I spoke to a friend, Akash, recently who shared with me an amazing realisation he had about himself.
Akash is studying pharmaceuticals in university and like many of us, has always struggled with comparing himself to others.
He told me all about how before, he would see his peers and fellow students, his friends and family and incessantly compare himself to them.
This would be in grades, careers choice and progression, relationships and even just how fulfilled they seem to be.
Sound familiar at all?
Well since then, he made great progress and now feels as a though a great weight was lifted from his shoulders. He has been performing amazingly ever since.
This is what he shared.
Imagine a road where there a lot of cars but all going at different speeds.
Think of a multi-lane motorway where all you could see are all the over cars else in-front, behind and all sides of you.
Akash imagine life like this and all he wanted to be in the ‘fast’ lane. Pushing super-hard to overtake everyone
All he wanted was to watch delightfully as he zoomed by everyone, making incredible progress in all aspects of his life and leaving all his peers in the dust.
He only needed to do one simple thing to get to this point.
He needed to do everything. All at once.
If only he could just focus that bit longer, work that bit harder, do one more pushup, earn that better grade then he would be in the fast lane of life.
And of course, this thinking made him absolutely miserable.
You see, all that ended up happening was he was focusing too much on the other cars. He could only see the cars that were in front of him and to the side.
The cars became a barrier to his vision of where he was going.
He was even became obssessed with what type car they were driving and who was in there with them.
It was awful, he told me.
“All I focused on were the other cars. All the cars in front of me and how much more beautiful they were.”
But then he understood something fundamental.
In life, we’re not on the same motorway together. There are no lanes and there is no destination we’re all racing for.
Just like in real life, you may meet people on the motorway and for a brief period, it may seem like you’re going the same direction.
Think about it.
This about the real life experience of driving on a motorway
Sometimes you may be going faster than some; sometimes they may be going faster than you. Some people may be just cruising in the ‘slow’ lane.
Some will have much more expensive cars and some may be driving 15 year old rust-buckets.
You will probably see all-sorts on the road because that’s perfectly normal.
But you’ve never, ever thought to yourself that everyone around you must also be going to visit your cousin for dinner in the suburbs like you are. Right?
Because of course they’re not. They’re going to wherever they’re going. They’re on their own journey. They’re doing their own thing.
They might be going to visit a friend, go grocery shopping in a supermarket, pick up the children from football practice or any of the other millions things humans do.
And you don’t care, because why would you? They’re doing their thing and you’re doing your thing.
The journey of life is individual.
You are on your own path; on your own road.
Your start point will be different to everybody else because everyone doesn’t live in the same house.
And everyone isn’t going to visit the same cousin.
You may look out your side-window and see someone in their car, on their road, on their journey and for a brief time it may seem like you’re going to the same place.
You may even cruise alongside each other for a while. Maybe even for months or years.
But never doubt that you’re both on individual journeys and you don’t know how they started or what they started with.
You can only fall into comparison when you let yourself think that we all should be living a certain way.
But remember, there is no template for this life.
There are no set rules for how a life should look like.
There are only your values and principles to help guide you. Working to define these and keeping them close will keep you focused and fulfilled.
When your expectations of yourself come from outside of yourself, you give your power away. You externalise your worth instead of fostering it from within you.
You get to decide what is important to you and you get to decide when you’re doing well or when you could be doing better.
So keep focused out the front window and put your seatbelt on. Because if you’re doing it right, the road ahead won’t be smooth paved tarmac.
It will your own bumpy, rough road with twists and turns you could never have expected. But that’s what makes life worth living in the end.