Are you winning the competition of life?

Are you winning the game of life?

When we look at our achievements it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. After all, modern life has been built on that premise.

As a child are we academically above, on or below average? Or in sport, did you win, did you beat the other person’s time? In our final years of high school we aren’t graded on merit but rather on the bell curve where a ‘normal distribution of results’ is required. Good results are required to ‘win’ a place in university. Many of us then ‘compete’ for a good job and ‘fight’ for promotions to get to the top quicker than anyone else.

Then too, there’s the media showing us how we are to look, what we should think, and what we should be like. Plastic surgeons have had a run on ‘full body makeovers’. Anorexia sufferers plaster the tabloids.

How are we compared to our peers? Am I more successful, do I have a better car, who’s winning the game of life?

Life’s just not that simple. There are so many variables that direct comparison is not possible. In an earlier post I spoke about the problems of trying to apply one solution to every circumstance or to apply the results from another directly to oneself.

If you opened a bookshop is it fair to compare yourself to the sales, profits and advertising clout of a national bookstore chain that has been open for many years? Of course not, but that type of unrealistic comparison is exactly what people do every day.

This often leads to feelings of not being good, successful, strong or capable enough. And feeling like you never will be. It completely overlooks the personal strengths that can be brought into play to get an equally good, perhaps even better, but different result.

Life’s not a one size fits all proposition. In our example of the bookshop, the owner may have opened in a holiday location and specialised in inspiring biographies and fun fiction to cater for the holiday market, perfectly located opposite an outdoor coffee shop and across the road from a popular beach.  The handpicked stock and friendly, personal service have customers flocking in and buying online when they return home. The business is a huge success and the happy owner enjoys a healthy income and a wonderful lifestyle.

Not quite a direct comparison with the larger ‘more successful’ national competitor but a more contextual, realistic assessment? In every life, context is everything. So the reasonable comparision will be different in every circumstance.

The point is that the preoccupation of comparing ourselves with others is a major trigger for a plummet in self-esteem. The feeling of failure fills the space between what we would like to be, do and have, and what we see ourselves as actually being, doing, and having. This comparison is most often flawed.

When we enter the state of comparison, our view of the world is distorted. We become blind to our own value, while devaluing or dismissing the real worth we have.

Alternatively, if we compare ourselves and conclude that we are better than the other, we may feel superior, contemptuous and dismissive. We may not want a connection with someone so ‘beneath us’.  We may miss a fantastic opportunity to learn and benefit from their experience in a different area.

My advice is to keep a clear head and review the situation with clarity. Benchmarking against others can be of great value for tracking your progress. And like it or not the world is competitive and we don’t work in a vacuum. Just don’t let the comparison define you.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well, constantly improve and win the game. In business this is variously called competitive advantage, benchmarking, best practice, continuous improvement or strategic development. Trying to grow and be the best you can be and benchmarking against others is OK. Internalising the results and thinking that they have a direct impact on who you are is not. When we are committed to our own success on our terms and recognise the problems we cause when we judge ourselves by comparisons, then we can use comparison as a positive driver, and it becomes an excellent tool for success.

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