So you are a part of a football team, you play in the top tier of football in your country, and you are doing very well, or so you thought. However, your 20 goals per season, which, to you, was very impressive, was frowned upon by others as not good enough.
They are looking at your fellow player in a lower league, who has scored 30, and they say he is better than you because he has a superior goals-per-game ratio.
Again, a coach of a team that has performed creditably is seen by others as not good enough because, when those before him were in charge, they achieved better results than he did.
Growing up in my day, we used to be awarded rankings in class at the end of the year. And when someone comes home with a results card stating that he was third place in a class of fifty, he gets admonished because his ‘mates’, in other schools, with completely different classmates and school grading system, was always coming top (first place).
This world is one where we seem to have injected it in our DNAs to make comparisons; and many times, they are usually unfounded and baseless.
We compare a lot
I have had sessions with various people in the recent past; people who will say they are at crossroads in their lives and do not understand why things are not going right for them, when they can see that their mate or colleague is doing so well.
‘What has she got that I have not’, one asked, ‘yet she is still in her job, buying new things and I have been on half pay and I am not doing much with my life’. And I tell them…’take a deep breath. It is not always so straightforward’.
What we do to ourselves most times, is punish ourselves with matters, the full picture of which we probably do not know.
Our friend in the first football example up there who is managing 20 goals per season in the top tier might be putting his best in; maybe can be better, but surely must not be judged by the one who scored 30 in the second tier, because they have played against different opposition. No one knows how he might have done if he played against opposition defences in the top tier. He might score less than 20, he might score 20 and of course he might score more. Different strokes, different conditions.
The coach who is being judged on the performance of his predecessor of 3-4 years previous; was faced with a different set of players when he came in. He had a different team and different administrative organisation. So really, there is no basis for comparison without assessing the conditions.
My mentee who was getting worked up over how her friends were doing much better than her has not stopped to consider the various factors surrounding their circumstances as against hers.
They may have studied different courses at university; they may have had different strokes of fortune along the way. No one knows deeply, what the other has had to endure before getting to where they are, and whether they would have been able to endure what the others did, were they presented with such conditions at the same time, in the same place.
Comparison is a normal act, but as we set out in our respective worlds, we have to learn to make comparisons and take cognisance of the conditions attached. Each person’s scenario is peculiar to that person. ou can not compare the outcome of one situation and expect the same of the other, because, even if they happen in the same space of time, the conditions will be different.
We can use other people’s cases in a positive way. We can use our peers and colleagues as a source of motivation, and to put pressure on ourselves.
We can compare constructively; compare in a way that will add value to us.
There is nothing wrong in admiring a good deed, and wanting to be like it. But we must separate it from comparing and expecting to have the same fortunes as the next guy because the conditions are most likely different, so the outcome will as well.
Our mindset must be built around making constructive comparison taking cognisance of the peculiar conditions around the situation being compared.
So while we revel in the saying ‘Compare and Contrast’, I take exception and would rather say ‘Compare with Conditions’