When running a race, the easiest way to stumble, lose your lead, or even fall to the ground is to look over your shoulder at how close the competitor is drawing near. The same applies in life. How many times have you set your sights on a goal and zealously began to do the work, only to be derailed by what you perceive as someone else’s progress?
One of the most damaging things we can do to our spirit, is be a willing participant in the comparison game. The more we play, the more we are bound to feel defeated. But because we are human, despite knowing better, we still do it. Time and again. Instead, what we can do is stop and grant ourselves some grace when we find ourselves contemplating all we are not compared to all someone else seems to be. The truth is there will always be someone who is more intelligent, more attractive, more popular, more celebrated, or more successful. The ‘mores’ are endless. The ‘mores’ loom over our lives competing for our attention. But we control our relationship with them. We can either fixate, obsess, and allow them to distract us from being present in our own lives. Or we can catch ourselves when we find ourselves spending too much time with them and recalibrate.
We waste so many unrecoverable moments of our lives, either secretly lamenting how we don’t stack up to people we perceive as having it all. Or, in the alternative, grandstanding in all the ways in which we are better than others. I’ve been there and done both. But it was not until I hit my own emotional rock-bottom that I realized the attention I paid to other people’s lives had zero benefit in the improvement of my own. So I decided that, while it is impossible to never compare, no longer will I dwell in comparison. Instead, I will recognize when I am falling down that suffocating sinkhole, quickly draw myself out, and remember that someone else’s journey is theirs; and mine is mine no matter how bumpy the road at times may be.
It is now in my middle age, that I understand my time and energy are better spent making my life as full and satisfying as it can be. And, finally, I know there’s only one person to whom I should compare myself. Me. My aim should be to become a better person than I was the year before. I should be writing more words a day to grow into a better writer. My focus should be on improving my yoga and meditation practice. I should up the number of books I read each month. I should exercise more and eat better. I should strive to love those I hold dearest more intently and with less distraction. How I am now doing in these areas of my life, compared to before, and not to others, is what is important and matters.
It is our greatest charge to figure out what awakens us and gives our lives meaning. And we do this not by keeping a score card of other people’s lives, but by giving our undivided attention to our own life. The one we meticulously craft piece by piece as we live it with an abundant sense of passion and purpose. And to this, nothing in the world could ever compare.