Stop comparing…

As long as I can remember I have been using the method of "comparing" to validate myself and measure my progress, because I didn’t know a better way. . What I also didn’t know, until now, was that it wasn’t working.

 To "compare" is to measure the distance between where I am and where I could be. This model looks solid enough to become an equation: Comparison=|(Possibility) − (Reality)|. Then why it isn’t working? Two reasons.

Reason number 1: One factor is almost indefinable. Yes, our ideal state, Possibility, is always elusive… no, no, that’s always clear. Our sensory organs, coupled with our brain, enable us to virtually construct our ideal state. We can literally see, hear, or even touch it, for example in our dreams. What’s elusive is our true self, Reality. Know Thyself is one of the oldest, most elusive, philosophical questions. Only a madman or a genius completely understands who he is, while the rest of us keep wondering (which probably is the reason for trying to measure our worth; it would be an answer of some kind).

Reason number 2: The equation is only effective for parts of the whole. Two packs of fruit juice might taste comparable when they are diluted enough to meet the 7-Eleven standard, but if we trace their origins we can find out that they used to be apples and oranges. No matter how precisely we distill an aspect of an object, it never tells us the whole picture.

The flawed model of comparison harms us in two ways: We pay too much attention to our goals, thus further neglecting our core selves, and we falsely believe that we can disassemble ourselves into independent elements. To see how this is not working, try summing up the guidelines for becoming a perfect man as portrayed in lifestyle magazines. Ideally you will be strong yet gentle, earn a lot but enjoy a private life, act rationally but never forget to express your sense of humor, and behave as a modest gentleman but know how to turn your partner on. Practically, you will also have to counter-balance the lightness of being the perfect man in the day with the heaviness of a being a serial killer at night, which those magazines—still part of the journalism ecosystem—always forget to mention.

Everything about ourselves is interconnected. If you poke one location, another place sticks out. 99.999% of people cannot compete with Steve Jobs in terms of being a perfectionist, but probably those same people can beat him in being a compassionate coworker. The idealized model, our “possibility,” is flawless only when we ignore this whack-a-mole effect.

We have to find a way to know ourselves and measure our progress without virtually chopping our body into parts and inspecting them for dead tissue. It turns out there is such a method, and I have been practicing it for conditioning my body without knowing it is also applicable for mental growth. To be continued…