A small Buddha sits quietly atop a carefully stacked number of rocks amidst a flowing stream.From the overlook, gazing down into the small stream valley it’s peaceful. From the Buddha’s perspective, it’s noisy with the flowing waters never ceasing to provide noise; perspective is everything.

As 2016 turns the corner and we have gone out and created space for new goals, new dreams, and new ambitions, it is important to remember that tomorrow, in a week, month or year, the comparisons will begin with those around you as they chase their own dreams and work towards their goals. I’m guilty of it and it’s hard not too in today’s information filled society where within seconds I can scan dozens of images of friends’ lives and lives of others who I look up too.

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly (AF), touches on this very point as she names this want scarcity within society. The “never enough” problem we tend to deal with on a daily basis as Brene puts it:

“Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amountsof time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants. What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating … [is] we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly, p. 26

When we go and set those goals based on a good feeling and something deep inside looking for a change, we often forget about the comparisons and negatives that will come. Comparisons even to our own expectations of what the original goals/ambitions were. It can make for a frustrating situation and easily derail many of us. We set lofty goals and even loftier expectations in the shortest amount of time sometimes.

If I can make a suggestion to the list of goals you’ve created for yourself, add this one:

  1. When comparisons come up, and they will, to friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, idols, and yourself, write it down and take note of a) the reason I started this goal and b) how far I’ve come to this point.

We are so quick to look forward and to others that we forget where we’ve been or where we the starting point is. When those negative, self-defeating voices start to speak, remind them, you, that you’ve come so far. I look at photography and think to myself: “Look how far I’ve come since I started taking these photos and how much I’ve learned in less than two years of work.” I remember specifically taking all of these beautiful photos when visiting the East Coast and in my haste pulled only the JPEG files off my camera and deleted the RAW. A mistake I regret and yet one I learned from and look back on as a lesson. That is progress within the context of my long-term goals. The reason I started this goal a year and a half is crystal clear in my head even today.

In other situations, as I admire some of the most beautiful photos of photographers I follow the conversation in my head can shift too “You’ll never get there.” There it is, the comparisons. This conversation happened this morning and we are only a few days into the New Year.

Looking back on a page from my journal, I read a quote from Ernest Hemingway that spurned this conversation on in my head:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

If you don’t have a specific reason for setting the goal, think about the fundamental reasons why you are pursuing those goals. Health, family, financial security, etc. These are the headers, but be specific! What about your health, what specific reason is your basis? Your family is an incredible motivator but what about your family specifically. I find it easier to bolster a wavering goal/task if I can mirror it with a specific example of why I’m pursuing it.

And at the end of the day if you’ve hit a wall a few days in reach out to people around you who are also in the same boat. I’ve provided an example of me being in this very situation and here is the article to prove it so reach out. Sometimes a reassuring voice is enough to calm the deafening voices in our heads.


2 thoughts on “Comparisons

  1. Very good post and food for thought. While we all know that we should compare with “our former selves” rather then others, it is hard work in practice, i.e. it takes constantly reminding yourself as you mention in the post. The comparison with others is always so instantaneous, be it with friends, colleagues at work, or whomever else, that it is very easy to forget (at least for that moment) that we all have different paths, different goals, and different lessons to learn in our lives… The world around us is so often obsessed with competition…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the great comment! I’d agree that the world is obsessed with competition and while I believe that it can be healthy it often, inside our heads, becomes unhealthy. You are right that it is always so instant and can spiral so quickly.


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