Published: Feb 24, 2021
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to compare yourself to other people. It’s easy to think that other people have it better than you, are more successful, and are happier, among other things. It’s also unfortunately easy, when you compare yourself to others, to ask yourself, What’s wrong with me? Why am I not more successful? Why am I not further along in my career?
The bad news is this line of thinking can create feelings of discouragement, despair, and shame, not to mention do nothing for your career growth. The good news is there are concrete ways to stop comparing yourself to others—and start growing, not stifling, your career.
1. Take stock of your successes
When you compare yourself to others, you often forget about all the things you've accomplished and have to offer. So, if you find that you often compare yourself to others, set aside time to make a list of all the things that have worked for you in the past, all your accomplishments, all your wins, all the experiences you’ve grown from, and all the people in your life who support you.
It’s proven that when you take stock of your successes, you start to see more possibility for yourself, more opportunity, and more options. And if you can take stock of your successes on a daily basis, your brain will quickly get into the habit of focusing more on what you do have, less on what you don't have, and will eventually stop comparing.
2. Remind yourself that everyone struggles
Even the most successful people get into negative ruts. Everyone experiences negative emotions and setbacks. So, when you see someone’s life that appears to be amazing on the outside, remind yourself that that person also faces challenges at times; they also struggle.
And remember that sometimes when you see someone’s life, you’re only seeing the highlight reel—you don’t have the full story. So, as often as you can, keep in mind that everyone experiences challenging times at some point in their lives (even if it doesn’t look like this is the truth, it is!). Doing this will give you the perspective you need to minimize the time you spend comparing yourself to others.
3. Imagine your career path is like a road trip
Imagine yourself on a road trip. You’re in the middle lane, and there are cars on either side of you. Some cars pass you, others stay behind you. What other cars are doing doesn’t concern you. Maybe some cars will reach their destinations before you reach yours; maybe some will reach their destinations after you reach yours. This matters little to you. You’re just sitting in the driver's seat, having fun, listening to music or your favorite podcast. You’re simply focused on what's happening in your own lane. You’re only focused on where you are going—and have no doubt you’ll get where you’re going, eventually.
I want to offer the possibility that this is similar to your career journey. You’re going where you’re going regardless of the speed at which you get there, and it doesn’t matter that sometimes others pass you on the road, or you pass others. You’re all heading to different places, in your own respective times.
4. Create a master plan for yourself
When you create a detailed plan for how you intend to get where you want to go, your mind will focus on that—and not on others. A concrete plan will give you the confidence you need to believe that your success is forthcoming, no matter what happens along the way.
Returning to the road trip analogy, think of creating your career plan like mapping out a route on your GPS. If your plan doesn’t work, or you hit obstacles, you recalibrate. In fact, you continually recalibrate based on what happens on your trip (or career path). Having a concrete plan, a map, in place that you can continually return to will allow you to see that you’ll eventually get to your destination. It might take longer than expected, but you will get there—in your own time.
Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their ideal roles and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you want to dive deeper on the topic of your career mindset and become a person who knows exactly how to land their dream job offer, listen to her on the podcast Get a Six Figure Job You Love.
Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and the chief medical correspondent for CNN. He is also the author of Keep Sharp: Build A Better Brain At Any Age, a new book that dispels common myths about the brain, offers advice to boost the brain’s processing speed, and includes a 12-week program (with tips on diet, exercise, and sleep) for sharpening your brain.
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