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Comparison is the Thief of Joy, but How Do You Stop?

Years ago at my job, I was working extremely hard on something I was very passionate about. In this case, it was a programming course on Bootstrap that I was working on over at Code School. I was creating something that I could be extremely proud of (and now that it’s launched, I can say I am proud of it!), but at the time I let something I shouldn’t have got to me — comparison.

blindfolded person
comparison is the thief of joy

I compared how happy I was with how happy others working on the project, and wondered why I wasn’t happier.

I compared the launch of the course to other past launches that were more successful.

I compared the amount of attention and praise the course received to things from the past.

I compared how many tweets and social shares went out about the course to other launches.

I compared the number of support requests that came in.

I compared the number of sign-ups from people who played the course to others.

I compared how well the course did over time to similar launches.

I compared how hard I worked to how hard other people worked.

As a result of these comparisons, instead of feeling accomplished and happy about the launch, I was dwelling on statistics — both hard stats and ones I was making up in my head.

Competition or Community?

These thoughts I was having were breeding competition, but I didn’t even know it. Rather than thinking about how I could work with others on each of these points, I was looking for vanity metrics that hurt my emotional well-being.

Be Realistic

Unrealistic expectations are a common trait for me to dig into comparison. If I feel something is an unrealistic expectation, I have a tendency to compare the expectation to other things to demonstrate how unrealistic it is. Setting reasonable expectations for myself has been extremely helpful in lowering the amount of comparison I realize myself drawing upon. Learning how to set reasonable expectations is an ever-ongoing process, but is worth the attention.

Recognize Jealousy and Blame

Jealousy and blame and both emotions that thrive in comparison. Rather than focusing on a comparison, focus on why you’re feeling jealous or where the blame is coming from? What can you do about it? Can you talk to the target of your emotion?

Embrace Gratitude

One thing I’ve started trying to do lately is to never say “I’m Sorry”. This isn’t a power move from some book, but it’s about how apologies are given. Instead, I’m trying to say “Thank you for your patience” in these situations. The mindset shift from reaction to gratitude takes work, as does the shift from comparison to gratitude.

How do you deal with comparison? How do you keep a healthy, optimistic mindset when you find yourself going down a negative path?

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I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

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