Why Comparison May Not Be The Thief Of Joy…Entirely

Last week my friend Eric Hinman wrote a post about how he hears from people all the time “I want your life” (and if you look at Eric’s life, it’s pretty easy to see why many would feel that way). We got into this online dialogue about comparison and how it's easy to look at somebody's life from afar and say I want your life but the reality is you don't really know the steps anyone has taken to design the life they live, how they got where they are, what they're dealing with or the tradeoffs that any life choices come with.

Rather than compare and steal joy, what if you used comparison to learn, glean insight and derive value from others lives that you can apply to how you want to live your own life instead? What if comparison was not the thief of joy but an inspiration or source of joy?

In looking at the lives of others we are seeing what's possible, what we can bring into our own life, be given the tools to help us better design the life we want to lead and create genuine happiness and fulfillment for ourselves rather than disappointment by comparison to others.

Roosevelt was the one that said comparison is the thief of joy and to a certain extent I believe that.

However, it's really far more about who you're comparing yourself to and why that can be the thief of joy because comparison by nature; if managed properly, can also provide a tremendous amount of joy. It’s the “What and who” we're comparing ourselves to that’s really the determining factor here.

What if it's not necessary to compare at all? How many times have we used the phrase “There's no comparison”? That may be the most relatable phrase of all.

If you’re a person like me and go to fewer parties, are part of fewer social circles, not around lots of other people constantly and maybe have fewer close friends and yet comparing yourself to highly social people, it's not really a valid comparison. It doesn't necessarily make you antisocial, doesn't necessarily make you an introvert. You may just not be as extroverted or as social as who you're comparing yourself to.

We make these similarly based comparisons in all sorts of other areas as well. If you compare yourself to the fittest person you know or that you see on Instagram then by comparison, you're going to fall short.

If you're watching trained chefs create amazing dishes and food and comparing your own cooking skills to them, well, you can become easily disappointed.

However, I’d argue that when we compare ourselves to things or people in life in a positive, inspirational and aspirational manner, then comparison becomes a positive.

Try using that comparison to the fit person or the trainer out there to help make yourself a little fitter. Remind yourself that that’s 100% of what they do for their livelihood, their brand and who they are. You’re not competing with that! There's “No comparison”. They should be far and away better at what they do professionally than what I do a few times a week for fun.

I enjoy cooking and Kate loves to cook. I’m not comparing myself to Seamus Mullen. I love Seamus btw and I love his videos and I can actually follow them, do a pretty decent job but I'm really only concerned with getting the food from the pan to my face. I don’t have a pressure to worry about presentation or impressing anybody but if I can become a little bit better, great!

It’s pretty simple.

When we want to feel better about ourselves and we’ve all done this; you compare yourself to somebody that's worse off than you.

If you want to make yourself feel pretty bad; compare yourself to people that seem to be way ahead of you.


Take this comparison is the thief of joy thing with a grain of salt.

I believe in comparison. I believe in holding yourself up against your peers and others out there to an extent BUT for the right reasons. So that you can add to your own personal “Purpose, Process and Payoff”. Use comparison to glean certain attributes, skills, ideas, experiences and perspectives and to integrate them into your own life.

We're all guilty of comparison at times; allow for it to bring us joy rather than to rob us of it.

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