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When comparison actually helps

One of the worse thing to do to yourself is to compare who you are and your achievement with others. This is the best way to trigger negative feelings like depreciation, self-blame, unworthiness, or even envy or jealousy.

But comparison can be very useful to track your progresses. It is great when it helps you keep moving towards a goal, even when you feel defeated sometimes. It’s actually healthier as you rely on your own capabilities and boundaries, instead of giving this power to others.

A comparison story

The other day, I started to run again after a long pause and an injury.

I used to run long distance and to seek performance. But I was comparing myself to others references. I ended up pushing too much and had to stop.

Before I decided to go back on runs, I asked myself : what is my real goal? Feeling healthy, both physically and mentally. I definitely don’t need to beat anyone. So I started again… and my brain decided to trick me.

You know, this human brain. It wants to keep us safe. So running fast must be important apparently. Anytime I was passing someone, my brain was like “yeah, great”. Which feels good, right. But well, it was encouraging me to go faster than others, at the expense of my own body. And we are not at the cave age anymore. I don’t have to run for my survival 😅

This is when I consciously redirected my thoughts into self-comparison, so that it stays a healthy and enjoyable practice on the long term.

Rather than comparing my speed with others, with the risk to hurt myself. I compare my performance session after session.

I’m aiming at going a little further or run a little longer, but always considering my own parameters: sensations in my body, breath… and external parameters like temperature, weather, but never someone else’s speed.

And it is the same at work

When you start comparing a team to another, or even a person to another, you are creating opportunities for conflict in the work place.

When a team measures its performance from a period to another, looking at its progress, adjusting to its context, it is most likely to collaborate better and focus on solutions.

It will find better ways to perform and adapt to its changing environment, than if it has to compete against another team. It might seem counterintuitive, but focusing on our own progress by comparing ourselves with ourselves, create healthier conditions to thrive.

So, what do you think? Would you like to switch from competing with others to a measure of progress that you can control?

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