Updated: Jul 30
Comparison they used to say was the "killer of joy" but here is the deal, comparison is actually a primal trait. It is wired into us as a survival instinct from our ancestors and its a healthy growing tool if used effectively. It's semi-unrealistic to rewire ourselves to completely stop comparison BUT we can shift the focus of where and how this comparison is done.
What if you compared yourself today side by side with a past version of yourself, can you see how far you've come? What challenges have you overcome to get to where you are today? What mountains have you climbed up and valleys you have glided through?
One day as I flowed my way through a yoga class, my teacher dropped this piece of wisdom on me, "you have overcome, 100% the obstacles you have gone through". Now while there was a moment of well I have recurring obstacles I have not yet conquered, I got what she meant. I am stronger today for the challenges I worked through in the past. Today when I show up to my current day filled with ebbs and flows, I know more about myself and my behaviors.
We must give ourselves a fighting chance and the best way to grow is by giving ourselves healthy goals and realistic expectations. We have all at one time set an unrealistic goal for ourselves and came up empty. Doing this repeatedly is going to end in throwing in the towel altogether.
How would it feel to give yourself a new goal that actually is obtainable but you still get to work for it? Here are five steps to help you set and obtain a value-based goal. This is a watered-down version of Dr. Judy Ho one of my Pepperdine Psychology Professors lectures and her new book "Stop Self-Sabotage: ".
Step One - Understand Two Types of Happiness
The first type of happiness we all know very well, is Christmas morning, open up all the new presents under the tree, happiness. The one that feels good at the moment but hours, days, or weeks later it fades away.
Don't get me wrong, this is the fun and feel-good happy, but that is the quick spur of happiness and since you are here reading, I know you are seeking something more. The second form of happiness is one that connects to our core values. It is often referenced when feeling a sense of purpose or meaning.
Here is the deal when you are comparing what you don't have to what others have, you are jumping into that first form of happiness, the not-so-sustainable pool of happiness. What about switching to this second self-sustaining ocean of true happiness?
Step Two - Identify your Top Values
Now that you have decided you want to connect to your core happiness, here is how you get started. Take a moment to jot down five values that are prevalent in your life.
Getting clear on what your values give you a guide, strengthens your motivation, and when the road in
front of you gets challenging,
these values help you see your goal through.
Step Three - Set your Goal
Setting goals may or may not be your thing. I get it because I oscillate on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to setting goals. Today let's swing to the side that is pro goal setting and drop any past drama that comes up. Let us focus on the here and now.
What is relevant in your life today that you need to address in this current month? Focus on an area in your life that needs attention, and an area you have neglected. (If you are lost on the imbalanced area in your life, check out this article that helps identify where you might be lopsided in your life.)
Make this goal both achievable but slightly out of reach. The one that might be scary to put down on paper, that makes you feel something shift in your gut, that's the one!
Before locking it in, take a look back at your top values. A goal connected to your top values will make it have more weight and create accountability, making it far more possible to obtain.
Step Four - The Path
Here is where the magic starts to happen. You are going to take a pause and look within for a moment.
Get comfortable so that your body can relax on the surface you are sitting on.
Feel your feet connected with the floor.
Notice your breath flowing in and out of your body.
Acknowledge any sounds happening around you.
The next step will be to close your eyes and ask your self the following questions:
What would if feel like if I achieved your goal? Paint the picture of what life looks like once you have achieved it.
What is standing in my way of achieving this? What obstacles are in the way - physically, mentally, emotionally? What is the next step I must take to get closer to this goal?
Open your eyes and jot down your findings.
Step Five - The closer
Now you have created a foundation for this goal. You have physically put it down on paper so that this idea is no longer floating around in infinite space. You have created the container for which it can grow. You have also seen where this could lead and what is standing in your way!
"The ability to resist short-term temptation and delay gratification in order to meet long-term goals".
Dr. Judy talks about willpower in her book which is very relevant in this last step here. She goes on to talk about how willpower is a source that can be depleted and also replenished.
Being oh so familiar with the dance between burnout and self-care, this last step is a delicate balance of both. This is where you need to be aware of your triggers, when your willpower tank gets low, what stops you from throwing in the towel.
Take a moment to jot down three situations where you may not complete this goal. If my goal was to be to eat healthy next week, one of my situations would be stress-eating. The next part is to actively plan for those moments of low willpower such as when I feel I am going to stress eat, I will have one of my pre-planned out meals or I will force myself to talk a walk around the block. Jot down a few of these handy willpower hacks and have it hand for those moments when you find yourself in need to pick me up.
That's a wrap!
This is a process you can continue to practice and reassess. Maybe you need to slightly alter your goal and that's okay! I close by bringing up the delicate balance of pulling inspiration from the external while still having self-compassion. Remember that comparison is hardwired into you, but you get to use it as a healthy motivating tool to help you replenish the well of purposeful happiness.
I recently read this interview with Daniel Elk CEO of Spotify, where he speaks to the delicate balance of pulling inspiration from the external while still having self-compassion.
"I constantly face people who I always find are smarter than me, deeper than me on various subjects and all of that stuff. But I think we're all on journeys and we all have our own insecurities. We have all our own stuff that's happening in our lives."
When you do end up looking outside yourself at others, can it be for inspiration, not deflation? Can you remind yourself that you are seeing the curated version of their journey and you are on the raw unedited version of your own?
*Disclaimer - My purpose of this blog is not to take credit for the findings but to share what I have learned from others and interpreted through my life lens. I take little credit for the actual concepts.