What motivates you to be your best? Who do you use as comparison to push your limits?
In years of competition from academics to business to athletics and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve found the best competition to be the same person every time: Myself.
You always have been and always will be your own best competitor.
Have you ever worked really hard only to look to someone else and be disappointed that your progress was not as advanced as theirs? Was it frustrating? Did it motivate or demotivate you?
If you’re anything like most of us, this experience probably took the wind out of your sails. You think, what’s the point of working so hard if I still can’t be as good as him or her? When it comes to peak performance, we want to avoid frustration at all cost. If we don’t, it may keep us from reaching our full potential.
Comparison is futile
In a world where comparisons happen non-stop, it is difficult to look outside yourself and to ever be content with who you are. There’s always someone who’s a tad bit better.
The only solution is to reach inside and measure against what Warren Buffett calls your own internal yardstick. There is no more accurate measure for comparison than who you were yesterday, last week or last decade, when you were at your best. Or perhaps the person you know you can be, based on your values, purpose and mission.
Nothing useful ever comes from comparison to others. Either you see yourself as better than someone and you get lazy and perhaps arrogant, or you see someone else as better than you and you feel like all your hard work is for naught.
It’s a fool’s game – none of us is inherently above or below the person next to us. We are who we are – not one of us is exactly alike. The only direct and honest comparison is within yourself. Everything else is apples to oranges.
My rule of thumb is that you are only allowed to compare yourself to someone else if their life situation is identical to your own. Good luck finding that match.
And one thing is for sure. No matter how hard you work and how dedicated you are, there will always be someone who can run a little faster, jump a little higher, score a little better or look a little nicer in a swimsuit. And if there’s not, you can bet someone is coming up fast behind you.
So how can you ultimately always win in life? Become your own best competitor.
3 Reasons Why You are Your Own Best Competitor
1. You will always be motivated.
Having an image of your most recent past limits is the perfect thing to push you to the next level. If you ran 7 flights of stairs yesterday, then do 8 today. Who cares if the guy next to you did 15? It doesn’t make a bit of difference. You are a more fit person today than you were yesterday. Your own progress is all you need.
2. You will continuously be your personal best.
If you commit to a slightly higher standard of yourself every day, you will always be at the top of your game. And that game will only get better. But if for some reason you fall off your mark, you will always have the past image of your peak performance to show you what you’re capable of.
When Donald Trump went bankrupt, he was asked how hard it was to become wealthy again. He said the first time was by far the most difficult. Once you’ve done it, you know what’s possible and then it’s just a matter of doing it again. Show yourself what you’re capable of.
3. Your coach will forever be with you.
You’ll never have to complain that your workout or business partners flaked on you or that they are getting too lazy to keep up. He or she will always be at your side and grabbing at your heels to be sure you’re giving it your all. After all, he is inside you, at your core.
So don’t worry about the others. When it comes to progress, they don’t matter anyway. What matters is that we all have our unique dreams, goals and desires. And then taking the actions and building the habits necessary to live those dreams. No one else wants exactly what you want. So why compare yourself to them?
If you make yourself your one and only best competitor, then you will have already won. Your progress will be nothing but fulfilling and it will stack up to achieve even more in the days to come.
Choose your own path and make comparison impossible.
Robert Frost said that taking the road less travelled has made all the difference. It always has and it always will. The path of the crowd is one overflowing with the “who’s better” mentality. If you choose a career that is hyper-competitive and over-saturated where everyone steps on each others’ toes to get to the top, you are going to be forced to compare yourself to others as they will all be doing the same with you. Comparison will be all too easy.
The interesting thing about the road less travelled is that there is often no one else travelling your exact path. You will see people on similar or familiar looking roads but no one exactly over the top of yours. This provides you with limitless inspirations as you see other people’s journeys but makes comparison nearly impossible.
You don’t even have to try to find a life purpose, career or industry where it’s difficult to compare. If you make one choice: to take the road less travelled, you will have no choice but to measure using your internal yardstick. Nothing else will be accurate. You will be your own best competitor and victory will be yours for the taking. The same will be the case for every one of the people wandering their own paths around you.
If you’re going to play the game, pick your competitor wisely and set it up so you can win.
The notion of comparison will transform into inspiration and encouragement. Your own path and competition will inspire you to be the best person you ultimately can be.
Now go on and embrace your competitive side. See where it takes you.
Read more inspiring articles from Scott Dinsmore at Live Your Legend where he is committed to making your life and career a success through “action-based reading”.
I love this post. I have been in situations when I was really proud of something……then found someone else had done it better and was crushed. It took me a long time to realise that what anyone else does is not relevant to me, the only time I should feel crushed is if I haven’t given 100%.
But I think we all need reminding of that at some point so thank-you!
Thanks so much Kate. It’s amazing how quickly our perspective can change of ourselves and our accomplishments when looked at from the light inside each of us versus in the shadow of others. It seems like comparison is non stop and very tough to avoid these days (especially if you watch any tv or ever read the news). But when you are able to stop it, the calm and satisfaction is pretty awesome! I’m glad this served as a little reminder. It did for me too.
You are right–the only time you can reasonably be disappointed with yourself is when you have not given it your all. That is the only thing you are in control of!
