In a typical day, do you bounce back and forth between feeling accomplished and not at all?

For me, one hour I might be in business maintenance-mode and happily chipping away at my "to do" list. The next, I feel like my business, career, and home life is woefully behind where it should be. Then I feel bad for not trying harder. Without thinking in the moment, I toss out my goals, adopt someone else's, and start again... down their path. Then the next couple of hours are fueled by this feeling that I need to catch up. I need to reach more people, do more, achieve more, earn more, be more.

The switch flips when you compare yourself to someone else. Yes, you have your own goals. However, this brake and gas pedal effect causes you to second-guess your plan and try on another. It can be difficult to control the thought, "I should be more like them" and the furious action that comes next.

So, what can you do? I don't know that you can ever completely stop comparing yourself to others. However, you can be more aware of when you're doing it.

  1. Notice when you're comparing yourself to someone else. If you routinely check follower and like counts, realize this is unproductive and distracting you from your long-term goals. Metrics like these are tempting to monitor because they're there, but they don't speak to your impact or real connection with others.

  2. Create a little saying like, "Good for them. But that's not me." Take a quick moment to mentally acknowledge someone else's success and remind yourself that they're on a different path than you.

  3. Keep a short list of your goals handy in your phone or on a piece of paper in your purse or wallet. Revisiting your goals often serves as a clear reminder of what you're shooting for and why you're doing what you're doing now.

  4. Know that the only productive comparison is to yourself. Reflect on where you were last year or 5 years ago and use that knowledge to propel you forward.

The key to any success in business and life is knowing what you want, setting goals, and pursuing them. Switching back and forth to chase someone else's accomplishments is the easiest way to get discouraged, stuck, and unable to make any forward progress.

Keep your eye on your prize -- and while you're at it, be glad for what you have along the way.

If you liked this column, subscribe to email alerts in the Work Life Lab and you'll never miss a post.

Published on: Nov 20, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of