This an edited episode of my livestream show, The Courageous Entrepreneur. It airs Monday through Friday at 11:30am ET on Facebook. You can visit my business page to watch all of the unedited videos and Like the page to get notified when I go live.
Once we make the decision to go out on our own, it’s inevitable that we’ll start comparing ourselves to others who are also self-employed.
This type of behavior is deeply ingrained in us and can be seen in toddlers who recognize that another child has something they don’t and then baby B tries to take that thing away from baby A.
Growing up we’re compared to siblings, classmates, and neighbors in addition to seeing mass media and comparing ourselves to the rail thin models, journalists, and actors.
There’s healthy comparison which can work to empower us and then there’s unhealthy comparison which works to disempower and demoralize us.
Let’s look at the two of them.
Healthy comparison happens when you’re doing research and you look at the leaders in your profession or industry and you search for best practices and what works with the focus on reducing your learning curve or your path on the way to a specific outcome.
You look at websites for what’s working in terms of layout and content. You study offerings to see how things are packaged.
Then you think about what you’ve found and borrow what you like that works and modify it to fit yourself and your background.
During healthy comparison you don’t judge yourself as lacking or the other person as better than you. They’re where they are on their path and you’re where you are on yours.
Unhealthy comparison is when you look at what others do and focus on your inadequacy.
They’ve got a better website. They’re more successful. They’re more attractive. They speak better. Their message is more powerful.
Here the focus is not on what you can learn from them but on how lacking you are.
For an entrepreneur this is the path to depression, frustration, and misery.
This sort of comparison can happen even in supposedly supportive groups like a mastermind, accountability, or course group and that can lead to competition within the group.
But that’s not exactly negative.
The difference between healthy competition and unhealthy competition is the focus and interpretation of things.
Healthy competition is when the success of one person doesn’t mean failure for another. Where each member of the group is truly happy for the other and uses their colleague’s success as inspiration. Another’s success can be motivating. This happened with me when I met my friend John Cote, the host of the podcast Healthcare Elsewhere.
I met John not long after he launched the show and found his story so inspiring that I decided to launch my own show.
John’s attitude was “if I can do it anyone can” and I believed that too.
They’re different and we’re different.
But I think we all know the pain of comparing ourselves – especially in business – and finding ourselves lacking. Like I said, it can lead to depression and demotivation.
So how do you stop comparing yourself in a negative way?
Here are 7 things you can do.
- Be Grateful. This is a critical part of a successful attitude and triggers you energetically to become more attractive in every way. Think about it. Have you ever worked with ungrateful people? They never said thank you for help they got. They had this sense of entitlement every time the company or anyone else gave them something. They complain a lot because things aren’t good enough. Be grateful in all things for what you have. When you focus on the positive you attract people and opportunities.
- Be Happy for Others. I had to face the fact that at one point I was a very unhappy person. And I was jealous about the opportunities and successes that others got. Why didn’t good things happen to me? When I realized what I was thinking and how out of alignment those thoughts were with what I said I believed in my heart, I worked to become truly happy for others. I not only would tell them congratulations but I started sending notes and cards. I’d leave post-it notes for co-workers celebrating the smallest thing they did. I bought silly gifts for friends who got promotions. And I focused on becoming the best at what I did by building on my strengths and not focusing as much on my non-strengths.
- Examine your commitment. Sometimes we’ve been seduced into believing there’s a short cut to our goal. You might be able to avoid mistakes by following someone else’s path but you still have to make your own. So If you see someone making strides that you’re not, study what they’re doing. Would you be willing to make the sacrifices they made to get where they are? There’s an old saying that “everyone wants to be an author but no one wants to write the book.” Meaning that we might want the outcome but may not want to do the work to get it. How badly do you want to achieve something and why. Connecting to your core motivation can help you strengthen your commitment. But focus on what your achievement will do for others because the core mission we all share is to be in service to others.
- Be crystal clear on your goals. “More money”…”more clients”….wanting to “serve more people” isn’t clarity. A penny is more money and I know I want more than that. Write your goals down (by hand if at all possible) and let them rest for a few days. If you read them and can ask questions about them then they’re not clear. The more clear you become the easier it is for your brain to focus on the outcome and support you to make it happen. And of course focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t.
- Focus on your own mission. Each of us has our own path to walk. Embrace your own mission of service and focus on that “inch wide and a mile deep” segment of the population you most want to serve. And truly see your work as a mission. When you do and you communicate what that is then those who are inspired by it while get behind you. You become easier to refer and easier to identify as an expert.
- Track your results. As legendary management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets improved.”From monitoring our diets by writing down what we eat, to improving our fitness by tracking our steps, humans are motivated by tracking results. This is the only way you can really treat your business like a business. And it can inspire incremental improvements over your own (or your team’s) past performance. When I work with clients, this is an important part of supporting them with their goal attainment. It’s often the micro movements — toward a clear goal — that deliver the results we want.
- Practice good self care. Being self-employed is exciting and depressing all at the same time. It’s frustrating and liberating. It’s full of dichotomies and trade-offs. And while every entrepreneur works long hours building their business, we can’t afford not to take good care of ourselves. Sleeping well, working out, eating healthy food are all important in helping us manage our emotional state. Work too many 20 hour days and you’ll become cranky and miserable. It’s hard not to compare yourself to someone wildly successful who looks like they’ve got this great life with plenty of time off. But don’t do it. Remember, you’re seeing the outside that they likely work hard to control. Who knows what they wrestle with to make their life look so good.
- Change your inner monologue. Each of us has this constant chatter that runs through our heads nearly all day long. We figure out problems….we comment on the news….all inside our heads. Well that inner monologue can descend into a raging inner critic that can leave you comparing yourself to everyone from that skinny neighbor who runs past your office window every day to the Facebook friend who continuously posts these “Love my life!” posts. While that might sound like you (’cause after all it IS your voice), it’s not you. It’s the voice of your worst critic from your past. Or it’s the voice of a situational critic — also from your past. Tell them to shut up. Start tuning in to what you’re saying to yourself, and change the script. Throw out the old tapes. They’re not serving you anyway. Be kind. Especially to yourself.
- Build relationships that support you. This is critical. Even if you’re an introvert like me, the chances are good you reach a point where you need to talk to actual adult humans. Cats are nice but not the same. There’s a reason prisons use solitary confinement as a punishment. So join productive and emotionally supportive groups online as well as in person and cultivate relationships with others who are similar to you. One of the great bonuses of taking courses or attending events is they often have a Facebook group. I’ve made some wonderful friendships with people all over the world as a result of online groups.
- Celebrate. This is an important part of the whole business building, Law of Attraction stuff. I am working to improve on this. Too often we go from task to task, client to client, project to project without taking time to truly reward ourselves for our achievements. And if you’re like me — an adult survivor of child abuse — this may truly be a struggle. Those old tapes I mentioned in number 8 will replay and tell you that you don’t deserve to treat yourself. But oh yes you do. It’s demoralizing to continue to work without being rewarded. And you really do deserve to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. I treat myself to lunch on the sofa with one of my three cats and a magazine. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk down to the river a few blocks away and just savor the quiet. Do something for yourself that feels like an indulgence. We know that gratitude is an important part of telling the Universe you’re ready for more. I think it’s also an important part of telling God thank you for the blessings you have.
Focusing on your own issues…taking care of yourself…being grateful for everything in your life…all of that is important for you to manage your stress, stay motivated, and to continue growing in a healthy way.