I have a young son, Hunter, and a young daughter, Lexi. They are very healthy, and other than acting their age, both are great kids. This weekend, I applauded my son for a good behavior he exhibited. His response surprised me – he asked, ”Did I do better than Lexi?” I was surprised that he could not take a compliment, and even worse, his sense of accomplishment was based on how someone else did.
Upon further reflection, I remember being the same way with my own brothers and sister when I was young. In fact, I recall making such comparisons earlier in my career. When being rewarded, we all often ask “who else got it and who didn’t” and if someone we think is undeserving of it, it does compromise our own sense of accomplishment. I wonder how many of us still do that today and whether we actually know anything of the people we are giving so much power to – the other folks we benchmark ourselves against.
I get competition and very much appreciate that healthy competition is a fantastic way to improve and push ourselves to reach our potential. But there is the unhealthy kind of competition where we steal so much from ourselves, our accomplishments, and our self worth, by comparing ourselves to others.
Most of us have very specific people in our personal and professional lives that we benchmark ourselves against. This week, I want to ask you to think of these folks:
- Who are they?
- Are they really the people you want to benchmark against yourself?
- Do they have the values, behavior, and ethics that you embrace?
Think also of adding some new people to benchmark yourself against. I had dinner with my older brother a few years ago. He was a brilliant student and I often benchmarked myself against him. At the dinner I confessed to him how much his accomplishments set the benchmark for how I was measured, both by myself and my family. Today, my brother has a personal life that is disastrous and there is very little about him that I envy, though I love him as I always have.
My point is that it is quite normal and healthy for us to benchmark ourselves against others, so long as they are the right folks, and so long as they keep changing as we get better at what we do and who we are, and ultimately, as we grow to become better. It is a sign of great success when these people ultimately become the kind of people that have books written about them, and whose autobiographies are bestsellers.