The other day I found myself sucked into the social media abyss and playing the comparison game. You know the game I’m referring to – where you look at all the cool things your former colleagues and/or classmates are up to and how much further ahead they are than you in their careers, businesses, finances, or all of the above….
I had just chided one of my Forbes readers for doing this (she was comparing herself to former business school classmates in the race to break into the executive level). Yet, here I was making the exact same mistake! A former colleague from my media days had just moved into a new job at a top strategy firm. Immediately, I felt the pang of inadequacy, even though: 1) we have made completely different career choices (he’s traditional employment, I’m an entrepreneur); and 2) I had a chance to work with same strategy firm years back and declined. If it wasn’t right for me then, it’s not suddenly right for me now, just because someone else is doing it!
The Comparison Game is a bad habit, and it’s easy to waste time and energy on it if you’re not careful. I find that it’s easier to replace a bad habit with a good one, rather than just try to stop it altogether. When you’re tempted to play the Comparison Game, here are five good habits to adopt instead:
1 – Change the subject
If you’re surfing the internet, by all means keep researching, but change the topic. If you’re talking to someone, by all means keep the conversation going, but talk about something else. You don’t need to drop everything; just make a little pivot. At the very least, this one small move gives you practice in self-awareness, discipline, and redirecting your focus.
2 – Say a thank you
When you feel that onset of inadequacy as you compare yourself to whomever else, say a silent thank you for something you do feel good about. For example, think about an upcoming project you’re excited about or a fun project you recently completed. In this way, you consciously shift that feeling of lack to a feeling of wholeness.
3 – Take an exercise break
Taking a walk is good exercise, and removing yourself from where you are is a physical reminder to shift your attention. If you don’t want to leave your desk, stretch in place, or try some chair yoga poses. I once had a colleague who set her watch to chime every hour or so, at which point she would stand up and do a set of squats or some other small movement at her desk. You can keep a set of dumbbells at your desk if you want to incorporate weights.
4 – Meditate
I have guided meditations I listen to that range in length up to an hour. You can also just breathe deeply a few times if you want to keep things simple and short. Forcing yourself to focus on your breath and quiet your mind will interrupt the Comparison Game and give your mind a rest as a bonus.
5 – Drink a glass of water
Like meditating, drinking more water is on a lot of “should” lists. If you turn your bad habits into a prompt for drinking more water, you’ll finally get your ounces in!
By turning your temptation to compare into a prompt for doing something good for you, you turn a negative into a positive. What good habit will you adopt instead of playing another round of the Comparison Game?