Aiming for Worthy Goals in the Comparison Game

Do you ever play the comparison game? The one where you measure your worth based on how you stack up compared to the people around you? If this were a sport, I’d most likely have a trophy case filled with dust-coated awards. We must know that much of our comparison game playing is useless as it only makes us feel badly about ourselves. What’s worse is making our comparison game about things unworthy of our attention.

I remember when the hubs and I first moved to the tundra and bought a house. We were eager to make a few cosmetic improvements, including new flooring. But before making a final decision about flooring, the owner of the flooring store suggested we visit a home of one of his satisfied customers. We did and their flooring looked great. But that wasn’t all that looked great. The entire home looked pretty great, i.e. better than mine–newer, bigger, and with amenities we could not afford. Worst of all, those very nice homeowners had the audacity to look several years younger than the hubs and me!

I pouted in the car on the way home. The hubs asked what was wrong and I lamented over how that young couple had a nicer home than us and how it seemed unacceptable since we were obviously at similar life stages. Had we fallen behind? Had we chosen wrong careers? Was life simply unfair?

“Shame on you,” he said. (seriously, that’s exactly what he said.)

When I raised my eyebrows at his remark, he continued… “No matter how nice a home we buy, there will always be someone with a nicer one.” In other words, there is no end to the path of dissatisfaction.

I settled myself, chastened. The hubs is a good man.

The comparison game can still be a struggle for me, albeit less so when it comes to counting other people’s money. We are fortunate in that our economic circumstance is mostly the result of conscious lifestyle choices and we don’t lack for any necessities and many luxuries. Plus, I no longer desire a bigger house to decorate, heat or clean. I’m not even much interested in cleaning or updating the home we’ve now lived in for over 15 years. These days, I’m not much into “stuff” as a measurement of my worth.

But I do believe there are some suitable measurements against which to gage our performance. For example, I follow the work of other editors and writers and when I discover something praise-worthy, like a beautiful web design or a well-written essay, I want to up my game. I want to do my job well, and hopefully, I will continue to get better by comparing myself to those who do it better.

Some of my friends are great cooks. Others exercise more than me, which isn’t hard to do, but is still admirable. Some folks seek lifelong learning opportunities, travel more, read more and volunteer more. I don’t feel it’s wrong to compare myself to these people–not to shame myself or feel badly about my chosen lifestyle–but to be inspired toward living a more useful life.

Like during a recent dinner date with three of the loveliest friends I could ever ask for; I asked each woman what she was currently reading. I love books and believe a person’s choice of reading material to be insightful. (This is also a good conversation starter.)

One of the women talked about how she is trying to read the bible more. Not books about the bible. Not bible studies. Just plain old digging into God’s Word. Not alone at night before bed or during the early morning hours, but daily at times she would most likely be seen by her children. She spoke of wanting to leave, at the end of her life, a worn and dog-eared bible and memories for her children of regularly having seen their mother immersed in a biblical search for understanding, guidance and encouragement. What a legacy–better than any financial success, career accomplishment or dedication to any particular beauty or fitness routine.

I willingly and humbly compare myself to this woman. And I do not measure up. But I pray that one day I will.171587210


Chicks I Dig

"Jane" by Sarah Dibbern

“Jane” by Sarah Dibbern

Recently at a community leadership breakfast, while noshing bananas and sipping coffee, I listened intently to the keynote speaker explain different leadership styles he’d encountered during his career. And how he’d tried to emulate some of what he’d observed, only to discover that being himself is the best way to lead.

I agree. We must be our true selves cause phony gets sniffed out, shown up and tossed aside. But it’s also important to acknowledge where parts of our best selves come from­– from those who’ve done it first and done it better. In my life, I’ve been blessed to encounter many leaders, women in particular, who by being themselves, have made me a better leader and a better person. So sit back, sip some coffee and have a care. Cause these chicks are awesome.

Mom: Of course everybody’s mom is amazing right? Well, not everybody’s. And if your mom wasn’t very amazing, I’m truly sorry. But try to capitalize on whatever your mom got right. There must be something. My mom is not a good cook and never volunteered for the PTA. But she did teach me independence and encouraged me to follow my dreams. She always believed I could do or be anything I set my mind to, and if she believed it, I believed it. Thanks Mom.

Terry: My aunt who taught me to chew with my mouth closed, to use proper titles when addressing people and to never leave the house without lipstick!

Tracie: A department manager for a global corporation where I once worked. Never threatened by my naïve propensity to speak my mind or go over anyone’s head in search of an answer, Tracie allowed me space to learn from my own mistakes. She never insisted on any one right way to get work done. She fostered a creative environment and often shifted the spotlight away from herself onto those who worked for and with her. She liked to say, “Growth and comfort do not reside together.”

Jane: A professional church worker who, in a male dominated vocation, has taught me that women need not to wait around for men to agree on a woman’s role or worth in the mission field. She balances a healthy respect for religious and cultural traditions with a hysterical irreverence toward oppressive or graceless personalities.

Donna and Debbie: Writer/Editors who’ve opened my eyes to new opportunities and encouraged me to be fearless. Generous with time, talent and praise, they are balm for my insecurity as a writer.

Laura: An editor with the diplomacy of a United Nations peacekeeper. In the creative world of writing, this patient woman never utters public negativity about anyone or their work. But she doesn’t excuse shotty writing and offers constructive feedback that has made me a better writer and editor. She also doesn’t burn bridges and has taught me the value of occasionally keeping my big mouth shut.

Jennifer: The first of my peers to have children, this woman was made to be a mother. My kids came a few years after hers, and with no prior experience with infants, I probably would have parented much differently had I not observed Jennifer’s relaxed and easygoing style. She knows what she believes and parents accordingly, with nary a care for the nattering naybobs that drive many mothers to agonizing self-doubt. A mom who seems to truly relish the role.

I could go on but I’ll stop and encourage you to ponder those who’ve made a significant impression on you. Who is your Tracie, Jane or Jennifer and how will you honor them by becoming an impactful leader in someone else’s life?