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How To Avoid Comparing At Work

How To Avoid Comparing At Work

We all do it – we snoop at the lives of celebrities, at the holidays of our friends, at the incomes at our loved ones,’ and to be honest, a lot of the time the green-eyed monster is at play, ensuring we feel especially negative about our own behavior and situation. This particularly strikes in the workplace where we often struggle to avoid comparing our work skills, abilities and goals, as well as how far we’ve come in comparison to our co-workers, often leading to a mental game of one-up-manship that satisfies no one.

So, if you’re stuck in this vicious cycle of jealousy, comparison and negativity, check out seven of our best tips for to how to avoid comparing at work, and begin to break the pattern of negative comparison with our advice for the workplace.

1. Be clear about what you want.

We go to work to earn money to live, but we also go to work to help fulfill a vision of what we want in our head. Our specific goals, dreams and aims. All of these can be extremely useful in the fight to avoid comparing at work. Your work and your journey are all that you should focus on, not if those dreams stack up compared to your co-workers.

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Keep your vision clear about what you want out of work and out of life. Make a vision board; write it all down; keep a journal; or whatever you need to keep moving forward. Make sure you break things down into manageable areas so you can actively work towards them, but always keep your eyes on the work horizon so you can keep moving forward and avoid comparing at work. As the indomitable Eric Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” once stated, ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.’ A better sentiment can’t be formed, really.

2. Be humble and grateful.

You can never go wrong with being grateful and humble for your life. It’s always a sure-fire to help you avoid comparing at work. No one likes a bragger or a show-off at work and let’s be honest in this economy, it’s pretty fantastic to have a job at all, given the still-large unemployment rates around the world following the recent economic downturn and recession. Being humble and grateful is a solid way towards avoiding comparing at work.

Be thankful for the job you have, even if it’s one you don’t particularly want at the moment, and let that shine by working hard and focusing. You can make something positive out of almost every situation, and staying humble, staying ambitious and staying grateful for all you have right now, is one of the most effective ways in avoiding and resenting your co-workers.

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3. Become friends with co-workers.

There’s an old saying about keeping friends close and enemies closer; but I prefer the one that talks about trying to be friends with everyone. After all, how can you compare and compete with someone you consider a friend? Friendly, helpful, supportive rivalry is one thing, but actively electing to put you and your co-workers at odds with each other is not only stupid, it’s destructive and detrimental to your career.

Strike up conversations with co-workers, talk and discuss work – but not only work – and just generally be a fun and positive person to be around. Why? If you want to avoid comparing yourself to those around you, building up these positive relationships makes it significantly more likely that you’ll be happy for them when they succeed and you’ll have a supportive, warm network around you for those achievements and those failures. Plus, helping and supporting each other is what we should all be doing anyway, right? Making more friends rarely has a downside, so go ahead and head for the water cooler with your cubicle mate.

4. Have a great ‘outside’ life.

One of the most vital things you can do to avoid comparing at work, is to have a full and varied life outside of the office. Jobs can too often dominate our waking thoughts and processes and extend into all aspects of our lives. The resolution to all this is to make sure that when you step out of those doors, you’ve got a vibrant and exciting life waiting for you.

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I’m not suggesting everyone goes out dancing and skydiving every night – I’m a classic introvert so that sounds exhausting to me – but have plans that make you excited, happy and fulfill you somehow. Take an art class, go on dates, have a pajamas-and-Netflix party with your best friends, do whatever you like but ensure that you’re doing it for you and you’ll avoid comparing at work all that much more.

5. Take on side projects.

Known as the ‘side hustle,’ taking on extra, side projects can be both fulfilling and a fantastic way to avoid comparing at work. You and your co-workers might be closer than you are to your actual neighbours at times, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same paths together and achieve the same milestones. Point in fact, you can always look to new side projects and extra work and responsibilities to help avoid comparing at work.

If you see a project or an avenue at work you’re interested in, then go ahead and sign up for some fun extra duties that will not only enhance your resume, but also ensure that you get to do interesting stuff outside of your assigned duties. You might even build up a bit of a speciality which is sure to set you apart from your co-workers and help stop you comparing at work. After all, we all have our different paths and journeys.

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6. Appreciate your unique standing.

You are completely unique in the workplace, even if you’re one of a hundred people doing your job. To avoid comparing at work, remember that no one has your unique blend of experiences, histories, and personal position. It might seem like you’re just one little cog in the workforce machine, but let’s face it, the chances of someone having the same experiences, opinions, views and judgement as you is not only unlikely, it’s nearly impossible.

To stop avoid comparing at work, acknowledge your position in the workplace and what you can uniquely bring to your job. You have unique abilities that cannot be replicated and rather than comparing yourself to your co-worker who might excel in one area that you aren’t so good at (spreadsheets, emails, interpersonal skills and so forth), focus on what you can bring to the role and what you can do to bring that to the front of your job performance.

7. Keep working on those work goals.

Keep working, working, working, on yourself. We all have work goals – or at least we should – and working towards them alongside the course of our job is something we should always aspire, something that should always take the place of comparing yourself at work. Just as every person is different, the goals we set ourselves are different. Our aims differ, but they are always our own. We all have our Mount Everest to climb, whether or not the tracks are similar to our co-workers.

Make a big list of the goals you want to achieve and the ones you already have done – put them in straight lines, in shaded bubbles, in brightly-colored Post-Its where you can see them. Cross off the ones you’ve already achieved and put them all somewhere you see everyday like a planner or a diary, so you can keep working towards them, slowly but surely, and always with a view to looking ahead to the future.

Remember that the key to avoid comparing at work is simply to stop comparing your journeys and focus on your goals and your career without thinking negatively about others’ paths.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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