"The best way to keep the big bad world at bay, is to keep your own small world close at hand”
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich - pixels
I don’t know who wrote these wise words. I wish that I did know so that I could fully credit them here.
In truth, they were discovered several years ago on a mindless worm- hole meander on the web following a google search on ‘career happiness’.
They have been a guiding light for me ever since.
So many times we drift in and out of others people’s lives as envious onlookers, losing the safe anchor of our own world. Often seeing their world as bigger, better and brighter than ours. Attributing success to their brilliance, our inadequacy or the fact that life’s a bitch and they got ‘the breaks’.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”.
I can at least credit this one to Theodore Roosevelt.
It’s not so much a case of the glass is half empty or that the glass is half full – more a case of ‘it’s someone else’s glass’.
Learning to stay in your own life is useful if you are someone who:
o Worries about the world, the future and all the things that you cannot control.
o Feels a constant need to please others or live up to the expectations of the wider world.
o Is happy enough until you discover that someone else has something bigger, better, or brighter than your thing.
There is tremendous comfort and power in staying in our own life. But it’s not always easy. To quote the insightful Brene Brown:
“Letting go of comparison is not a to-do list item. For most of us, it’s something that requires constant awareness. It’s so easy to take our eyes off our path to check out what others are doing and if they’re ahead or behind us.”
Here are four tactics that will help you do that.
1. Understand what your own small world looks like.
I mean, really understand it.
Specifically – who is in it? Who matters most?
We used to play this game as kids where you had to choose 10 people and only 10 people that you would choose to bring with you to live on a desert island. After the first 4 or 5 (usually best buddies) we had great conversations on the merits of who and who would not make the final list.
Well, the grown up version allows us 20. If you had to choose 20 – who would they be?
Ok – I’ll cut you some slack on the 20 – you might go to 25/30 – but you can’t have 50.
The point is – are you spending your time, effort and love on these people?
Or are you driving your effort towards the fickle click of a digital like?
There is only so much time and emotion to go around.
As you strive to be loved and adored by a bigger world – when did you last spend time on or with those who already ‘like’ you?
2. Context is everything – understand the bigger picture.
We never ever really know the context of other people’s lives. What looks shiny on the outside might not be so sparkly on the inside. Everyone has their challenges. And even if it is shinier, they too are still looking upwards on life’s totem pole comparing their world to a shinier one!
People make trade-offs all the time –health vs wealth, career vs family, time vs money. Focus on the trade-offs in your own life. Remember that in saying ‘no’ to this thing, you get to say ‘yes’ to that thing.
No matter what they say, no-one has it all. At least they don’t have it all, all at once, all of the time!
‘Be here now ‘ is a popular mantra in the meditation space. It also works well for career and life. Having the courage of your conviction with the career and life choices that you have made for today, while being curious and invested in the plans that you might make tomorrow.
3. Inspiration vs envy.
This is a super concept from Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. She talks about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A key difference between the two is how we feel about others’ success. A fixed mindset is jealous. A growth mindset is inspired.
So for those with perceived lives bigger and better than yours – what can you learn from them?
What is one thing that you can admire and bring into your own small world?
What is it that you have most in common with that person and gives evidence to what you too can achieve?
4. Choose choice.
Life isn’t fair. The world is not equal. S**t happens.
However what is fair is that we all get the same choices on how we react to situations. Namely:
· How do I think about this situation?
· What can I do?
Writers much more able than I have written about our basic human power to choose how we think in the most challenging of situations, see Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl .
But the superpower belongs to us all.
Recently I was coaching a colleague who had taken the decision to step out of an exciting corporate life to go freelance. It was a work/life choice as her children are young. While it was something that she wanted to do, it was very hard to let go. Her career, financial independence and wallet all took a bashing. Her small world was getting smaller, and it was hard to keep the big world at bay. We talked through the concept of ‘choosing choice’ and it was useful for her to reflect on:
· Chose to think – “This is hard, but I choose to do it because it suits my world for now”.
· Chose to do – “I’ll do one small action each week to build my new career “.
What other people think of you is really none of your business, it’s their business. What you think of you is your business!
Questions to ask yourself:
Who is in your world? Who matters most to you?
Are you spending enough time and emotion on them?
What choices do you have about how you think today?
What choices do you have about what you do today?
And to finish in the wise words of Oscar Wilde:
Be yourself (and stay in your own life) – everyone else is already taken.
Thanks for reading.
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