Race with yourself not with others

By  Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

Here’s a nugget of wisdom from Jordan Peterson, a psychologist in the U.S. who is getting a great following from young Americans for his sensible rules of life, that he wrote in his best-selling book, “12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos.”  One of his rules is to stop comparing yourself with others but compare yourself only with yourself.  Especially with your old self or who you were yesterday so that you can monitor your progress and not the progress of others.

You and I have an innate need to compare ourselves to other people. If you notice that you’re more skilled and successful than others around you, your brain will release a hormone called serotonin. When you have serotonin in your blood, you feel confident and in control of your life. But the instant your mind notices someone who threatens your status in society and makes you look incompetent; your brain restricts serotonin. You start doubting yourself and feel a low sense of self‐worth. Now that we are connected to billions of people online, it doesn’t take

long for our brain to notice ways in which we compare unfavorably to other people. You think you’re a good guitar player? There are dozens of exceptional guitar players on YouTube that will make you look completely amateur…You’re proud of graduating from that local college with a

business degree? Your friend just posted a photo on Facebook of him graduating from a prestigious university with an MBA.

When you’re exposed to so many people that are better than you, and the gap between you and someone else is huge, you’re more inclined to lose hope, stop taking action, and let your life slip into chaos. The best way to prevent this from happening is to stop comparing yourself to who someone else is today and start comparing yourself to who you were yesterday.

The task of comparing yourself with yourself is called self-improvement monitoring.  This self-improvement monitoring should be done on a daily basis so as to make corrections immediately before a bad practice in us escalates and becomes a vice.  This self-monitoring is actually an old traditional spiritual practice in the Church called examination of conscience.  In examining ourselves, (usually done at the end of the day) we simply ask ourselves, “What have I done good today?  What have I done bad?  How can I do better?”  It can be in the area of using our time: did I waste it on senseless things or was I productive with my day today?  Or dealings with others:  did I lose my temper or became irritated with someone? Or was I able to practice patience and is making progress on it.

Of course, it goes without saying that we have to be truthful with ourselves in doing the self-examination otherwise it would be an exercise in futility. Until you face the truth, any improvement you make on who you were yesterday will be meaningless. Instead of moving forward, you’ll just be moving sideways. To make forward progress you need to acknowledge

what truth you’re avoiding and what uncomfortable conversations you need to have with yourself and others.  We need to include others because there are areas in our behavior that we could not see is faulty unless others point it out to us.

If you are faithful to your daily self-examination coupled with the constant improvement mindset, you can look back to who you were a year ago or two years ago and feel more confident and have less self-doubt knowing you are growing.  John Maxwell says, “Growth is essential to happiness.”  If we think that we are growing even in just one area in life say, having learned a new skill of playing the guitar, we feel satisfied.  And more satisfaction awaits when we try to grow in the many other aspects of our life.