Why comparing yourself to others is futile and what to do instead
Whenever we evaluate our personal development, we often find ourselves in an underappreciated situation as we compare ourselves to others. There’s no way to be satisfied with those results. There will always be someone better, smarter, and more skilled than we are. If there isn’t, you’re fooling yourself. Our experiences and time commitments are quite different from those around us. As a result, where we see difficulties others may see success. So it is better to measure your success against yourself.
Using ourselves and our personal goals as the measuring stick of success allows us to realistically chart our course. We can envision what comes next and the path to move ahead. We can also be more open to seeing others achieve what we seek. We can then be appreciative of their success and offer praise for their well-done work. So how can you become more aware of your progress? It all comes down to three things: measure, communicate and sprint.
Set quantifiable goals
Setting quantifiable goals allows you to objectively measure if you are making the mark. These checkpoints can be evaluated with a yes/no answer. For example: run 3km twice during the week, use a new word you have learned four times in a day, or write 500 words every day for a month. Through the use of these clear goals, you can accurately monitor your progress in two ways. First, you can readily understand if you have achieved your goal. Secondly, it’s easy to track your progress. If you are using a system like lessons learned – which I discussed in an earlier article – look back to discover opportunities to apply what you had hoped to do. Then, do better next time. You may even try a three step grade: attempted, competent, and confident as a way to honestly evaluate your performance. Write this information down. It will help to motivate you the next time you face a big challenge.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill
Talk to others
If you’re having difficulty understanding how to succeed or your progress is slow, ask others who have cleared similar hurdles how they did it. This will provide you additional options for success that you may not have considered before. While their situations are undoubtedly different from yours, their approach may be a novel one you never considered.
Additionally, by talking to others about what you are working to achieve, you create a sense of urgency and accountability to make progress.
“You should never try to be better than someone else, you should always be learning from others. But you should never cease trying to be the best you could be because that’s under your control and the other isn’t.” ~ John Wooden
Use the Scrum Approach
I love scrum because it requires the practitioner to break up progress into actionable steps and achieve them one by one. It focuses on making progress in sprints. So, rather than gazing into the unknown, you tackle the milestone you can see. Those sprints require demonstrated proof of concept. With scrum you reach success incrementally.
If you are setting your goals too high, you are probably also expecting to reach those achievements too quickly, and also unsure of exactly how to get there. Using the scrum approach you consider what level of improvement would make a noticable difference (maybe 5-10%) and how to achieve that. Once you have cleared that goal, work on the next big thing to move you forward to your desired level of improvement. Consider all the actionables necessary to achieve that initial goal. Move through them step by step. Then proceed on to the next phase. Just like the proverb says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
In the end, the only way to make true progress is to take it step by step. There are no shortcuts. Don’t feel discouraged because someone else does with ease something you are struggling with. They also struggled with it at some point. Just be ready to put in the work. Stay focused and celebrate your progress. Life is a marathon not a sprint. You should run to complete the marathon, and not just make it up the next hill.
“How do you become better tomorrow? By improving yourself, the world is made better. Be not afraid of growing too slowly. Be afraid of standing still. Forget your mistakes, but remember what they taught you. So how do you become better tomorrow? By becoming better today.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Today will be my 13th day of volunteer activities, and along the way, I have enjoyed every day. You can check my previous post for evidence of that. One thing that has really become an interesting measure of the ability of each one of us volunteers to make a difference is the number of pins we receive.