Comparison is meaningless?
No, this is not Photoshopped. This is me and my twin brother last year.
So when I recently heard the sentence: Comparison is meaningless, the words sounded almost alien to me.
Again, I hear the meditation teacher say: Never compare your own practice and progress with somebody else. Not because it’s ‘bad’ or ‘you shouldn’t’, but simply because it’s meaningless.
It dawned on me that each of the 100+ people in the meditation hall has lived through different challenges, has a different purpose in life and each individual needs to transform different patterns and habits from the past.
And thus, even if we all practice the same technique well, we SHOULD each have a different experience.
The same accounts for our lives in general….
It sounds almost ridiculously logical, but it was one of those ‘aha’ moments that I wanted to capture on paper to make sure I would never forget.
However, I am not allowed to write anything down during my 10 day meditation retreat and I left my phone in a dusty locker days ago.
So instead, I repeat the sentence ‘comparison is meaningless’ about 50 times in my head, hoping that it would create a strong enough neural pathway that it would stick until the end of the retreat….Fortunately it did 🙂
I feel into the words again: Comparison is meaningless. A sense of relief comes over me. I feel my ego weakening. I realize that my ego loves comparison. It is his favorite meal! No matter what context.
Part of me knew, but I suddenly become conscious of the scale of it.
Scanning through my life, I realize that I spent a large part of it (unconsciously) comparing my own situation with others.
My tennis games early on, my academic results, work performance, bank account balance, my meditation practice, my physical appearance, my climbing performance, my yoga poses, number of coaching clients etc. Even my own mindfulness practice often gets a comparative analysis with others’.
I compare my efforts and progress ALL THE TIME with others.
It’s almost a natural human thing and obviously our society, educational system and the media feed my comparing mind non-stop. The fact that I grew up with a twin brother certainly helped as well!
I meditate a bit further on my comparison to others. Certainly comparison can be meaningful to progress and check. Perhaps there is ‘expanded comparison’ and ‘contracted comparison’ where the first fuels motivation, inspiration and education and the second encourages non-constructive judgment or negativity either to the other entity or towards self?
I scan through moments of profound comparison with others from contraction. When I ‘win’ the comparing contest (i.e. I am more successful, richer, stronger, a better coach or can do a fancier handstand etc), it just nurtures pride and separation I realized.
The little ‘buzz’ of feeling pride often lasts very briefly. And actually, pride doesn’t feel that good in my body I realize. It’s a superficial kick. Like eating one bite of a cheap chocolate bar 🙂 The feeling of pride absolutely pales in comparison to feeling real compassion or kindness towards others.
Also in my coaching, I systematically see in clients that they (unconsciously) compare their own career, wealth, skills, intelligence, progress etc. with others. Rarely have I seen that this tendency actually benefits their practice of moves them closer to their own purpose, fulfillment or happiness.
Most of the time, such comparison creates either a superiority complex, an inferiority complex or a equality complex.
Even thinking that we’re equal to others assumes that we both have a separate self that is disconnected from each other and the rest. And that does not reflect reality.
So should we never consider other people’s experiences, journeys and results?
No, that is not realistic either. But we can look at others for inspiration, not comparison. We can get in touch with their qualities and how they pursue their unique purpose. From a place of expansion, we can get inspired, but don’t put their efforts or results next to ours.
And we can always wish them all the best. Truly wishing them to be happy, healthy and successful in what they are doing.
We can realize that the world is big enough for ALL of us to be successful. It’s not a fixed pie game. We just need to focus on becoming the best version of ourselves.
I realize that wishing others to be successful feels incredibly good irrespective whether the person is more or less successful than you. I regularly wish people to be happy and successful at traffic lights, supermarkets, work settings, conferences and during my coaching.
I invite you to practice for a week becoming aware of your comparison with others. And replace them with wishing them to be happy and successful. Give it a try and let me know the outcome!
Gaston, Coach, Asian Leadership Institute