On of the most difficult things to maintain in life seems to be a sense content with where we are. As we age we have new opportunities, move through different situations, and experience vast change. Throughout all of this we watch as our lives move in new directions, and as the lives of those around us move in new directions. It is easy to feel accomplished when you achieve something, but that sense of accomplishment soon dies off, especially if you are comparing your accomplishments to those of your neighbors, peers, co-workers, and high school classmates.
In his book Considerations, author Colin Wright discusses our competition with others and the way we compare ourselves to those around us. In Wright’s perspective, it is best to judge ourselves according to our own performance and standards. The author writes, “rather than the standards changing with the performance of my peers, the only person I’m competing with is myself. And so long as I continue to grow, I’m winning.” His perspective means that we do not have to achieve the same level of financial success, marital success, or career success as other people to still be successful.
When we focus on our personal growth we are building a sense of self-awareness. We have to focus on where we are now, where we used to be, and what areas we can improve. This self-awareness helps us identify the change we want to see, and allows us to focus in new directions that align with the right change. When we lack this self-awareness and compare ourselves to the successes of others, we fail to understand ourselves and where we can grow, and instead we feel limited because we did not achieve the same results of others.
Knowing where we are now and praising ourselves for our growth takes pressure off ourselves to achieve things immediately. I would love a promotion at work, but my expectation is not that I will be promoted within any specific time frame. My expectations are that I will continue to grow and improve each day and that I will prepare myself so that when an opportunity does arise, I am ready. That may mean that I will not get the next promotion opportunity (I may even be passed over for the next few promotion opportunities) but it does mean that my performance will continue to improve. As my performance improves I will be able to strengthen my work and expand new skills to new areas, and even without a promotion I will gain the respect of not just my colleagues, but of myself. The growth that I focus on and am proud of will be recognized by those around me.