The Comparison Trap, Part II

Last week we talked about the first two symptoms of Comparison: Fear and Doubt. Today, we’ll cover the final two symptoms: Competition and The Wait.

Symptom: Competition
Prescription: Remove

Competition fuels comparison.

Our social media-driven world makes it difficult to avoid feelings of competition. It’s all about more likes, more followers, more reach. You follow someone you admire on Instagram but what started out as a genuine interest in the person turns into wishing your life could be as enjoyable and successful as theirs seems to be. It’s a vicious cycle.

How do we avoid competitive feelings in our individualistic, outward-success driven society?

Tendai “Beast” Mtawaria is a Zimbabwean-born South African rugby player. At 250 pounds and 6’2”, Tendai is a big guy. He also plays a vital role in the team. As a Prop, his part is to provide stability and support the Jumper as they reach for the ball.

Beast has become notorious for a move where he not only lifts his teammate to catch the ball, but he holds them up behind his back until he can correct their stance and lay them gently on their feet.

Keegan Daniel is a 6’1”, 212 pounds, Loose Forward and a teammate of Beast. On one play, Keegan saw the ball coming and jumped into the air. Within milliseconds, his teammate Beast had propped him up and was holding onto him until Keegan could once again find his feet.

Beast’s first instinct was not to jump up himself and reach for the ball. His reaction was to lift up his teammate. The Beast did not think about himself. He was thinking of the team. If Keegan caught the ball, then they caught the ball.

If Beast and Keegan did not trust each other, it would not work. If Beast tried to catch the ball himself the team would not function correctly. If Keegan did not trust Beast to catch him when he jumped he would never reach for balls beyond his grasp.

The prescription for Competition is to REMOVE. When we remove SELF from the equation, we make room for US. Only when we remove selfish ambition will we begin to think in terms of collaboration instead of competition.

Collaboration shouldn’t just be between those of us on the same team. Collaboration should be bigger than departments. It should be bigger than organizations. It should be bigger than industries. When we collaborate, we need to be thinking across the spectrum. Imagine the incredible things we could accomplish if we viewed everyone as our teammate and our first instinct was to lift them up instead of selfishly reaching for our own goals.

Symptom: The Wait
Prescription: Refocus

The final symptom of comparison is what I call “the wait.” This is sometimes merely a pause in our journey or a holding period. It is the time between hard work and living the dream. The wait may be a span of a few weeks or several years. It is a moment where we have extra time on our hands to think about what we want, and that is where comparison thrives. When we think we see everyone else getting exactly what they want and we’ve been waiting for that same thing for forever not moving. Stuck in this holding area.

We’re on hold from our dreams. Whether those are dreams of the perfect spouse, working our dream job, having financial freedom, or just living our version of the ideal life. It is a time when we don’t yet (realize) we have our happily ever after.

The wait is the ideal environment for comparison to thrive. We see all of our friends getting married. We see all of our friends traveling the world for their dream job. We see all of our friends taking fantastic vacations. We see them writing books. Selling homes. Creating art. Collaborating with musicians. They are doing all the things we’ve been ready to accomplish ourselves, but for whatever reason, we haven’t yet been able to do.

The prescription is to REFOCUS.

Sometimes during the wait, we become so focused on what’s next that we tend to miss the what’s now.

It’s so tempting to look ahead and wonder what might be, so we completely ignore what is going on around us. But have you considered that maybe the wait is the assignment? Perhaps this period of limbo where you’re looking for the next big thing, or the better opportunity is really precisely where you are supposed to be, and the reason it’s felt so long is that you’ve been looking everywhere BUT what is right in front of you.

There is a lot of learning we can do in the wait. If we focus our attention on how we can learn in the process, or how we can help others reach their dreams, the waiting period seems more like an opportunity to prepare for our next big adventure. It’s the perfect opportunity to sharpen our skills, grow, and gain experience.

Another way we can refocus is by being grateful. It is tough to compare ourselves in a negative light when we focus on all the things we are thankful for. When we focus on all the good in our lives, we find contentment wherever we are and whatever we are doing.


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