Do you think a hike in your salary would make you happy? You believe so, don’t you? But hold on to that thought. There is more to it than just the percentage increase.
For 2 years, I observed a team of people. They exhibited a peculiar behavior after annual hike announcements. During the first year, the market was not performing well. As a result, the hike percentages were low for all the team members. People were disappointed, no doubt, but no one complained as such.
The very next year, the market had picked up. The whole team got a fantastic increase in salary. Did the entire team enjoy and rejoice? You’d expect that, but what happened was the opposite.
The team members had more concerns than the previous year. The worry wasn’t that the numbers weren’t good enough. What bothered people was somebody else on the team received a higher figure than they did.
The concern wasn’t expressed only by a couple of people. A majority of people felt the same. Some expressed it, and some didn’t.
That’s when I realized, any performance measurement is always relative and based on the comparison.
I shook my head in disbelief and told myself, “that’s absurd, I would never do the same.” Or so I thought.
6 months after starting my blog, I wanted to know where I stood. So I looked up how far had the other bloggers reached by the 6-month mark. I was trying to evaluate my blogging success by comparing it against other bloggers.
When I realized I was a culprit myself, a quote echoed in my ears.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
The problems of comparison
Comparing yourself with the right people and using that to improve is a fantastic approach. Unfortunately, we fail to do that. Our comparisons stem from envy, greed, and wishful thinking.
The problems with measuring performance relative to others:
1. Comparing with the best
Walk into a gym and look around. You’ll find a newcomer mentally comparing himself with the most ripped person in the room.
Such thoughts are common. Soon after I started my blog, I started comparing the number of readers I had against that of the best self-improvement blogs.
Such comparisons are unfair and silly because of the drastic difference in the effort put in. Yet, your brain tickles you to compare only against the best. When you do, you end up demotivated or give up early.
2. Chasing meaningless goals
When you measure your success using comparison, you start chasing goals you do not care about.
When your coworker buys a fancy car, you find a better one. Even if he is a car enthusiast and you’re not, you feel the urge to beat the price tag associated.
When you repeat this often, you end up pursuing goals just to beat other people. In the process, you forget the goals that truly resonate with your heart.
3. Comparison is never-ending
A comparison is like a treadmill running on infinite electricity. It goes on forever.
Don’t let your happiness be defined by how well you’re doing compared to another person. If you do, happiness will forever elude you. The reason is, once you beat one opponent, you will find another with a higher benchmark.
You start comparing with the guy driving a Ford. Soon after, you find yourself jealous about the person driving a Jaguar, followed by a Ferrari and so on.
It turns into a vicious loop you can never break free out of.
The right approach to evaluate yourself
If you want to improve and grow as a person, compare yourself with the past version of you. Measure where you stand at regular intervals and check if you’re improving from time to time.
If you see no change in yourself, your growth will stagnate sooner or later. If your skills have remained the same from the past few years, isn’t it unfair to expect the organization to give you a hike every year?
Every 3 months, you must find at least a wee bit of improvement in your core skill.
- If you’re a chef, your dishes must taste better
- If you’re into sales, your ability to close leads must scale-up
- If you’re a writer, the pace or quality of your content must improve
You do not have to compare yourself against the best performer or knock your opponent out cold. If you enter a race against yourself, you embark on an endless journey of self-improvement.
Do not try to shatter records. Start with your average and step it up a notch. Once you get there, aim higher. Slowly but steadily, you will train a champion within yourself.
Your real opponent is the person whose face you see in the mirror each morning. Go, beat him/her today.
I am Maxim Dsouza. I turned down a corporate job in a quest to build something successful of my own. In this journey, I have been a part of multiple failed startups and few successful ones. I am yet to find what works, but my experience has taught me what doesn’t.
Today, I write on my blog Productive Club. I share tips on how to improve productivity, overcome procrastination, improve focus and overcome fear based on my lessons learned. My approach is never to run a sprint but take small baby steps like a marathon while enjoying the journey.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.