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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 July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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