#5: The Power of Comparison

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #5

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

The Power of Comparison

by: Allan Vayman

We all get the inclination to compare ourselves to others.  When it comes to the workplace we often compare ourselves to those that are able to accomplish remarkable things such as consistently exceeding quotas or maneuvering into increasingly higher positions.  If we happen to be in a dry spell in our careers we may find ourselves wondering what they are doing differently.  In the midst of these moments we must be sure to use comparison as a tool to challenge and inspire our minds to test our limitations and find better ways of doing things.

When we are able to observe the admirable skills and talents of others it can reveal techniques and nuances in execution that we previously had no awareness of.  By recognizing there are people around us that are more effective in certain areas then we are today, we become big enough to acknowledge there is room for improvement.  In fact we create that room for improvement within ourselves and from there we must find the motivation and burning desire to fill this space.

We can also find ways to approach matching the output of those in proximity to us by osmosis.  This happens through sheer determination and a sense of necessity to perform up to a new standard.  There are few rewards as gratifying as taking what is a weakness of ours today and hammering away at it until it becomes a certified strength on par with those of the company we want to keep.  This is surely a challenging feat and often a timely pursuit that requires daily commitment to progress.  However, it is a worthy truth to uncover that indeed changing ourselves for the better is within our reach.

Sometimes, however, when we have yet to find our individual formula for success there can be a tendency to become overly fixated on what others around us are doing.  While raising our level of productivity across the board is ideal, becoming bent on proving that we can outperform those around us in ALL areas will eventually lead to burn out.  This can also bring about its own negative social implications, closing the doors of opportunity that only other people can open.  Thinking about it, is that how we really want to feel day in and day out anyhow?  Chasing after a target we didn’t set for ourselves? Is this how we can continuously draw inspiration in our lives?

What we want to avoid in relating ourselves to other people is the ‘comparison trap’.  This is where we compare ourselves to others to the point where we dismiss nurturing our own special set of inherent qualities.  Sooner then later we should begin building on these qualities and design the only roadmap to the success that matters.  That is success achieved on our own terms.  We should take inventory of ourselves and direct in which areas we need to grow based on our career aspirations.  In this way we can choose to compare aspects of ourselves to others at times where it makes sense, using them as a benchmark for the level of proficiency we should be at.  All the while our roadmap to success will serve to anchor us to our own personal journey.

Now our colleague ‘John’ might get through his work at impressive speed, always leaving the office not a minute late, and this might get him to where he’s going quickly.  However, is where John is going, based on what he’s suited for, really where we want to end up?  Regardless of the type of worker that we are at our core, the key to demonstrating the best value we can provide is ultimately based on how we consistently follow through on our execution. This holds true whether we are an analytical workhorse, savvy sales person, customer centric solution provider or a speedy task checker offer.  Whatever our personality type we must be cognisant of when comparison to others holds merit.  For example:

     ‘Suzy’ is the highly analytical type.  Her approach to what has been a long-term operational problem is to thoroughly investigate it so that she can propose a solution where it does not reoccur down the road.  Now when Suzy sees John speed through this same issue and be the first to propose a solution it may be tempting for her to rethink her approach.  John may be a person of exceptional talent and confidence that thinks quickly on his feet, in which case there may be much for Suzy to learn from him.  However, how is Suzy to know that John gave sufficient attention to the problem and is not proposing a Band-Aid fix? 

The example above is oversimplified for effect and in reality both personality types can learn a great deal from each other.  The point being if we consistently allow ourselves to land in the ‘comparison trap’ we will consistently lose out on the chance to see our results manifest, and thus never build up the necessary belief and confidence in our line of thinking. This means we will rarely have an opportunity to be recognized for our best qualities, those that would show us to the doors of opportunity we are looking for.

If we are in a place where we feel there is no foreseeable opportunities of progression on the horizon it might be time for an honest self-assessment.  Having experienced a few failures our compass may be scrambled and we may find it difficult to even know where to begin on our roadmap, much less have one.  The gatekeepers around us may have rightfully grown comfortable in their perceptions of us as well, thus requiring a monumental push on our part to break through.  Indeed seeing others exceed while we are stuck in place should be the spark needed to create motion in our lives at any sacrifice.   It may feel like the incredible struggle of a space shuttle attempting to leave the ground against the forces of gravity, however watching others be great should serve to remind us that great things are possible.  (Here is where we learn about the benefits of momentum, to be discussed in another article)

The goal is to become acclimated to the idea that self-improvement will be a journey and not a destination in life.  Using comparison is an effective tool to kick-start self-improvement, particularly when we have yet to develop the keenness to direct it on our own.  It can ingrain the needed constructs in our minds to turn it into a perpetual mechanism of our own control.  Perhaps this lack of self-improvement has rendered us unable to strike a formula for higher success all along.  Once on our roadmap, self-improvement is a tool we can carry with us wherever we go, and wherever our journey may take us.

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