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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

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 October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

Reference

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