“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Entrepreneurship

Attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the U.S., this quote is one to ponder. As we get closer to the holidays, we tend to reflect and compare our accomplishments over the last year with other people. Folks around the dinner table will be asking if you’ve broke even yet, while they rave about their kid who sold her company to Google following her engagement to an investment banker.  We may see an old school chum driving their Maserati down Main Street with some hot date in the passenger seat.

There are dozens of other ways where “comparison” can devolve to “envy.” When we compare ourselves to others, we can’t assume that what we see is an ideal picture. For example, your chum in the Maserati Ghibli could be parading around because he doesn’t want observers or his girlfriend to know that his business is on the skids. You may discover that your family friend’s daughter with the windfall of cash and a rich fiancé is in therapy twice a week to manage her severe OCD. Talk to just about anyone who has more luck or accomplished a lot more than you, and you’ll find their “baggage” to be similar and often weightier than yours.

Envy is a delusion. I credit the author and psychologist, Jordan Peterson, with his way of shifting our thinking away from envy to “comparing ourselves to ourselves.”  He insists we look at the actions we have taken toward our goals. For example, if you have become just 1% more knowledgeable, more efficient, or more productive each month for the last 11 months, that’s approximately 12.68% better than last year at this time. (This calculation is based on the concept of compound interest, where the growth each month is not just additive but also compounds on the previous month’s growth.)

According to Peterson, and I paraphrase — neurophysiologically and neuropharmacologically, we know that the core of joy and positive emotion is observation of progress toward a desirable goal. Shift your focus from self-delusion to self-comparison. It’s kinder, measurable and better for your well-being.

Want to accrue more “compound interest” in your personal growth each month? Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com. Learn about my CoreCoaching method at www.MindfulCommunication.com.

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Who is Rebecca Shafir? Speech/language pathologist, author, voice and executive function coach


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