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14 Things That Happened When I Compared Myself to Others

14 Things That Happened When I Compared Myself to Others

I’m talking about comparing myself to “successful” people. People who have achieved things. Things that I want to achieve. They’re the kind of person I aspire to be like. Seemingly, they have it all: money, success, fame, happiness. But… do they?

If you’re comparing yourself to others, and you’re not getting a whole lot of satisfaction from it, read on:

1. I forgot my “why”

I stopped focusing on me and started focusing on them. I thought I wanted what they had. But did I actually want it? Was I just letting jealousy blind me? No and yes. Because I was focusing on them, I started making poor decisions, or, perhaps worse, no decisions, because I just didn’t know what direction to go in.

2. I became demotivated

There were a few times that I actually ended up laying in bed in the fetal position. I wish I was kidding. Solutions became problems. Everything was an obstacle. I couldn’t see a way forward. A few times, I was close to giving up.

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3. I wished I was them

They’re just so successful and rich and have everything they want… why wouldn’t I want to be them? They were already where I wanted to be. So far down their own path. I was jealous. But, did I even stop to think whether or not they were actually happy? Nope. And isn’t that what really matters? For me, absolutely.

4. I forgot that everyone has their own path

Everyone’s different, but it’s a truth we all seem to forget from time to time. I certainly did. I know who I am, and I’m damn proud of it, so why am I trying to copy someone else? I’m not them. They’re not me. If you find yourself trying to copy someone else, have you even bothered to find out who you are?

5. I thought I wasn’t good enough

“How did they do it? How have they achieved so much?” I would often wonder. It’s ok to respect achievement, but I was in danger of becoming so in awe of it that I’d think I could never achieve something like that. Not a fun place to be, and an extremely limiting one. 

6. I rushed

I wanted to speed everything up because I wanted everything they had RIGHT NOW. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The people I was comparing myself to had been working their ass off for years to get where they are and have what they have. Now, it was my turn.

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7. I forgot to be happy

This is an important one. I got so caught up in trying to achieve and make progress no matter what that nothing else even mattered. Not even being happy. I just totally forgot to be grateful for anything. Like the fact I was pursuing a dream. Like the fact that there’s people who would do anything to be in the position I’m in now. And, like the fact that, actually, I’m a happy person.

8. I stopped living in the moment

I was always thinking about the future. When will I “make it”? What will my life be like? This is, of course, very useful to think about from time to time. But I was rarely living in the moment, and it’s hard to be happy if you don’t (trust me. And, if you don’t trust me, trust the research!)

9. I forgot I was in control

When I was comparing myself, I sometimes gave that control away because I’d look at them being so successful right now and I’d feel a bit hopeless. “How will I ever get there?” But then I (chose to) remember that this is my life and I’m the boss. I’m the man. I can make whatever choices I want, whenever I want. So I’ll keep choosing success.

10. I thought they were lucky

A tempting way to think, perhaps, because it conveniently ignores all the hard work they put it and the fact that you could replicate that if you really wanted to. What an outrageous excuse. They’re successful because they’re lucky. Really? Do you think successful people blame luck for their success? Or do they blame themselves?

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11. I forgot that amateurs call it genius, and masters call it practice

I let myself think that all these successful people were somehow blessed with an abundance of talent that allowed them to get where they are today. In actual fact, they just worked really damn hard and never stopped. There’s all sorts of evidence these days suggesting that natural talent barely matters. So what does? Practice. And a lot of it. Being a genius isn’t a requirement for success, and I wasn’t going to continue to use it as an excuse.

12. I forgot that I’ll absolutely, unequivocally, get to where I want to be

Of course I will. This is my dream. This is what I truly want. And, unlike a lot of people, I’m actually getting off my ass and working for it.

13. I forgot that everything takes time

As Warren Buffett once said “You can produce a baby in 1 month by getting 9 women pregnant.” A fun experiment though, I reckon.

14. I assumed they’re happy

How did I know they were happy? I didn’t. How could I? I had to remind myself that being rich doesn’t make people happy. We all know that. But, them being successful (in my eyes) doesn’t necessarily make them happy, either. They might not even like their life. I would hope and think they do, but there’s no way of me knowing. They’re rich and successful on the surface, but what else did I really know about them? Nothing. So, being envious of them is pointless. This one was a good lesson for me.

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To conclude…

Comparing yourself to others isn’t a problem unless it’s a problem. If, by comparing yourself to them, you become inspired and motivated and take action, awesome. If, however, you become demotivated, depressed, and unhappy, then that isn’t quite as awesome.

You are good enough and you damn well know it. Stop letting other people control how you feel and determine your worth. That’s up to you. Who are they to you? You don’t even know them. Do you think they’d be happy knowing that you’re comparing yourself to them and getting depressed? I doubt it. How would you feel if you were them?

This is your life. You’re the only one who has to live it. When you believe you’re good enough, when you know you deserve to have what you want, you’ll never compare yourself negatively to anyone ever again.

(If you don’t believe or know that, just read this: The 3 Things That Will Give You Stronger-Than-Iron-Man Self-Esteem.)

Featured photo credit: mgstanton via flickr.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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