We hear it so often during this pandemic: “Work on projects that you don’t usually have time for.” In the news, we see all that luminaries have accomplished; friends share the progress they’ve made on their projects. While you might be working towards a big goal, it’s sometimes hard not to compare yourself with others. If this describes you, here are three strategies you can employ to help you shake a feeling of “less than”—and more importantly, to help you do good work.
Analyze and Gauge
The key to moving past the comparison trap is to analyze and gauge what you are doing. You perceive that everyone is doing more around you, but that may not be the reality. There isn’t a specific measure you can use to identify how your work output stacks up against others. Instead, analyze how your work is getting done.
One former client was having difficulty in executive team meetings. She felt like everyone else was excelling while she was stalled. We decided to take a different approach and dissect what others were doing right so that she could leverage her ideas. She saw that leaders who successfully sold their programs weren’t always talking and providing feedback; one leader would sit back and listen more than he spoke. When this leader spoke, everyone intently listened to his ideas. My client decided to relax more and not feel like she always had to speak up. My client’s more relaxed energy soon brought her better results.
Leaders often want to focus on their biggest goal, where they believe they’ll “win” and make an impact. But it may be more beneficial to look for the small wins. Small projects may be where your most significant impact lies. Focusing on small wins will give you leverage when you’re speaking about yourself. But there is a caveat: make sure you and your manager agree that these are the right small wins—that you’re still moving yourself and the company forward.
One former client had the goal to focus more on strategic planning. He felt like everyone around him surpassed him in this area. My client excelled on the execution side of operations, but he wanted to hone his strategic planning skills and demonstrate them as soon as possible. Together, the client and I worked on orchestrating small projects. These small, focused, and strategic plans would help his department generate more revenue—more so than one large project would have. My client gradually improved his strategic planning skills.
While we all want to advance ourselves, it’s good to use a broader lens and “zoom out”—take an interest in the things happening outside your purview. (Incidentally, zooming out” provides good practice for honing your strategic planning skills).
One former client felt like he wasn’t getting the traction he desired. He was stuck in a rut, comparing himself to others and feeling dissatisfied. I coached this client to take a different approach and see who he could help. My client joined his company’s mentoring initiative and began helping a junior-level employee with their management skills. My client’s new approach of “zooming out” and helping gave him a bit of breathing space—not only did he feel good about helping someone, but he strengthened his own leadership skills.
Hearing about all the positive things happening for a peer can cause you to fall into the ego-trap of comparison. But by analyzing your performance, focusing on small wins, and helping others, you can ignore the lure of comparison and excel in your own right.