To staying competitive….in an empowering way,
Great guest post, Alvin and Scott!
I love the point about people comparing themselves to others. People tend to underestimate everyone and even themselves. This crazy world has taught them NOT to acknowledge their personal success, for it seems there are a lot of people “better” than you out there. Yet after all, you are born into this world not to prove you are the best – since there is no universal definition of the best – but to prove you make the best of yourself.
Right on! No one can define your “best” or your “success” other than yourself. So many people just adopt some general definitely or rule for what those two words mean to them. This is asking to be disappointed. We must take the time to make those definitions wholly our own. Every person’s circumstances are different than the next so there is no way we can reasonably compare. Define your success and compare to that!
Have fun with it,
A great post – being your own competitor knowingly rather than just that voicein your head saying when you have not achieved something makes so much sense ..celebrate your successes and then push to the next level
Absolutely right Karen. Celebrate your success and celebrate it in every way possible. Not just the big yearly or 10-year milestones, but also the ones that happen every week and every day. The more we celebrate the things we do to get us closer to our dreams, the more we are motivated to continue down our path. Celebrate the small things and the big things will come before you know it.
I really appreciate your thoughts Karen,
First rate! Another issue I have encountered with the process of comparing myself to others stems from bias at the SOURCE of the data. You are comparing your inner scorecard with someone else’s outer representation of themselves. A recipe for disappointment…
I could not agree more Mike. I think we all have experienced this. When we get caught up in comparison, it’s also easy to get caught up in focusing on how others perceive us instead of just being who we are (warts and all) and letting the world perceive that. They can like it or they can hate it but most importantly is that you are being genuine and authentic. I used to let this get me for years with a buddy of mine until one day it hit me that he was nothing like the representation he was giving the world (and me). Once you recognize this pattern in a person, it will not be hard at all to notice it next time it comes up. Keep an eye out for this because it can make you doubt yourself more than most things. Be conscious of it and you’ll see right through it. Next thing you know you are back on track with your own best competition!
Then maybe you can help them find their authentic self. After all, authenticity feels better than any misrepresentation one could give to the world and themselves.
Awesome point Mike.
Scott, another triumph here. A post about winning that isn’t all just about winning but more about the positive elements we can inject ourselves into a winning mentality. Great angle, really great angle. It reminded me of the old (and still gold but not found around as much these day) teaching of having a PMA – Positive Mental Attitude. Cause if we need to be our self-coach, self-mentor, and self-suuporter we need to find the best way of looking at things. It doesn’t need to be a (comparison based) record broken rather a (individually earnt) personal best. Then we’re a winner all ends up. Your posts are so spot on and full of motivation. Really uplift me, thanks Scott.
So glad you seem to see the light as much as I did John! That’s the best part about being your own best competitor. There’s really no losing and there’s definitely no jealousy for others around you. That alone can be very powerful.
I really appreciate the thoughts,
Hi Scott, Excellent post which makes me think of another aspect of competition, namely, what does “best” or “better” mean? Sometimes, it’s an easy call. In many Olympic events, the fastest is the best. But in others, such as gymnastics and figure skating, judges decide. Try as they may, their decision can’t be absolutely objective.
I’ve competed in some speech contests, and one time I did so well that many people (including me) thought that I should have won. But I didn’t. What helped me deal with it was reading an article in Toastmasters Magazine which basically said that if you win a contest, it doesn’t mean that you were the best speaker, and if you don’t win it doesn’t mean that you weren’t the best.
Excellent point Madeleine. First off, I am a fellow Toastmasters member. What a fantastic organization! They make a great point in that article. The best comes down to how you feel you performed. You will not always win but if you feel like you worked harder than anyone else in the room and as hard as you possibly could then there is peace and satisfaction in that. Knowing you gave it every once you had is what I call victory. Sometimes the judges will agree with you and sometimes they won’t. You will feel proud either way.
Thanks for the comment!
Interesting way of looking at things. I am not sure if I like to compete with my own self as I like to think I am content within myself and same time motivated to do what I believe in without the challenge of competing.
I do see what you are trying to say here and point is well taken.
I always find diverse views and guest posts here which is great thing.
Thanks Preeti! You make a good point. I think the neat thing about competing with yourself is that it’s not really competition at all. It’s just doing your own thing inside yourself. So I think you and I are actually on the same page. No doubt that competition has it’s place, but self competition is a powerful model for most situations.
Thanks for reading and giving your thoughts!
I think you’ve shared a really powerful life lesson here. When we strive to the standards of others it becomes a fool’s errand – there is no way of ever winning. Using that internal yardstick means we can compare and if we’re honest we can see how well we are growing. It is not always easy to detach from comparing with others, however I’ve found that through practice and hard work I can worry less about others. When I compete with myself I always feel like a winner!
So true Phil. The internal yardstick really is the only one that will accurately measure what you’re up to. Use it and it’s tough to lose! Comparison never seems to really work very well for me. At times it can be a good motivator but usually it just ends in frustration.
Thanks for the thoughts and enjoy the yardstick,
Like you, I do use myself as a yardstick. I’m constantly learning songs that challenge my singing range. So far, I’ve met every vocal challenge. It makes for a fun and wild life … Others have different talents so it doesn’t make sense to measure yourself by them.
thx for a groovy post! G.