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Worry About Your Own Performance — Not Others

It has never been experientially proven that your performance is improved by comparing yourself to someone else. So stop doing that.

The only way you can improve your (or your business’) performance is to evaluate your own performance relative to yourself (or your business).

Many years ago, I was running along the shore of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. Behind me, I heard the measured breaths and rhythmic footfalls of a trained athlete.

I smiled as I thought to myself: Whoa, I’m really doing it. I’m out here with someone from the University of Wisconsin track team. Man, am I proud of myself!

Moving slightly to my right I made way for this young athlete to pass. As if I was standing still, a woman who must have been 70 years old shot past me like a gazelle on the Serengeti.

Now, I’ll be honest, my ego was bruised for a moment. I kind of hung my head and said to myself in a sad-sack, pity-party voice: Geez, even that old lady is running faster than me.

And then I considered my options: I could either be out here running, or I could be back at the hotel not getting any exercise. I thought, I may not be running as fast as that person, but I am running faster than I did a week ago.

I picked my head up and finished my run.

Skip the Comparisons

When you compare your performance to others, you often demotivate your performance, stall your performance or stunt it through false confidence.

I love a line from the book Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success written collaboratively by several executives at VitalSmarts, a state-of-the-art innovative training company that has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies: 

At first, we were worried by the downturn in the economy. But when we learned we were doing about as well as our chief competitor, we stopped fretting. Then one day our competitor went bankrupt, and it wasn’t long until we followed suit. I can’t believe how stupid we were. It was as if we were measuring ourselves against a corpse — and feeling pretty healthy by comparison.

Several years ago, I asked a sales manager about outbound prospecting calls. “We haven’t started yet,” he told me. “What’s the hold up?” I inquired. “We don’t know the national averages for daily calls and their success rates,” he replied.

When I asked him how many calls his team made the previous day, he told me none.

Doing my level best to harness my ever-present sarcasm, I replied: “So one would be a dramatic improvement for you.”

It is part of the human condition to want to compare ourselves with others. It would be very difficult to not do that. But don’t obsess over it. Instead, get back to working on the things that you can control and that influence your performance.

In other words, lace up your sneakers and get back to work. See if you can run just a bit faster, or just a bit farther, than you did yesterday.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash.