A major modern struggle is feeling a gap; between where we are and where we want to go.
This gap is often unconscious, and primed from our constant exposure to the lives of others:
- With such easy access to see exactly what other people have, and what we don't.
- With so many, seemingly "overnight successes" online.
- We see follower counts displayed on every social media site, and compare that to ourselves.
- With so many people touting how much money they make.
When this is interpreted positively, it's taken as inspiration and motivation to grow.
And I think the "inspiration economy" is great.
I just think that it for many this creates an underlying current of shame.
Because, if unchecked, all of the above are taken as reminders of how much we DON'T have.
So shame is ever-present. And you feel like there's a club, and you're not in it. If you just knew some other secret, then you'd be let in the door.
This makes you feel isolated and cut off from the community.
And then, worse still, we can get confused about our own purpose, and our own desires.
Do we really want that thing because we want to be praised, or feel seen, or do we truly want it, authentically?
This is a tough question.
How do we navigate a world of opportunity and possibility and match it with our current stage of progress and interest?
Much of the difficulty comes from looking at the world as a competitive landscape.
By turning to comparison, and competition, we shift from an abundant mentality to one of lack.
Competition is zero-sum, it means you lose or win, you are "a rung up" on the ladder or a rung below. And in a world of 8 billion people, you will always be one, or many rungs lower.
But what if there was no such thing as competition?
What if that lens is no longer useful?
Hierarchy assumes a human has only one dimension.
And only one scarce resource being fought over.
In sports, you can be ranked on wins and losses. Runs, or goals or baskets.
Life does not resemble this!
There are many dimensions to judge life. Most, if not all of the dimensions that truly matter are the ones that you can't use a metric to communicate externally.
Dimensions like love, happiness, friendship, satisfaction, service, gratitude, presence, pleasure...
Not only that, but no person is the same. Therefore no specific amount of progress is the same.
You have to factor in the unique challenges that you go through in your own progress. Success can sometimes mean simply being on the field.
I often hear interviews with famous sports stars...on some level, many of them can't even believe they are there even standing at the championship.
Not because they lack self-belief in their ability, but because of how much they beat the odds to even be alive, to even be playing.
This hidden progress is why they cry at the podium, not because of the trophy.
What I've learned is that what matters most for fulfillment is a sense of progress, any progress, not how far you've gone.
Being totally stuck and having no progress is depressing.
Small steps, and a feeling of progress, matter most.
People are Inspiring, and Unique.
I am happy about every human life, as an experiment on their own adventure.
Every life is totally unique, and this is beautiful.
Thank god for the person who decides to be a ballet dancer, pizza maker, architect, author, poet, or street sweeper...
We benefit from everyone pursuing their own paths in life.
If someone didn't dedicate their lives to the piano, or jazz drumming, we wouldn't have music! Ditto for the scone you had for breakfast. That was made by someone else, with a different purpose and focus, then you.
So, not only am I happy about everyone taking their own path, but I can feel comfortable that our individual slot matters to the whole.
The diversity of human life is what's necessary and beautiful to have abundance.
In capitalism will call this "specialization."
I will call it, individual uniqueness. It's how culture is built, how society functions, and how we collectively give and be in service to one another.
In this way, everyone is complimentary.
Scientists today benefit from Einstein or Nikola Tesla.
It's all shared knowledge, built knowledge, thanks to your unique exploration.
In a world where you don't see others as competition, you own the slot you want to fill, and appreciate everyone else for filling theirs
Be present with your progress. Keep stacking wins.
The best way to shift out of competition and into progress is to get present with where you are today.
You can start by looking backward at all of the progress you've made.
Make a list:
- What are 3-5 major achievements I'm proud of in my life?
- What are 5-10 things you learned last year?
- What are 1-3 skills you have now, you didn't have 2 years ago?
When you list these out, you see that life is just one long series of lessons and growth.
Your life is step-by-step layers of growth added on top of each other. It's much more like how a tree grows, layer by layer of bark.
Each layer is unique, and each layer stacks on the next.
Looking back helps us build confidence to see that growth is happening.
It's not about speed so much as about direction.
These layers will keep being added...
We can be satisfied today, not in the future.
Ultimately this is one of life's biggest traps keeping people from being happy.
By not appreciating how far we've come, we lose our sense of satisfaction for the present moment.
By getting caught looking at where everyone else is, we make the false comparison; and forget to use the example of others as inspiration instead of competition.
By re-focusing on what we can control and the unique shape of our own lives, we get to continue to participate in and co-write the story.
How do you navigate the tension between your desires for growth and appreciating what you have?
What do you do to stay motivated to make your own progress, despite others being seemingly "ahead" of you?
Let me know.
And, as always, have a great week, and let me know how I can help!
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