Do you remember standing in line as a kid, waiting for your turn on a carousel? As it spins, you try to select the horse you want. Your horse. Finally, your moment has come. You race for the turnstile, elbowing other kids out of the way and you nab it. Your Horse. You’re elated – you got the one you wanted! Or… the one you thought you wanted. You look around at the other kids’ horses and compare them to yours. That one has a longer mane. That one has a more sparkly bridle. Before you know it, the ride is over and you didn’t even enjoy it because you were so caught up in wondering if you got The Best Horse.
It would be amazing if we grew out of this futile practice of comparing. Sadly, even as adults, we all have an occasional (or constant) impulse to jump on the comparison carousel again. What in the world would entice anyone to engage in such a useless, futile, waste of time?
It’s a very natural inclination to figure out where we fit in the grand scheme of things. What’s our role in the pecking order? Where’s our place on the ladder of success? How do I stack up in my field? The comparison venues are limitless: in appearance, achievements, parenting, travel, intelligence – you name the topic and I’ll bet you can find an element of comparison in it. Even in business. Who’s more successful? Who has a bigger list and more followers? Did she get a Bigger Break than me? IS she at multiple seven figures?
So what’s the big, hairy problem?
It’s twofold. First of all, climbing onto the comparison carousel is like buckling yourself onto a ride that you can’t control. Your self-esteem goes up, then down, depending on whom you’re comparing yourself to. You’re better than, then you’re less than. Over and over and over again. Not because of what you have or have not created, but based on what others have or have not created.
Secondly, when you’re busy watching other peoples’ success, or lack thereof, you’re not concentering on your own business. It’s a twisted type of self-sabotage and procrastination all rolled into one. It is positively crazy-making and gets you no traction whatsoever.
I’d never leave you hanging without the good news, the fix, the how-to guide. The popular advice of “don’t do it” or “don’t think about it” seldom works. You need some real skills on how to shift into a new way of seeing your ‘competitors’. Let’s get an abundance mindset going on – the idea that there’s enough business and clients and money for ALL of us.
When I opened my first private therapy practice in a small town, one of the other therapists offered to take me for lunch. I admit I was suspicious at first. Was he going to lay down the law and protect his turf? Would he try to intimidate me? Not in the least. He welcomed me to the community with open arms and was very transparent in his conviction that enough people need help that there was plenty of business for both of us. He wanted to know my specialties and preferences. We continue to refer to each other and I have paid it forward encouraging other psychotherapists to open practices. I refer clients to them with gusto.
Relax, there’s enough business to go around. If you meet someone whose career isn’t going as swimmingly as it could, and you can help out, offer to do it. OFFER, don’t jump in with “you really should…”. The mark of a truly successful entrepreneur is one who enjoys mentoring as much as being mentored. Help a sister out. Give her a leg up. Do what you can to help someone else flourish. Make any connections you can where it won’t even benefit you directly. People will remember your kindness and generosity. Plus, it feels fantastic.
What about those who are wildly more successful than you? That’s a gift. As the brilliant Canadian entrepreneur, Annette Verschuren, explains in her book Bet On Me,
“I was always looking around me, taking an interest in the people I admired, and dissecting their careers to see how they built their success”
If you feel twinges of jealousy or envy, transform it into inspiration. This is a learning opportunity. Obviously being a copycat is not the goal, and if you are, karma will bite you firmly in the buttocks. Let those more successful motivate you. Learn from them. Let their achievements ignite your drive and determination.
You’re too smart to stay stuck on the comparison carousel. Please exit to the left and get back to work, I can’t wait to see what you create.
One Reply to “The Comparison Carousel”
I agree with everything you say, I even wrote a couple posts about this myself, but it’s still tough sometimes to get off that carousel. It’s a constant struggle.