SHIFTING THE FOCUS OF COMPARISON
We live in a time where culture and especially social media make it easy and normal to compare yourself to other people. So many are working hard to put the best versions of their best moments out there for the world to see. When this happens it can make it seem like other people's lives are in better shape than our own. Coupling this with the pressure of needing to match the same level of quality and perfection as everyone else, it can make you feel like you're having to "fake it in order to make it." The problem is, when people feel like they're just faking it and fooling others, they're eventually going to start feeling discontent about the way things are in their own lives. We want to feel honest and genuine with whatever we're putting out there. Here are three ways I've been able to actively avoided the slippery slope of comparison:
Center on Your Goals
One of the best ways to avoid comparing yourself to other people is to center on your own goals. If you're clear on what you know is best for you and your family, it helps keep your focus away from what other people are doing and on what you've committed to work towards.
We have three practices that we use in our family to center ourselves around our goals.
Family Mission Statement - Our Family Mission Statement serves as the guideline for everything that we do as a family. As Calvin and I create our individual goals or we set our family goals together, we are able to assess whether they're ultimately serving the main mission and purpose of our family.
Set Goals for the Year - Once a year, Calvin and I meet and review our goals for the next 5 years. We have a document that we use to fill in all of the things we want to focus on for the year. We also look out over the next several years and list things that we think we'll need to concentrate our time and resources on.
Regular Review - For the mission statement and the goals to work, we have to keep them in front of us and revisit them on a regular basis. I try to get my eyes on our list of goals at least once a week and make sure that we're making progress on them. Most of the time the reason we lack progress on our goals is because we forget about them and aren't reviewing them regularly. And sometimes, if we aren't making progress, we need to reassess our goals and figure out if we need to continue pursuing them. Either way, it's necessary to review your goals regularly.
Set your own personal goals that are best for serving your family. Then you go to work on them a little bit at a time, all the while knowing with a sense of confidence that these are the most important things to work on at any given moment.
Clarify Your Resources
It can be easy to feel frustrated or discontent when we aren't able to do more things, or match the lifestyles we see projected from other people. Feelings of frustration and discontent are often built off an unbalanced perception of our own recourses and capacity.
Everything gets clear when you realize that everyone has varying levels of resources and capacity.
Resources: The things that we've acquired to serve the pursuit of our goals
Capacity: The time and energy available to invest in our goals
Often comparison is imbalanced because we compare ourselves against people who have a different set of resources and goals than we do.
Sometimes, people will point out the opportunity or resources others seemingly have handed to them. Some will say, “If I had the same opportunities as ‘so and so’ then I would be in a much better place.” First, you never really know the kinds of sacrifices and hard work people put into gathering the resources and capacity to do the work they do. Second, at this moment, you can only work with what you have. And like everyone, you only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. Getting clarity on your own resources and capacity versus what other people are able to do will assist in preventing unhelpful comparison. Third, it doesn't really matter what other people have. You have to shift the focus from what you don't have to what you do have - remembering that your worth isn't tied up in the thing someone else has that you don't. Get clear on what resources you have at your disposal and go make great things.
The fruit of comparison is discontentedness. This is true because there will always be someone else out there who is doing things a little bit better than you. The remedy for being discontent is not getting more things — the remedy is thankfulness. Thankfulness is such an important practice for everyday life. I've talked a little about this before in a blog post on Understanding Thankfulness. We should be people who are thankful for what we have. When we start thinking about the things we have to be thankful for, it opens our eyes to the numerous resources right in front of us. Here are three ways that I've used to help guide my thinking on thankfulness.
List the things that I like about the day-to-day - This can be anything from having breakfast with my boys to family walks in the evening. Try to find the positive angle on everything that you do — even the stuff that feels like a grind.
List the people that I love - I've been blessed with some great people in my life. The people we love are worth recognizing because they are deposits of grace in our lives. The people we love are ears that listen when things are difficult and the hands that serve us when we're lacking.
List the ways that I've grown or personal accomplishments I’ve had over the past month, 6 months, year, etc. Sometimes life can get so busy it can feel stagnant and like we aren't making any progress on our goals. Keeping track of your goals and revisiting them regularly is essential to building thankfulness around your personal growth.
This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of the ways to cultivate thankfulness; there are a lot of other ways to do this. The hope is that this will at least serve as a starting point for cultivating thankfulness.
I've found when there's clarity in these three areas, I'm able to live and create from a place of thankfulness and contentment.
I'd love to hear some of the ways that you avoid the dangers of comparison. Be sure to share your thoughts and comments below.
Cheers to lifting up others!
| Credits: Author: Jacintha Payne Photography - Calvin Payne |