Comparison Done Right, by Haley Hansen
If you are anything like me, you have an intense desire to grow and succeed. I find myself constantly looking forward: to the next goal, the next challenge, the next destination to pull me out of my comfort zone. This takes many forms, like a fitness goal or a plan to read more. Last year, I started giving something up for a month at a time to challenge my self-control. It is only a month, but I love that feeling of accomplishment!
When you are looking ahead and above, it is natural to start looking at the people you perceive to be ahead of and above you. “Look how well they are doing,” you say to yourself, “I want to get to where they are. I want to do what they are doing.” Then you look back to your progress and cannot help but notice how far you still must go.
This experience was very real for me a few weeks ago, on a ski trip with my husband, Ryan, and some college friends. Now, Ryan and I are at different points in our skiing expertise. Ryan has been skiing and snowboarding off and on since he was nine. He grew up taking family trips to the mountains of Colorado. In contrast, I have spent… maybe ten days on a mountain? I first tried snow sports in high school, on a day trip with my cousin, and I have made a few trips with Ryan in the last few years. (Ask Ryan about our first excursion. He can still show you the scar!)
This brings us to February of 2020, as I am standing on a mountain near Salt Lake City, Utah, with this group of friends. (Let me tell you, the mountains in Utah are breathtaking!) For the first few runs of the trip, our group stayed together. I am a mostly positive person, but I HATED these initial runs. I struggled to keep up with the group and I felt like everyone was stopping to wait for me. As I got more and more frustrated, I began to abandon any attempt at technique to try to keep up. Predictably, this did not help. I fell more, which meant I took even longer to progress down the hill, and I got even more frustrated. I felt like I was letting everyone down and stealing their joy. I had to stick to the easy hills, which were still a challenge to me, so they all still had to wait. It seemed like I was the worst in the group, and I thought I was letting everyone down.
After a few hours with the full group, two of us decided to stay on the easy runs and let the more advanced skiers try something more difficult. This was the moment when everything changed for me. Now, I love spending time with my husband, but from now on, I am going to take every chance to ski separately from him! Because it was just the two of us beginners sticking together, we didn’t have to worry about trying to keep up with the “experts.” We took our time. We practiced our technique. We got better! By the end of our second day of skiing, I had grown so much! I was making tighter turns, I was going faster, and I was not falling!
My breakthrough came when I stopped comparing myself to others and started focusing on my own growth. Frustration set in when I focused on the difference between my skills and someone else’s. When we compare the beginning of our story to the middle of someone else’s story, frustration is the natural outcome. We cannot see the years of work the other person put in to get where they are, and we have not seen all the times they fell down, got frustrated, and had to pick themselves back up.
Instead, we should compare our present selves to where we were yesterday. How far have we come? What have we learned? This is where we can see growth and change. We can give ourselves grace and room to improve. I love Rachel Hollis’ quote on this: “Comparison is the death of joy. Comparison is the death of motivation. Comparison is only going to slow you down.”
Comparison is the death of motivation and joy. Without motivation, there can be no progress., and progress brings me a great deal of joy! As you pursue your own development, personally or professionally, I encourage you to give yourself room to grow. Take note of how far you have come. Are you doing better than you were yesterday? This is the real goal. Be better than you were before, and do not worry about how you measure up to other people.
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