Here's What You Gain When You Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

How my competitive mindset has evolved from comparisonitis to growing from the experience of others.

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By Maurice Pennington

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I recently watched a video of Duke Women's Basketball Coach Kara Lawson addressing her team. In it, she stressed that there is an important distinction between working hard and competitiveness. She told her team, "You can force someone to work hard. You can't force someone to compete. There's nothing I can do to make you compete … not everybody is wired to compete."

That resonated with me. I was an athlete for all of my adolescence and, man, did I love to compete! And it wasn't just sports, I've always wanted to be the best at whatever I did. But when I look back, one downside to that competitive mindset for me is "comparisonitis."

Related: How Comparing Yourself to Others Will Only Get in the Way of Your Happiness

What you miss when you compare yourself to others

In middle school, when a friend and I both got As on a test (I think her score was 95 and mine was 91), I didn't celebrate our shared achievement and build a deeper connection. I didn't try to discover what I could learn from her to improve. I went inward and beat myself up. "That's not acceptable," I'd tell myself. "You can do better. You WILL do better."

As if others were my benchmark? They weren't. The beauty of competing is it maximizes YOUR effort. MY effort ALWAYS mattered more than the result or outcome. But I didn't realize that then. I missed opportunity after opportunity to deepen connections with others and learn from them. Not because they were unwilling to share, but because I was too busy comparing myself to them that I didn't even think to ask.

What you gain when you connect with others

Earlier this year, my wife and I traveled to Miami to work with a client. I was tasked with identifying an Airbnb for our stay. The idea was to find a place that would accommodate all of us and provide functional spaces for connecting around work and for disconnecting from work.

After hours of searching, I found the space that just felt right. It jumped off the page and spoke to me! This listing stood out! The design was impeccable, the spaces were highly optimized, the energy of the space was exactly where we needed it. I could feel it through all the pictures. I booked immediately.

Sadly, I received a message saying the space was listed prematurely and would not be available. I was disappointed, to be sure. Instead of beating myself like I once used to, I found an opportunity in the circumstance.

You see, my wife and I have had an interest in acquiring an investment property, and the greater Miami area was on the shortlist. This property was so intriguing to me, so I reached out to the host and asked if I could take a few minutes of their time and learn about their process and experience hosting short-term rentals. They were happy to jump on a call and shared their 20+ years of investment experience with me! I added an industry connection and obtained valuable insight that I otherwise would have never had.

Related: How to 10X Your Learning From Others' Experiences

The power of connection and mentorship

Running businesses and investing in real estate has provided me with the opportunity to adopt a perspective that is the polar opposite perspective of what I once had. When I see someone doing something at a level I'd like to be, I no longer beat myself up for not being there. Instead, I try to learn as much as I can from them. They've already gone through the trials and tribulations, they already understand the pitfalls, they know firsthand how things work in their space. I don't necessarily need to grow through the experiences myself — I can and will be propelled forward by learning from their lived experience! That is the power of connection and mentorship!

If I'm honest, most of my life I've rarely sought out mentors, and I attribute that to the flawed thinking that can come from comparisonitis. I wanted to prove I could do it on my own. I HAD to prove I could do it on my own. When I ultimately sat my ego down, I understood how false that narrative was.

Fortunately for me, mentors were present throughout my life. Even now, I have a mentor in my own home. A mentor that I married and call my wife. I learn from her constantly, oftentimes simply by observing. I then figure out what works for me and what doesn't, then apply what I learn. It isn't always easy, but it always propels me forward.

There's enough room for everyone to thrive

Not all of us share the same roof with a mentor, but we all desire connection. Comparisonitis often doesn't allow room for that. I had to learn not everything is about me, nor is it about how much better or worse I am doing than others. I can celebrate the success of others, and it does not define how I view myself. The reality is that I actually want to help them to do well because there is plenty of room for us all to thrive! It is why I believe I've been called to business mentorship myself.

It's often said that "too much of anything is bad for you." I know that to be true with competition. Nobody forced me to compete, it was a choice I made and repeated since I was really young. I suppose Coach Lawson would say I am wired that way. I'm still competing with myself each and every day. It's just now there's a whole lot more room to connect with and learn from others.

Related: How to Get Out of the Comparison Trap

Maurice Pennington

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of Pennington Perspective

Maurice Pennington is an entrepreneur and small business consultant. He comes from a tech background and possesses a meticulous nature. Maurice leverages those tools to take grand visions and identify the small details to help entrepreneurs efficiently execute.

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