When you’re not where you thought you’d be in life
At one point or another, we’ve found ourselves nowhere near where we thought we’d be in life. No, I’m not talking about your GPS landing you in the backwoods of Small-town, USA by accident (though that can be equally as frustrating). I’m talking about untapped potential, unrealized goals, unfulfilled dreams, and halting success with new pursuits.
When we find ourselves opposite such daunting Goliath’s, it’s easy to grow discouraged and be hard on ourselves. I remember feeling similarly for most of my life.
If someone in my peer group experienced wild success—whether it was from acquiring certain degrees, publishing a book, cashing in on lucrative businesses, or winning awards left and right—I wondered why on earth I wasn’t experiencing any of the spotlight. Was something wrong with me? Was my process flawed? Did I not want my dreams badly enough?
In time, I learned that there were others questions that begged for reflection far more than my negative inside chatter, though. These questions are the ones that count, and they can easily sharpen your focus, help you readjust your values, and most importantly: guide you away from self-loathing to a place of self-love.
For the next few weeks, I will be discussing the top 5 questions every person should ask themselves when they find that they’re far from where they’d like to be in life. Today, we kick off with question one:
1. Are you comparing yourself to others?
New York Times Bestseller Steve Furtick has a quote I love. He says that “the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
How true is this? We even see it as early as in preteen girls, who obsess over beauty as it’s represented in magazines and strive to emulate it, yet fail to realize that such photos have undergone extensive editing before going to print. On her blog, former Victoria’s Secret model Kylie Bisutti even discusses how chunks from a woman’s waistline may be completely edited out to give off the appearance of unattainable perfection.
But it’s not just in the beauty and fashion world that we can become disillusioned. It can happen in education, in entrepreneurship, at the workplace, or even in friendships as well.
We often times feel as if someone else is further along than we are, is doing better than we are, has more charisma than we do, etc. But such self-demeaning thinking will get you nowhere. If anything, it will weigh you down and disallow progress, such that you won’t be able to rise to new levels of success simply because you’ll be too busy beating yourself up!
So long as you’re comparing yourself to another individual and tallying up all of your own shortcomings, you’re wasting valuable thought energy that could be used more productively (i.e. toward making more progress on your own personal journey).
Remember, at one point, even the wildly successful people of our day were once amateurs. It may be hard to fathom but it’s true. In Olympic pole vaulting, the competitor doesn’t just appear midair, flipping over that nineteen-foot-high pole in all his or her glory. No, years of discipline, commitment and training precede it, not to mention a high-energy run that has been rehearsed over and over again.
It’s no different in life. A person doesn’t just succeed out of nowhere, without putting zero effort into their pursuits. Time went into that success. Tears went into that success. Diligence went into that success.
For that reason, as Steve Furtick suggests in the above quote, you can’t compare your blunders with another person’s highlights. It’s not fair to you, and it actually diminishes the hard work the other party put toward their success. Who wants to believe that their dreams came into fruition simply out of luck or because of a fluke?
But more than this, nonstop comparisons also devalue you and your journey. You see failures where others would see learning experiences. You see mistakes where others would see opportunities to improve upon one’s self. This profits you in no way.
As such, it’s time to shift your thinking.
First, appreciate the beauty of your journey. Perhaps it’s taking longer than expected. Perhaps you’ve hit a few bumps or taken a few detours. That’s okay. Be gentle to yourself. Be kind. Everything that has happened up until this point was meant to happen. If anything, you’ve accumulated experiences that you can learn from, turning points that will add to the richness of your life story. Be thankful for these things. You’ll be surprised by how light and free a little gratitude can make you feel.
Then, stop seeing the successful people in your life (whether you know them personally or not) as competition, as instruments of comparison, or as rivals. Instead, view these individuals as models of excellence.
Study them. Observe them. Learn from them. If you can, take them out to lunch. Pick their brain. Ask: What do they attribute their success to? What advice would they give to someone who wants to grow personally and/or professionally? What healthy habits keep them focused and on track?
Gathering information plays a pivotal role in changing the trajectory of your life, especially if you’re not as far along as you would’ve hoped. Gleaning wisdom from those you admire is an excellent way to do a little digging and ideally discover new strategies that you can immediately apply.
We’re not here to compete with each other after all. We’re here to be beings of light and love. We’re here to support each other in the unique callings each of us has received, and in the unique paths that unravel before our feet.
So what’s your story? Have you fallen into the trap of comparing yourself to others who are further along before? In the comments below, share your experiences and tell me how you plan to commit toward shifting your thinking!