Three Ways to Escape the Comparison Trap

Does this scenario ring a bell?

You have an old friend from college, or maybe a sibling. They’re well off financially—and their luxurious lifestyle—house, cars, vacations, hobbies, etc.—screams it.

Next to them, your income is meager, and your lifestyle is decidedly middle class. You try not to compare, but it’s tough not to notice all the advantages “they” get to enjoy that you don’t.

Every now and then, the reality hits you hard: “Barring some kind of unlikely windfall, I will NEVER have the financial resources my friend (or sibling) has.” 

I suspect all people struggle with such thoughts some of the time…and some people battle this mindset all the time. So, here’s a good reminder:

Comparison robs us of joy in all areas of life, but especially in financial matters.

It’s easy to forget that:

  • If you live a middle-class American lifestyle, you enjoy a standard of living greater than 95% of the world’s population and unimaginable to all previous generations. 
  • True contentment will never come from having more. Once your basic needs for food, shelter and basic healthcare are met, most of your satisfaction in life is going to come from your beliefs and attitudes, not your bank account.
  • Financial comparisons between individuals are as useless as physical fitness comparisons.

That’s because there are so many factors involved—some of which we can control and others we can’t. 

Michael Phelps is a great example. Remember him—the legendary Olympic swimmer? 

Michael was born with certain advantages: a freakish wingspan, a long torso, double-jointed ankles that enhanced his kick, a body that somehow produced only half the lactic acid of the average swimmer, thereby making him less prone to fatigue.

Of course, Michael did his part too. He disciplined himself to train every day for hours and hours, week after month after year! 

The result? More Olympic medals (28 total, 23 gold) than anyone in history.

Here’s the truth. I could swim ten hours a day for the next ten years and never come close to Michael’s ability or success! Would I be a better swimmer than I am today? Absolutely! But I wouldn’t be winning any Olympic medals.

Do you see why it’s foolish to compare? The only person you should ever compete with is…yourself.

Rather than obsessing over others (and their stuff), we’d all be wise start practicing three daily disciplines:

  • Choose to be thankful for at least one thing daily. When you’re grateful for what you do have, you focus less on what you don’t have. 
  • Choose to be encouraging to at least one person daily. Envious people tend to be stingy—even with their words. So, offer genuine expressions of encouragement. It doesn’t cost anything, and it displays wealth of character, which is far more valuable than money. 
  • Choose to be strategic daily. The independent person sees the strengths of others as a threat. The interdependent person the strengths of others as an opportunity to team up. When you strategically work with others to complement one another, you expand everyone’s possibilities. 

We don’t have to fall into the comparison trap. And when we do, we sure don’t have to stay there.

This holiday season let’s wisely choose the way of gratitude.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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