On Purpose: Full of Joy


"Comparison is the thief of joy."

—Theodore Roosevelt—

Whether I like to admit it or not, I compare myself to other people daily. Social media makes it really easy, but so does real life. For me, I often notice: the way people carry themselves and what they might be feeling, who is listened to and who is ignored, the ways people spend their money based on what they present to the world (on-or-off-line), who gets the answer right, who gets the laughs, and who gets the attention. I also notice who is attached and who isn't. Who cares about their health, environment, the type of tribe they belong to and who doesn't.

My list goes on and on...

What's your list like? What would you include that stands out most about what you notice?

More than not, these noticings are subconscious and under the radar, but I've been making an effort to notice my noticing more and more over the years. It's quite amazing to gain an understanding of how much time and energy I actually spend comparing as I notice. Even more astounding, is the level of engagement these comparisons actually steal from the rest of my life.

It's not that noticing is bad. In fact, we learn a lot about how to respond to any given situation by noticing the people, place and the happenings therein. But when we process what we notice in a way that leads us to view ourselves as higher than another person or lower than another person, Cloud and Townsend call this positioning "one up/one down," we're in trouble.

First, it's a boundary issue. Each of us is made uniquely and therefore, offer the world a wonderful variety of thoughts, resources and personal expressions that make life richer for us all. Choosing to see someone as higher or lower than ourselves means that we're either diminishing ourselves or another. We're saying, on the one hand, "You're more valuable than me" or, on the other, "I'm more valuable than you." The truth is, every one of us is valuable beyond measure and comparison steals the beauty of the unique and necessary role each person plays in the world.

Second, spending time and energy comparing means we have employed those same resources in a way that produced well, what exactly?... Fear, anxiety, depression, pride, shame, isolation, and anger are on my short list. What about yours? How has that turned out for you?

Comparison has been a bad friend to me over the years. It has stirred up feelings of self-doubt, attacked my confidence, invited a belief that I don't belong, and more. Comparison has helped me build tall walls between myself and others. It has left me isolated and alone once those walls were built. Comparison has lied to me, telling me how I'm not enough, I'll never be good enough, or equally as terrible, that I'm better than... 

When I live with a posture to compare, I miss giving my all to living my purpose, on purpose. When I'm focused on what I have and don't have, I miss out on utilizing that cherished time and energy creating, cultivating and investing in people and projects that will move the vision and mission forward today. When I compare myself to others, I miss simply enjoying them for who they are! Instead of sizing them up, I could just be their friend. What a change that would be in the world...

The thing is, the world needs us to live on purpose and encourage those in our path to do the same! When we know who we're made to be and how we're to live that out, we can freely offer our gifts and talents to the world and create the solutions we so desperately need today.

And, I'll tell you what, joy is a natural by-product of a life lived on purpose. When we end that awful friendship with Comparison, the joy that flows out of us creates momentum in and around us. When we're focused on living our best life, we will embrace others for who they are and encourage them to do the same. We're not worried about being one up or one down, rather we're focused on making our very best contribution and automatically positioned to help someone else make theirs. 

So... In the past 24 hours:

  • Have you compared yourself to someone else?
  • Whom?
  • What did you notice about them in the comparison? 
  • What thoughts or feelings about yourself surfaced as you processed what you noticed?
  • Were they positive or negative thoughts or feelings?
  • What happened after you had the thought(s) or feeling(s)?
  • Did it help you or harm you?
  • Did it help them or harm them?
  • What might this interaction have to do with living your purpose?

Let's move forward into a life of purpose and joy, shall we? I promise it's astonishingly lovely there. There's nothing quite like it, after all...