Comparison works the opposite way you want it to.

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comparisonWe compare all the time and in all sorts of ways.  I compare my startup to another startup.  I compare my marriage to another’s marriage.  I compare my car to another’s car.  I compare my _______ to another’s _______.  It’s an endless cycle.

There are two types of comparison – comparing “upward” and comparing “downward.”  Upward comparison is when you beat yourself up by thinking other’s lives/businesses/bodies/kids/cars/houses/etc are better than yours.  Downward comparison (keeping those same things in mind) says “I am better.”

Both types of comparison work the opposite way you want them to.  Comparing upward doesn’t automatically get you what you want. More often than not, it creates an entitlement mindset that leaves you ungrateful for what you currently have.  Comparing downward uses the limitations of others to feel better about yourself.  Which is a shallow way to feel good.

Though comparison is a way to gauge how we measure up to others, it doesn’t always help you accomplish your goals.  Unless you compare yourself to yourself.  If you want to grow your company – compare where you are at the of the first quarter to where land at the end of the second quarter.  If you want to run a faster mile, compare your time at the beginning of the month with your time at the end of the month.  Comparing your company’s growth with another company’s growth, or your body’s performance with another body’s performance, isn’t fair and isn’t accurate.  And that type of comparison will end in one of two ways: with insecurity (upward comparison) or an over-inflated sense of self (downward comparison).

Our 26th President of the United States sums it up well:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

4 replies
  1. Peter Chee
    Peter Chee says:

    Like most of your blog posts you make me pause and reflect. I have to dig a bit deeper to think and reflect upon both my professional and personal life. I certainly agree that that comparing yourself to others can lead to a lack of joy. One thing that I would like your thoughts on is: Does comparing your current circumstances to your past put yourself in situation that robs yourself of a future?

    Reply
    • Annie Duncan
      Annie Duncan says:

      Oh man, Peter…good question. I don’t think it necessarily robs yourself of a future. Unless you’re trying to have a better past. For example, a friend of mine said: If you’re trying to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past. I think I even blogged about that last year for thinkspace…I’ll have to check the archives :)

      Reply
  2. Jeff Shuey
    Jeff Shuey says:

    Great post and spot on. I write a lot about competing with yourself. It’s the only true measure you have. As you said … upward and downward comparisons can lead to false results. As I wrote about a few weeks ago … There is one question to ask yourself and others to gain The Secret to Success. This post is a great companion piece to it. I’m noodling if I can write a follow up and include this (with your permission, of course).

    Reply
    • Annie Duncan
      Annie Duncan says:

      Permission granted! I love your thoughts on measurement – I definitely have learned to be more intentional as to what I use to measure things by. When it comes to myself, it most always needs to be myself.

      Reply

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