The Buddha says, “The mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness by what it chooses to compare the experience with. If it chooses to compare it to something worse then it will create happiness, gratitude and pride, but if it chooses to compare it to something better then it will create unhappiness, bitterness and envy.”
One area of life that many of us struggle with is comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes, people are better than us at certain things, have things we wish we had, or live the lives we want to live. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In fact, there are a few things you can do starting today to stop comparing yourself to others.
See yourself and others as if you’re on a journey
One of the simplest ways to stop comparing yourself to others is to see yourself and others as if you’re on a journey. It may seem trite, but if everybody is on their own personal journey then there’s no right or wrong way to be doing what anybody is doing. If you’re on a journey, the things that matters are the destination or the experience of getting there.
And if you’ve ever been on a long hike you know that the people who are overly focused on the destination are often the ones that have the worst time because as everybody else is enjoying the experience of the hike and looking around at the trees, birds, wildlife, etc., the person who is overly focused on the destination is often having a bad time on the hike.
They don’t want to be hiking anymore, they just want to get to the waterfall or wherever you’re going. This is true with many things in life. For instance, many people fail at New Year’s resolutions for similar reasons. They don’t really want to get into a new workout routine. They don’t really want to go see a therapist. What they really want is to be fit or to overcome a block magically.
And they’re never really going to get where they’re trying to go until they realize that the results they crave are not just going to magically appear because they need to be earned through efforts toward their goals.
So, the real key thing to keep in mind is that you and others are on a journey. Life is an exploration. And as long as you think about life this way, it ultimately doesn’t matter how quickly you get where they’re going. You’re not in a race. You’re not in the triathlon.
You and them are just exploring the world at the pace and speed that’s right for you. Keeping in mind that life is a journey means that you’re in it for the experience of the process of getting there.
Jim Rohn says, “The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.”
The thing I find the most fascinating about this specific quote is that it encourages you not to focus fully on the goal, but to focus on becoming the kind of person who can achieve that goal and that is so much more powerful than just focusing on the goal itself.
If you’ve been around the spiritual or personal development world for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably met quite a few people who have really lofty goals but never seem to achieve them.
This often has to do with their inability to accept the fact that you need to change in order to change your life. If you allow yourself to think about life as a journey rather than a means to an end of getting to a specific goal, you’ll be far happier and you will compare yourself less and less to others, which should help you achieve your goals far more easily.
Study success stories of those who became successful after 35
Often when people compare themselves to others, they think about how they wish they’d done things earlier in their life or “before they missed the chance”.
Sometimes, this is a true insight, but more often than not, there are enough counterexamples to prove that it’s falsifiable. And sadly, it leads many people to compare themselves to younger people living their dreams or to people their own age who have already achieved success in some areas of life.
Something I got fascinated with about a decade ago was the author Napoleon Hill and what he calls the philosophy of success. And something I found very odd is that there are quite a lot of people who don’t find success in their lives, at least as defined by others, until they’re much older.
For instance, the colonel from Kentucky Fried Chicken didn’t end up starting Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was 40. Joy Behar and Samuel Jackson didn’t get their start in the entertainment industry until they were in their 40s. It’s crazy to think that Samuel Jackson played a ton of incredibly harsh intense characters in his 40s and 50s.
He was 43 in 1991 when he got his first actual film roll in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. Stan Lee wrote his first comic at age 39. Vera Wang didn’t get in the fashion industry until she was in her 40s. Ray Kroc bought McDonald’s and turned it into the business that we now know when he was in his early 50s.
One of the beautiful things about life is that it’s not over until it’s over. There’s rarely a perfect time to start something and there’s rarely an impossible time to start something. Obviously, we can all think about examples like I’m in my mid-thirties and am miserably bad at basketball. So, I’m probably never going to join the NBA.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be successful in so many other areas of life. But if I fixate and focus on the fact that I’m never going to get in the NBA and I feel bad about it, then I probably won’t get very far at anything else either. But if I focus on areas of my life that I’m good at and I’m passionate about, there’s still time for me to do a lot of things in my life.
And the same goes for most everybody. All of the people above became incredibly famous well into or after their late 30s. There are so many things that can be done in our lives and fixating on the idea that our lives are over at a certain age is foolhardy.
Likewise, given the way that the internet works there are so many things that people can do in this time period that they wouldn’t have been able to do before. An example of that is the late life coach Sean Stephenson. He had a bone disorder that kept him in a wheelchair most of his life and if he sneezed too hard he could break a rib.
Yet he was able to do things like become a professional speaker, teach others how to be a professional speaker, and he ended up building a huge group of friends including famous life coaches and marketers like Tony Robbins and Joe Polish.
So, just keep in mind that you have plenty of time to do what you want to do as long as you get started exploring what it is that’s really important to you.
Explore spirituality for personal peace
Exploring spirituality can help you quit comparing yourself to others because it can help give you a piece of a personal narrative that tells you not only who you are, but why you’re here. Once you become involved in spirituality, you’ll start to see the world in an entirely different way.
And honestly it doesn’t matter what spiritual path that you choose because almost all of them are focused on helping you to develop who you are as a person and getting you to rethink how you interact in the world. Really you just need to find one that resonates with who you are as a person.
Likewise, most religions or spiritual paths have different methods for helping people to begin to develop themselves in much deeper ways. For instance if you become involved in safe Buddhism you can learn a lot about different philosophies and meditation techniques that will help you develop a type of mindfulness that will allow you to drastically rethink who you are as a person and how you fit into the world.
