Age and achievement

People’s lives unfold at different rates. Some people gently stroll a lifelong marathon, others speed through a sprint and then relax into a jog while others trudge up mountains, run down into valleys and repeat. For some, huge achievements come early in their lives. Others work a lifetime to attain their dreams. Some hit milestones at an average age while others hit them out of order and back to front.

So why does the age at which you achieve, matter?

Achievement can mean so many things and is totally dependent on the individual: getting a big salary, buying a house, getting married, starting a family or any number of other life changing accomplishments. For some, achievement comes in the form of character, the fruits of which are in a life lived in the moment and for the people around them.

When I hear of others’ achievements, I instinctively find out how old they are; how old were they when they had a breakthrough, made their debut, or had a baby. Mostly I find out their age only if what they have achieved is something that I have achieved or would like to achieve.

Often I find they were younger than me when they reached their goals. It’s the curse of comparison all over again. If I were not proud, then what I have accomplished in my lifetime would fill me to the brim. I have a wonderful job, a fabulous husband and a gorgeous son. I want for nothing and am thankful that my biggest life moments happened in their own perfect time.

But somewhere in there is an edge of competition and it appears I always want to win. I want to get there first, have better stories, more kids and bigger adventures. For someone who isn’t competitive at all with board games, life it would seem, is another matter. What’s even harder is that that is not who I want to be at all. I chase contentment, simplicity, faith and humility – the polar opposite of what those desires conjure up.

Treatment is needed. Taking away the possibility for comparison is the first step – I will not find out ages any more. When the desire for bigger, better and younger bubbles up, I will remind myself that I am in the right place for this time and that the impact I choose to make in my spheres of family, friendship and influence is up to me. I can compare or I can choose to look only at myself and bask in the blessings that are there when I opt to appreciate them. I can feel defeated or I can look ahead to countless opportunities to live life to the full with the people I love.

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The curse of comparison

Look at your life for a moment. In isolation from every other person’s life, are you happy with yours? If you didn’t know that a colleague had a bigger house, a friend had more children or an acquaintance had a higher paid job, would you be satisfied with your life?

Comparison is ugly. Not only does it make us compare tiny segments of other people’s lives to the entirety of our own lives, it takes our eyes away from what we do have.

If we were truly to compare our lives to others, then we’d have to take their good with their bad. We can’t be jealous of one element of their lives without taking into account everything else that makes up their daily living. They may have something you want but they inevitably will have other things that you’re thankful you don’t have to deal with.

It’s worth remembering that to someone, your grass is greener than theirs. To others looking in, those Instagram photos, job updates or home improvements are exactly what they are aspiring to in that moment. They won’t see the in between, the struggles, disappointments or failures.

It’s the one time in life when blinkers are acceptable. Usually, a life led wisely demands a broader perspective, to consider the needs and circumstances of others and to see the world beyond our narrow existence. But when it comes to comparison, we are free to put those blinkers on, block out the lives of those around us so that all we see is our own. If there are things we still want to change or we’re unhappy with, we can work at figuring out how to move forward, where possible, but only if those areas and dreams are free from ties to a life lived elsewhere.

Comparison is a curse. Why indulge it when the alternative is thankfulness for the blessings in our lives, which leads to greater contentment and peacefulness? If we weren’t so caught up in contests and races, the answer would be a no brainer.