A good friend of mine said something to me at dinner this week that really hit me: “Aim Up, Compare Down.”
So many of us drive ourselves crazy by comparing “up.” Rather than enjoying our own circumstances, we lust for the things and traits possessed by others. We crush our own spirit by comparing ourselves to those that are smarter, younger, better looking, more successful, taller, wealthier, better athletes, etc. Unfortunately, this is just a recipe for feeling like shit.
In always comparing up, we lose perspective of where we stand. Instead of appreciating what we are, we obsess about what we’re not. We fail to savor our accomplishments and natural gifts, always grasping for something more in a never-ending futile effort that depletes our confidence and sense of self.
Comparing down, in contrast, helps you realize and enjoy where you are in the moment. It helps you recognize that while there’s always room to grow on your path, you’ve already accomplished the things that only exist in the dreams of others. Sure, there’s always someone with a bigger boat, but never lose sight of those with much less.
I’m sure there are many different ways to interpret the idea of comparing down. To me, it’s not about comparing yourself to other people or being boastful. It’s about comparing “down” to a previous version of you. It’s about recognizing how far you’ve come and realizing that things could always be a lot worse.
Now comparing down isn’t an excuse to stop pushing ahead and striving. That’s where “aiming up” comes in. As far as I can tell, the purpose of life is to realize your full potential and make your biggest possible impact on the world. You won’t get there by aiming (or dreaming) small. Aiming at a target in front of you will propel you to play your best possible game. It will allow you seize the enormous opportunity that’s waiting for you.
So many of us have the formula backwards, don’t we? We aim down because we’re afraid of putting ourselves out there and failing. By playing it “safe”, we end up filled with regret for all the shots we never took. And to top it off, we compare “up.” Envy overwhelms us, starving our own sense of well-being and fulfillment. And with every step forward, we immediately seek something new and shiny to covet instead of appreciating our accomplishments in the moment.
It’s time to turn conventional thinking upside down. It’s time to embrace a fresh perspective that will push you to new heights while embracing the joy you’ve earned at each step along your path.
Forget the traditional approach. Aim Up, Compare Down.