But again it doesn’t matter what religion you choose or what spiritual path to choose. Almost all of them can help you to develop yourself and to develop your connection to the world around you. This will likely change how you view others and help you to stop comparing yourself to them as much.
There are some religions that are a bit more harsh than others and think about other people in ways you may not agree with. So, consider that before joining any spiritual paths, but really just ultimately make sure that the spiritual path resonates with you.
As long as you do that, you should find that your life shifts and you’re no longer interested in comparing yourself to others because you start to see things that are far more important.
Get in competition with yourself
This one’s a bit different from the other ones in this list. This one is something that pretty much anybody can do regardless of their spiritual path or their personal beliefs about themselves or life. And all you really need to do to really start to take benefit from this is to start thinking about yourself as in competition with yourself.
And what I mean by this is that rather than thinking about yourself in competition with others you think about how much better you’re getting than you were before. If you’re going to think about yourself as if you’re in competition with someone, it might as well be who you used to be.
An example would be as if you were a track runner. Say at the current moment you’re able to run a mile in 7 minutes. You know for most people that’s actually really awesome, but for somebody looking to be a track star that’s probably a little slower than you want to go.
Of course the interesting thing is that there was a point when running a mile in 5 and 4 minutes was actually thought of as impossible, but now it’s expected. Rather than focusing on how your teammate or friend can run a mile in four minutes, 30 seconds, we want to focus on the idea that right now you can run a mile in seven minutes.
Work toward being able to run a mile faster than that, maybe even six minutes and 55 seconds. And once you’re able to achieve that, then work on being able to run a mile in six minutes and 45 seconds.
Rather than focusing on where you’re at on the track team, whether you feel good enough to be on the track team, if someone is “better than you”, or other negative thoughts.
Instead focus on continual improvement because rather than thinking about where others are at, you’re thinking about where you were at before and allowing that sense of competition that you have inside of yourself to focus on being better than you were rather than hoping to be better than somebody else or upset that you’re not.
The real joy of this scenario is that it encourages you to continue to improve and not only that, if you’re really working this process you’ll likely find yourself improving greatly.
Have gratitude for where you’re at in life
Jim Rohn wisely says about gratitude for your current lot in life, “Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.”
Having gratitude for where you’re at in life is one of the best ways to stop comparing yourself to others. Because if you’re happy with where you’re at then you don’t really need to compare yourself to others.
Think about it: if you were living in a situation where you had the kind of spouse that you wanted to have, you lived in the kind of house you wanted to live in, you made the kind of money that you wanted to make, you owned the kind of car that you wanted to have, and you didn’t really want for anything because anything you wanted you could have, how often would you be comparing yourself to others?
Likely very rarely. And the reason is that generally if you’re happy with where you’re at, there’s no reason to compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others is usually a fixation on a certain lack something that you don’t have but wish that you did. And if you did have that thing, then you wouldn’t have this lack anymore.
As simple as this is, if you’re able to really have gratitude for where you’re at in life then there’s not much of a reason to compare yourself to others because you’re not really lacking anything you love. You could have more and that would be great, but there’s no real reason to feel frustrated or bad about what you have or where you’re at in life. That’s the power of gratitude.
Feel genuine gratitude for others
Now this last way to quit comparing yourself to others is probably the most difficult but it’s also the most helpful because it will allow you to overcome a lot of the pain and frustration that you have. I mentioned above that if you’re comparing yourself to others, generally you feel like you’re lacking something.
Often, this lack will be turned outward towards others and create a certain element of resentment and jealousy. Because when you’re comparing yourself to others generally you wish you had what they have. So, one of the best ways through this is to actually feel genuine gratitude for others and the successes that they have.
This doesn’t mean that you jump up and down and say, “Yes! Johnny got the job I want!” Really what this means is that you say to yourself and maybe to the outside world that you’re happy for them and that you actually genuinely feel happy inside of yourself for this person who’s gotten the thing that you wanted.
At first, this will likely be very difficult, but that’s okay. Doing this will create a major shift in your life. Really all you need to do in order to start feeling genuine gratitude for others is to just think about how you’d feel in their situation and be happy that they feel that.
For instance if you and somebody else were both up for promotion and they get the promotion, then think about how you imagined you would feel if you had gotten the promotion.
They’re probably ecstatic in the same way that you would have been ecstatic if you got the promotion. So just think to yourself about how they must feel and be happy about it as if the same thing was happening to your best friend. As I said, this isn’t easy but a lot of things that are difficult are really worth doing and I think that this one is one of those.
As I’ve mentioned above most of the time if you’re comparing yourself to others you’re feeling a certain sense of lack in your life. So, if you’re able to push yourself past that feeling of lack, generally the need to compare yourself to others will go away.
Using any of the above techniques can help you out in this process and allow you to work towards a place in your life where you feel much more gratitude for the place where you’re at. And I know that it can be very difficult to begin these processes or even to continue working on these processes, but keep in mind that many things in life that are frustrating at first get easier with time.
The real question you have to ask yourself is it worth it to continue comparing yourself to others? Is that really moving you toward your goals?
And nine times out of ten the answer to that is no it’s not. I hope that you’re able to take the things that I’ve suggested above and implement them in your lives and really start to see the way that it shifts and changes things for you.