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Don’t be Discouraged if You Ever Feel Like you Fall Behind in Life

Don’t be Discouraged if You Ever Feel Like you Fall Behind in Life

Everything’s humming along fine in your life, when suddenly you land on the website of a peer, and a note on the home page informs you that they’ve just won a prestigious award and landed a book deal.

Or you’re on Facebook, in a pretty good mood, until your glance lands on a status update from a high school acquaintance, crowing about how well their latest Oprah interview went.

Or you meet someone at a party and discover they started a business in the same niche as you, a few years after you did. You’re ready to start dispensing some helpful wisdom, until you discover that their business growth has been exponential–a hockey stick, compared to your slow upward curve.

It makes your stomach clench, that discouraging feeling that everyone else is blasting forward, while you’re falling behind in the race of life.

The Comparison Trap

I call this the Comparison Trap, and sometimes I feel like I step into it daily. (Sometimes several times a day!)

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The thing is, living in an online universe, we’re regularly flooded with shining examples of people who are steps ahead of us. Heck, as a podcaster, I’m regularly interviewing heroes of mine, people who seem way beyond me at creating their vision, developing their business, achieving their dream. Envy, that familiar green face, rears its ugly head, and it’s all too easy to feel badly about myself for not making as much money/for not being as prolific/for not having as large a following/for not being as successful as the person I admire.

It’s an interesting position to be in: the internet has made it so easy to find role models to inspire us, which is certainly a blessing! But the blessing comes with a curse: now we’re all in a prime position to be caught in the Comparison Trap, consumed with envy and bad feelings.

“Why does [Person X] get all the luck?” you might think, and conclude “I am such a loser in comparison!”

Some days it’s enough to make a person want to crawl into a cave. “Compare and Despair Syndrome,” I’ve heard it called, because that’s what we do: we compare ourselves to others, and we despair.

How to Armor Up Against Compare and Despair Syndrome

I’ve come to the conclusion that my struggle with envy and the Comparison Trap may plague me in one way or another for the rest of my life. But that’s okay, because when you understand your adversary, you can better arm yourself against it.

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My armor? Anything and everything that will help me remember the Benign Reality: That I am really and truly okay. That my value lies in my uniqueness. That the more I vibrate at my own energy and follow my own, unique path, the more I will attract the people that resonate with me and situations that benefit me.

The components of this armor include:

1. A team of champions — people who love me and believe in me, even when I can’t believe in myself. (Anyone who doesn’t qualify can — and should — be weeded from my friendship garden with impunity.)

2. Teachers and sages who remind me of Benign Reality, whether in person or in print.

3. Mantras/affirmations/validations — whatever you want to call them. Combinations of words that remind me of my worth.

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4. Inspirational art/music/poetry to buoy me up.

And most of all:

5. The understanding that comparing myself to others is never useful. Each of us is truly incomparable!

As Martha Graham is credited as saying:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

To help myself remember, I created the calligraphic artwork below, from this mantra that sprang into my head: “Why compare myself to others? There’s no comparison!” I hope you find it helpful!

Why compare myself to others? There's no comparison!

    Now go forth and be you!

    Featured photo credit: Philadelphia Bike Race – flying off Lemon Hill by bk at Flickr via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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