I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and, given the time between receiving the idea and taking action on it, I’m surprised it hung around for so long…
…but I guess this one just didn’t want to leave.
I hope the act of reading my story turns out to be just as insightful as me experiencing it – so here goes…
My activity of choice is to run – I’m a runner. There’s a double-benefit for me when I run. Not only does it improve my physical health, but I also get my best ideas during these times.
When I lace up my running shoes and head out the door, I wonder what idea will hop into my head along the way – and make it home still in one piece.
It was during one particular run that an idea popped into my head – the idea behind this blog post. But it didn’t arrive in the form I would typically receive an idea – this time it was different.
It’s very rare that I bump into fellow runners where I run – it’s a pretty rural area. And on the odd occasion that I do, it’s highly likely I will know them. But, as I say, this day was not a typical day – this day I not only came across another runner, but it was someone I didn’t recognize – a stranger runner!
I was running along merrily listening to the music blasting through my ear buds, when I began my usual ritual of mental preparation for the big hill ahead. As I was picking the most motivational get-me-up-that hill tune on my playlist, I was taken aback by this stranger runner passing me on my right – full disclosure – I did let out a bit of a scream!
We exchanged a polite, yet brief, greeting. I say brief because she ‘blew’ right past me and proceeded to glide up the hill with ease, pony tail swaying side-to-side – I swear it was taunting me!
While I continued running at my much slower pace, of course the self-talk began – why can’t I run that fast, why can’t I make it look easy, why can’t I try harder, why can’t I be stronger, …you name it – the COMPARISON self-talk was in full swing.
As I watched her gracefully hit the peak and disappear over the other side, I felt myself slowing down – losing ground – and feeling like I just wanted to turn around and head home – defeated.
But then it hit me – the idea! Well, it wasn’t an idea at first – it was a voice in my head saying:
“Stop comparing yourself to her and start being inspired by her!”
Instead of turning around in defeat, as I was set to do, I stared straight ahead and kept on running. In fact, I ran a little faster – a little harder – and with a tad more determination than I usually have at this stage of my run.
This moment was an opportunity – an opportunity to choose between the negative thoughts of comparison and the positive thoughts of inspiration – and there it was – the IDEA!
So, what is the difference between comparing our performance to others and being inspired by the performance of others?
In both situations the person we’re comparing ourselves to doesn’t change – but WE certainly do!
When we compare ourselves by how we look, how we perform, what we have (or have not) – this rarely ever serves us well.
We’re determining our value – our worth – by those who we ‘perceive’ to be somehow better-than or more-than. The key word here is ‘PERCEIVE’ – it doesn’t even have to be true or fact-based – if we do it often enough we believe it to be true. Some of us become experts at it!
Yet, what we’re actually doing is comparing what’s going on inside of us to what’s going outside of them – it’s not even a fair match.
So how do we stop this from happening – particularly when these ‘comparing’ thoughts pop into our mind before we’ve even had a chance to prevent them? Go easy on yourself – it’s a normal human response.
But there is something you can do – when you look at someone’s ‘score card’ and begin to COMPARE it to your own, choose instead to be INSPIRED by their score.
It worked for me that day – as I was running along the base of that hill, gazing up at the ‘gazelle’ ahead of me. I didn’t know how she was able to run at that speed – and I would never know – all I knew was she was ‘faster’ than me.
All it took was for me to say to myself: “What an amazing woman – look at her go!” – just one thought and it changed everything in that moment. I was inspired to keep going up that hill – and to push myself a little harder than I usually do. I didn’t feel crappy about my own performance – I felt motivated by hers!
That’s it – one thought – one single thought and it shifted everything for me. Of course, with all change, it takes practice – but it starts with the awareness that we CAN choose one over the other.
Carry this with you – choose inspiration over comparison – because if comparison is the disease, then inspiration is the cure.
Give it a try!
“Comparison is the most poisonous element in the human heart because it destroys ingenuity and it robs peace and joy.” Euginia Herlihy
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt