“20s are for learning. 30s are for earning,” said a family member.
Does this apply to you? Does it apply to your friend or someone else you know?
When a close family member said this, I immediately started to think of my twenties, what I’d learned, and the mistakes I’d made. And then I started to think of the earnings: Am I earning what I should be earning? Did I even do it right in my 20s?
It took a few minutes, but I realized what this was all about; comparing someone to the norm, and trying to fit into a standard.
I had an epiphany the other day as I was walking down 33rd Street in NYC.
I’m walking in my lane, tunnel vision on.
If you’re a New Yorker, you know what I mean, but if you’re not, imagine walking at your maximum speed looking straight ahead so that you don’t bump into anyone walking to your left, right, or anyone heading right in front of you. If you want to get anywhere during rush hour, you have to focus and stay in your lane.
But I didn’t stay in my lane. For a quick second, I looked left, then right.
I was completely thrown off course and immediately overwhelmed by my surroundings. The crowd was now the focus. Not my course, not my direction.
When we compare ourselves to others or the norm or whatever it may be, we throw ourselves off our own path. We’re no longer looking ahead, prepared to deal with what’s in front of us. We’re worrying about person A and person B.
But person A and person B are going a different direction.
Therefore the comparison is bullshit. A waste of time.
In an increasingly competitive and fast-paced world, how do we stop comparing ourselves to others and stay in our own lane?
Let It Be
Whenever we try to stop something – that thought, that feeling – we only exacerbate the discomfort.
What if we let it be?
Maybe what you’re feeling is a pang of envy or fear or uncertainty. Feel it. We all have it, even the person you’re comparing yourself to has it.
I certainly have those moments.
My initial reaction is to get away from them. So and so is really killing it with her business, I think after a regular Facebook scroll. Sign off immediately!
But then I remember I’m human. I’m allowed that moment of envy.
But to stay in that moment is a choice. How can we turn that negative into a positive?
If I want what someone else has, I can take the opportunity to admire her and learn from her, add her to my list of mentors, people I aspire to be.
Track Your Own Progress
You know the quote “Progress not perfection”? Live by that.
Make a progress list. What did you accomplish in the past three months? How about six months? And 12?
Keep track of all the positives, no matter how small or insignificant they seem.
For example, if you’re working on getting a new role at work with more responsibilities, but it hasn’t yet happened, make a list of all the new projects you’ve undertaken that have pushed you to grow.
How has your exposure in the organization changed? Are you now collaborating with more teams, presenting more, taking more of a leadership position in your current role?
Tracking these changes – no matter how incremental – will boost your confidence and push you to reach your larger goal.
In Conclusion: When Comparing Yourself to Others
Follow your gut. Shut out the noise and don’t pay too much attention to the norm, or to the person to your left or your right.
I’ll now leave you with Oprah.
“I have from the very beginning listened to my instinct. All of my best decisions in life have come because I was attuned to what really felt like the next right move for me” – Oprah.