Imagine this situation:
You spent last year working 24/7 to build your online business from the ground. Finally, your hard work pays off and your business starts depositing money in your bank account. You feel like you’re on top of the world.
Elation turns sour as displeasure and discontent set in because you notice something. Someone you know, maybe a friend from college or that guy from your neighborhood, flaunts his online business’s success on social media. He has 6-digit email subscribers. He earns more money than you’ve ever imagined. You start questioning whether your work is good enough. Suddenly, your accomplishment isn’t so grand anymore, is it? Now, instead of feeling cheerful, you feel lousy and bitter because you compared the hard work you’ve been doing and your accomplishment with someone else’s.
This crippling feeling almost made me quit writing in 2018. Ever since I decided to write professionally, I’ve tried to focus on my new task. I’ve pictured myself as a horse with blinders because looking on the sides would only keep me side-tracked. But then, I caught myself glancing over to what other writers had, and I didn’t. Where they were in life and I wasn’t.
I was “behind” when comparing my work to others.
I would read the works of writers I admire and feel discouraged. I would think readers did not read my blog posts because my work was not good enough.
Crippling thoughts would barge in my mind:
That cool writer writes so much better than me.
I’ll never be able to earn as much for my articles as that writer does.
The more I focused on their path, and not my own, the more I lost control. Eventually, I reached a point where I questioned my decision, and that’s when I knew I had to change perspective quickly.
When you compare your work to others, you are playing a dangerous game with your confidence.
While you’re sitting around, eating potato chips, and burning your fingertips, scrolling the works of others on social media all day, every day, others have reached their mountains.
Look who just got his work published in the New York Times.
Look who just landed their dream job with a great company.
Look at all the exciting and wonderful things everyone is accomplishing.
Comparing your work to others causes you to feel bad about how your work is doing — because someone else’s work will always be more successful. You can’t take a single step forward towards your goals when your eyes are keeping track of someone else’s work.
Guess what this does to your confidence?
Your confidence is compromised, and those stepping stones that lead to your goals turn into mountains.
When you are constantly focusing on someone else’s accomplishment, you ignore what really matters.
And what you can control — time, effort, and energy you can put into your work. Comparing your work to someone else’s work is a distraction and a waste of valuable time. You lose time you could otherwise invest in your work. Your energy is better served by keeping your eyes on your own work.
I learned this in high school from a wise teacher, but forgot the lesson when I started running an online business.
This teacher passed out an assignment and telling each student to “keep your eyes on your own paper.” It doesn’t make a difference what the person next to you writes for his answer. This is your race to run. It’s your assignment to complete. It’s your answer to create. How your paper compares to someone else is not the point. The point is to fill the paper with your work.
The same is true for your work.
Every morning, you fill the day with your work. If your work doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations (it’s no concern of yours). The way someone else perceives your work results from their own experiences (which you can’t control). Their own tastes and preferences (which you can’t predict). Their own expectations (which you can’t set). Your concern is to do the work (not to judge it). To fall in love with the process (not to grade the outcome).
These 6 ways have helped me keep my eyes on building my blog. I hope they help you in keeping your eyes on your work:
Reject any notion that you need external proof of your own self-worth.
Often people use comparisons as evaluation tools to validate or reject their own success and self-worth. I know aspiring writers waiting for editors and publishers to validate their work. These writers do not even call themselves a writer. They are waiting for a big publication to publish their work. Then they will call themselves a writer. The sad part is they have been writing and publishing on their personal sites for years.
Why give someone else this power you already have?
Someone else appreciating your work means nothing if you don’t value your own work first. You deserve the best you. The best you can be. Which you will never get if you don’t value your own work.
List your accomplishments.
Even though my blog in 2018 had only 200 email subscribers, I sat down in front of my computer, faced a blank page, wrote sentences, paragraphs, and pages, and published a blog post every day. That’s an accomplishment. Browsing through the 300 articles I published in a year put a smile on my face.
What about you?
A friend has landed an awesome new gig. I bet you haven’t just been sitting around waiting to get “lucky”. Write your accomplishments. By putting them down on paper, you’re making them real, tangible, noteworthy — and you can’t retract them just because someone else did a much better job.
Think about what you can learn from others.
We can always learn something from others — if we open our hearts and be willing enough.
A 2018 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that people who think, “This person has a view on an issue that I’m dealing with,” enjoy better mental health than those who think, “This person is better able to achieve the task than I am.”
What knowledge, skill, and lesson can you learn from a person whose work you admire? Instead of thinking this person has it better than you, be willing to learn from this person. What can you learn from him? From his path to success? From his accomplishments? From his strategy and the way, he does his work?
Acknowledging others might have skills and knowledge you need to work on liberates you. This mental shift does wonders. The moment I asked what I could learn from famous writers like Brianna Wiest, Niklas Goke, and Ryan Holiday, my path to writing good articles became like walking through an open door.
When you ask, what can I learn from others? you learn from them, not pitting yourself against them.
Create goals particular to your individual aspirations.
Before I understood the power of keeping my eyes on my work, I made myself crazy wanting to be like my favorite writer, Ryan Holiday, with 117K followers.
I no longer compare my work to someone else. I’ve created my own goals. Now, 35K email subscribers receive my blog posts I publish three times every week in their inbox. But my aspiration that puts a silly smile on my face when I tell people I write for a living is something else. When readers send me an email to tell me my articles have helped them, my heart rejoices. I feel better about one reader’s honest response than all the money I’ve made in my life or the traffic stats or the number of subscribers on my mailing list.
Quit using your peers as a benchmark for success, my friends. Create goals particular to your own individual aspirations. Do not settle for the status quo. Successful people are constantly changing, growing, and learning new things to improve themselves.
Accept where your work is.
In 2018, my writing was so crappy that I can’t believe I have shared it with the world. In learning to be better at my writing, I had to admit my writing needed to improve.
Don’t be someone who stands in his own way by denying his work needs improvement.
If your work needs to be improved to be good, then accept this. You can’t change something you don’t acknowledge.
Be your own ally.
That mean voice inside your head can tell you all kinds of bullshit. Mine told me my writing sucks, that no one will read my work (and a bunch of other awful things.) Instead of joining in when the mean voice of comparison pops up, choose to be on your side. Relieve, soothe, and comfort yourself. Give yourself regular pep talks, and if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year you spend comparing your work to someone else’s work is a time you could spend improving your work.
Learn to keep your eyes on your own work. Just like going to the gym for the first time hurts your muscles, at first, it hurts your brain to keep your eyes on your own work and use its power so much. But it gets better through practice and time.