Is comparison the thief of joy?

The title of this blog was inspired by the words of Roosevelt. Was he right? Is comparison a joy thief or a potential road block, or could it be seen as a positive – maybe a stepping stone to something better?

According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 10% of our daily thoughts involve making comparisons. So, if you consider all comparisons to be negative you could be holding yourself back without realising it.

It’s your unique journey

When I walked part of the Appalachian Trail a couple of summers ago whilst living in Montreal, there were signs all along the walk saying,hike your own hike’. A clear message not to compare your own journey with anyone else’s. To do your own thing. To enjoy your moment. I took a lot of inspiration from the sign and loved the idea of not comparing what I was doing to anyone else. If anything, I found it to be really healthy approach to life in general, not just about the trail I was on at the time.

It was so refreshing not to feel the need to compare my experience.

Before I took a different approach to comparisons, I would see them as harmful, something that detracts from happiness. Thankfully I now see them in a completely different light.

A different view

I was reminded of this when working with a group of entrepreneurs recently. One person in the group said they were struggling to stop comparing themselves to their competitors, in particular on social media, and found themselves feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I completely understood what they were saying as did others in the room, it’s all too common to think that everyone else appears to have their lives sorted.

In my response I challenged them to turn this feeling of negativity on its head. I told them to consider times when comparisons might be a good thing.

A different mindset

Here are ways to use comparisons to boost happiness and motivation. Yes, really!

1. Comparisons can go both ways.

Who do we usually compare ourselves to? Take a minute or two to think about this question. It could be a fit athlete, an innovative chef, a talented artist, a successful business owner. How does this make us feel when we continually compare ourselves to others? It can make us feel like we have fallen short of our own success, it can be exhausting and counter productive.

But, remember comparisons can go both ways.

Instead of comparing ‘up’ to others, consider comparing ‘down’. Take a moment to think about others who are not as fortunate as you and look at what you have and have achieved. This will increase your perspective and gratitude. These feelings will stop you feeling sorry for yourself.

2. Recognise who you are comparing yourself to and where they are on their journey.

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” Jon Accuf

If you’ve just started your business, it will only cause harm if you compare yourself to someone who’s been going for 18 months or more. Re-adjust your expectations and set new ones.

3. Think about what it is you are trying to achieve by the comparison.

If you’re in the process of growing your business the process of constantly checking out the competition on social media and researching what they’re doing and how they’re doing it is great way to conduct market research.

However, this method of research is only motivating if you focus on ways you can learn from them. Ask yourself several questions to keep on track. How could that work for me/my business? What are they doing differently to me? What could I learn from them?

When you stop focusing on what’s to be learnt and start filling your head with thoughts such as, ‘They’re doing so much better than me’, it’s time to stop and move away from your phone. These thoughts will only leave you feeling deflated, and demotivated.

4. Use comparison as a source of inspiration to keep pushing forward.

Ask yourself, What could I do that is even better? What have they missed in the market? Make positive plans, after all, if they can do it, there’s no reason why you can’t succeed too!

5. Keep it self focused.

When running I don’t focus on winning. If you’ve met me and/or ever ran with me, you’ll realise I’m no Mo Farah! I focus solely on beating my personal best, or the time I’ve set myself to complete it. Apply this rule to when working in your business too.

It’s about you, no-one else

What’s your definition of success? Know your ‘why’ and your purpose completely, then work on your vision, write it down and share it with others. That’s what you’re aiming for - not someone else’s version!

I’m not going to ask you to stop making comparisons, it’s human nature, but next time you find yourself making a comparison think how you can use it to your advantage. Don’t use the information to beat yourself up, use it to build yourself up.

Thoughts by Kathryn, Up+thrive Words by Amanda, Redwood Copy


If you’ve any tips on how you keep your comparisons in check, or when they have been useful, let me know in the comments below

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If you or your organisation is looking for support we’d love to hear from you. Contact Kathryn to discuss your training/coaching needs, and Amanda to tell the world about it.