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When You Focus on What You Do, You’re Too Busy to Compare Yourself with Others

When You Focus on What You Do, You’re Too Busy to Compare Yourself with Others
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With social media announcing every friend’s promotion, latest holiday, house purchase, engagement or wedding, it can sometimes lead us to feel inadequate about our own lives especially if we feel we’re ‘falling behind’ in life.

But the comparison game is a dangerous one. The pressure to keep up with how other people are living their lives compared to our own, can leave us feeling depressed and takes away the focus we have on our goals and our own unique life path.

Why Comparing Ourselves with Others Is Problematic

If comparing and measuring ourselves with others brings the tendency to make us feel ‘less-than’, why do we put ourselves through it?

According to the social comparison theory [1] fundamentally, we’re social creatures and we have an overwhelming need to understand ourselves and our place in the world. This includes those around us and especially our closest peers.

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Social comparisons are separated into two categories – downward comparison (comparing yourself to somebody worse off than you) and upward comparison (comparing yourself with those who are perceived as better off than you). These two can both create problems with how we view ourselves.

While downward comparison may seem like a way to make us feel better about ourselves, it actually means we’re tying our confidence and self-esteem to the misfortune of others. It also causes us to focus too much on negative aspects of people rather than seeing the whole picture.

And, of course, upward comparison can allow us to feel motivated and inspired but our negative minds tend to sway towards fuelling envy or unrealistic standards. This means we overlook the complexity of our own lives and focus on the ‘highlight reel’ of somebody else’s.

Most of the Time People Don’t Really Care, They’re Just Curious

The other problem with comparison is that, although we may not have the habit of comparing ourselves, others can have the tendency to point out how we’re doing compared with others.

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Whether it’s making the choice to not get married or have kids, or what career path we’ve chosen to follow (or not follow), there will likely be someone who has an opposing opinion and perspective on it. This can potentially lead us to self-doubt and even contemplating changing our decisions.

But we have to understand the importance of focusing on ourselves because others’ perspectives are limited and based on their own opinions and experiences. Much of the time it can be pure curiosity rather than having true intentions to guide us. This is why it’s paramount to tune out these unneeded opinions and just focus on what you want your life to look like.

How to Block Out Distracting Noise and Focus on Yourself

If scrolling through social media leaves you feeling down, insecure, and inadequate or you just want to stop caring about the ‘helpful’ opinions others like to force on you about your life, then there are ways to shift your perspective and lead a much happier life in the process.

Create a Clear Roadmap of Your Life

In order to be more confident in your decisions and therefore be strong enough to dismiss what others say, creating a roadmap of where you want go and how you’re going to get there, will bring more stability and less insecurity. By doing this, you will care much less about what other people are doing in comparison, or what they think about you.

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Create a list of goals, note where you are now in relation to them (with no negative judgement) and write out an action plan for how you can achieve them. You can make a one week plan or a one year plan – whatever you feel comfortable with on any subject – and you’ll start to feel a sense of moving forward.

Do Some ‘All-Round’ Self-Improvement

Self-improvement is a wonderful way to focus on ourselves but often we tend to self-improve when the chips are down in certain areas of our lives. For example, if we want to improve our health, we may start to eat better and exercise more.

However, it can lead us to ignore other areas such as work, learning or relationships. Focusing on more than one area will create a feeling that we’re establishing abundance overall which, in turn, will stop us from feeling lack and causing us to compare one area of our life to someone else’s.

Write out a list of how you can improve each area of your life – perhaps learning something new for a dream job, an exercise routine to get healthy or improving your social skills in order to make new friends. Do a little bit at a time for each area and you’ll soon grow more and more confidence in yourself and where your life is heading.

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Remember That Everything Takes Time

We’re often made to think that certain life goals must happen by a certain time but it doesn’t always work out that way (this is when the comparison game can be at its strongest!) Try not to focus on specific time-frames and understand that you’re always on your path to where you want to go.

People go along their own path at different speeds and that’s okay. Make peace with where you are, find all you can to appreciate your life no matter how small your successes, and believe that you will achieve your goals and dreams in your own timing – timing that’s best for you and no one else.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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