Comparisons are Odious, Except When They’re Not
Have you ever been in a room of people whose accomplishments were so amazing that you were in awe of them? It is challenging not to compare, to listen to how they are changing the world and ask yourself “what am I doing?” Comparisons, at this point, might seem odious (according to Cervantes, Donne and others).
Recently I attended the Fifth World Congress on Positive Psychology in Montreal Canada. It is an amazing conference where scientists and practitioners share and learn about the ways that positive psychology is helping to change the world for good. And the attendees themselves are also part of the learning. I spoke with those who are changing schools to help students be aware of the fullness of their possibilities and get better grades. There was the young man who is helping “at risk” kids in Camden, NJ turn their lives around and another who is changing how corporations work in Mexico City. It was an incredible array of people who are doing fantastic work in many ways.
Okay, back to comparisons. I have long believed the line from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” So, I have tried never to compare. Until now.
What I found happening at the World Congress was a growing sense of what others had done and what I could do. The comparison did not lessen me, rather in emboldened me, gave me strength and hope in the possibility of the contribution that I could possibly add to society.
So, compare yourself to others, not to become vain or bitter, but to see what the possibilities are. There are amazing people in this world doing amazing things. When we compare, and perhaps think we can do more, they are there as a guide, a role model, and even perhaps as a mentor. Comparisons, when they lessen us or others, are odious. But when comparisons spur us on to the possibilities and probabilities of development and change, they become a wonderful tool.
Take the chance. Admire someone and then allow that comparison to lift you up. You might be surprised what you can do for yourself and for the world.