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November 2, 2016

Are we Caught in the Comparison Game?

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others in the neighborhood?

Maybe it’s the person down the street that makes a lot of money and is having amazing success in their career?  Or the mom from your kid’s class that always seems to have it together 100%.  (You know, the one that just whips up the Pinterest perfect cupcakes for their kids birthday party at school)  Or maybe its the guy in your workout class that has arms bigger than your legs.   (“it’s cause I’m tall and he’s shorter so he’s built for weight lifting”…this is the lie that I tell myself so just go with it!)

The list goes on and on.  We can easily fall into comparison mode in terms of money, looks, clothes, houses, cars, landscaping, achievements, spouses, kids, good deeds, family photos, facebook friends, vacations…you name it!

As always, I don’t write this from a perspective of “I’ve got this figured out”.  I like writing about things that I learn about that I know I need to work on and I’m assuming you may struggle with it too.

I don’t know about you but I feel like those of us that live in Stapleton are even more susceptible than others to this comparison game for a few reasons.

First, the cost of living in the neighborhood is relatively high and the diversity of income levels in the neighborhood is low.  This isn’t meant to blame anyone or say we’re better than anyone else, those are just facts.   So we’re surrounded by people that tend to make above average household incomes..which can create a breeding ground for the comparison game.

Second, a lot of people in Stapleton are families with young kids.  Not all, but a lot.  So many of use are surrounded by other people in the same phase of life.  I think that creates a natural tendency to compare yourself to others.  If your neighbors were empty nesters, for example, I don’ think you feel naturally inclined to compare yourself to them.  They’re in a totally different stage of life, so there is no pressure there.

So, are you living this comparison game?  If you’re still not sure here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1.  Do I feel like no matter what I do I can’t keep up with it all?
  2. When something good happens to someone else, am I sometimes secretly envious?
  3. Would people say you are go getter, “type A” personality?  (If so, what fuels that drive to always be doing?)

If you answered yes to any of those 3 questions I think you may be in the comparison game.  (By the way I think we’re all in it as humans, it’s just a matter of how much you’re in it)

What is the harm in all this comparison that we’re doing?

The harm is we’re living lives of discontentment because of our never ending comparisons to others.  As Theodore Roosevelt put it, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

It’s a nasty cycle.  We fall into comparison mode, then we try to match or exceed that other person in that area.  The problem is even if we hit our goal and achieve that goal we’re not satisfied.  We’re not fulfilled.  There is always another comparison to make, another area where someone is doing better than you.  Then the cycle starts over.

It’s a rat race!  It’s keeping up with the Joneses and it never stops!  We never end up joyful or fulfilled.

Even if you aren’t looking around and comparing yourself to others I bet you are bombarded with messages from the world that are designed to breed discontentment in your life.  That’s their job as advertisers; convince you that you need their product to be happy.

If you’re aware that you’re living a life of constant comparison what can you do about it?

The #1 thing you can do is build gratitude into your life on a daily basis.  It’s hard to be down on your circumstances when you are aware of all the great blessings you already have in your life.  But the key is “daily basis”.  You can’t be grateful once and be “fixed”, you have to work on being grateful daily and that doesn’t happen without effort.

Do you have any of these things to be grateful for?

Faith, spouse, kids, roof over your head, job, friends, car, skills, talents, amazing Colorado weather, mountains 1 hour away, freedom of religion, highly rated schools, clothes, hot water for a shower, doctors when you’re sick, etc.  This list could go on and on.  Just the fact that you live in the USA means you have a ton of opportunity and very likely you have all the basics you need compared to many areas of the world. (You’ve already won the “ovarian lottery” as Warren Buffett puts it!)

So how do we keep these blessing top of mind so we’re living in gratitude rather than discontentment?

Here are a few simple ideas I’ve learned from others:

Write in the The 5 Minute Journal – This little 5 minute journal was created to build gratitude in your daily life.  Literally 2.5 minutes in the AM and 2.5 minutes in the PM and it will make you more grateful.  It asks you a few basic questions each day that shift your mindset away from comparison and towards appreciation for what you have.

Create An Intentional Morning Routine – What you do first thing in the morning makes a difference.  Rather than waking up just in time to get everything done in a hurried fashion or waking up and looking at your phone what if you got up 30 minutes earlier, had some coffee or tea and read something that put you in a grateful state of mind.  You could then look at your day, see what you have coming and set realistic expectations for what you’ll achieve that day and how you can make the most of it.  This has made a huge difference in my life.  I’m in a better mindset and mindful about what I do that day if I follow my morning routine.

Exposure yourself to as few ads and comparisons as possible – Mute the tv during commercials, don’t read magazines that are full of ads and maybe shut down Facebook (or limit it) if you can’t help but compare yourself to everyone on there and their picture perfect  moments they post.  The less ads & images you see that tell you who you are and what you have is not enough the better.

Those are just three practical ideas that would get you off on a great start towards living a life of gratitude rather than discontentment.

If this topic hits home for you and you want to delve a little deeper here are two more resources for you:

Here is a helpful blog post called “A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others” from one of my favorite blogs that I think you may like.

Another great inspiration in this area for me was the sermon from Nick Callaway at “Go Church” last Sunday.  His sermon, which you can watch at the bottom of this post if you want, really hit on this comparison struggle we all face.

Going from comparison to contentment is a journey though and I think it’s something we will all have to deal with our whole lives.  But even becoming aware of it is a huge step and I hope this has helped.  If you have ideas, struggles or examples of what’s worked for you from your life related to this topic please share them!

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