa, Richard Branson, or whoever you choose. And apply their lessons to your life. But don’t beat up on yourself if you have not yet achieved their levels of success. As far as I can tell, none of them is or was perfect, either ; – )
5). Simply pay attention to how you feel when you’re exposed to advertising – online, offline, in print, radio, TV, walking through the mall, etc. And realize that you can be perfectly at peace the way you already are, rather than having to strive for some “ideal”, as envisioned by an ad agency. Madison Avenue has never made a lot of money by telling people “You are fine.”
If you incorporate these practices into who you are, you’ll go a long way towards avoiding the Comparing Mind, and living your unique life as only you can define it. Have fun along the path to becoming your best self!
* I would really appreciate your feedback. Please email me to let me know what you think, and what other topics you’d like me to address. And I’d love if you connect to me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter. All of my contact info is here.
Copyright 2014, Jim McCarthy. All Rights Reserved.