Illustration of a scale with unbalanced weight.

How to use Comparison to Fuel Personal Growth


To compare is to be human. Trying to avoid it is a foolish waste of energy. What’s important is to redirect comparison away from jealousy or envy to celebration and recalibration. 

Brené Brown makes an important distinction between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is the fear of losing something I have to someone else.[1] Envy is wanting something someone else has. Comparing ourselves with others can take us down either of these paths. Social media supersizes this temptation.

From Comparison to Celebration

When we notice a difference between ourselves and others—the root of comparison, we can choose to redirect our energy to celebrate the good fortune of another person or express gratitude for how we have been blessed. I’ve found help making this pivot using four powerful words: I’m happy for you.

When I learn about someone’s amazing vacation, successful book launch or expanding platform instead of getting stuck on comparison I make a mental pivot by thinking to myself (or saying out loud), “I’m happy for you.”

What does this have to do with personal growth?

Benchmarking Against Yourself

Comparing ourselves with others often serves as a trigger for the aspiration to grow. You are really good at X, I need to get better at that myself. But we each have to run our own race. 

When we get stuck in a mental sink hole of comparison tied up by jealousy or envy it poisons our motivation for personal growth. That’s why it’s so important to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.[2]

The musical artist Prince was known for his work ethic and relentless commitment to getting better. The story is told of him assembling the band shortly after a concert to watch video footage of the show. Band members explained they were tired and deserving of a break, questioning the need for a video debrief. Prince paused the video and pointed to himself on the screen saying, “The reason we need to watch this is because the next time we perform, I want to be better than him.”[3]

The Value of Self-Assessment

High ROI personal growth goals are best identified by a systematic and holistic self-assessment, benchmarking and recalibrating against ourselves. The process I’ve developed includes five categories:

  • Spirituality: dealing with issues of character, faith, and moral centeredness
  • Identity: dealing with the five components of your Identity Profile (personality, strengths, skills, personal values, and passions)
  • Responsibility: dealing with four life domains (personal, family, vocation, and community)
  • Destiny: dealing with your sense of purpose and life mission
  • Legacy: dealing with finishing well and making an ultimate contribution

You can access a free Personal Growth Self-Assessment Tool here.

In my experience, there is an inverse relationship between leadership capacity and interest in a systematic self-assessment. High-capacity leaders tend to have strong intuition about where they need to grow and lots of motivation to get better. They are more likely than others to trust their intuition and discount the need for a holistic self-assessment process.

That’s a problem for two reasons. First, intuition is not a reliable way to expose blind spots. Second, you can’t teach intuition to others. When you discount a holistic self-assessment and rely only on intuition you are saying, “I’m not very concerned about my blind spots, and I don’t care about teaching others how to identify high ROI growth opportunities.”

Don’t waste energy trying to stop comparing. Redirect your comparison to celebrate the good fortune of others and recalibrate by benchmarking against yourself with a rigorous and holistic self-assessment.

To go deeper on this topic, check out Episode 1 of our video blog, Learning @ the Speed of Life.

 [1] From The Happiness Lab podcast interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, January 3, 2022.
 [2] This is Rule 4 from Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, though others have said this as well.
 [3] This story is difficult to source and may be apocryphal but it is entirely consistent with Prince’s work ethic and commitment to continuous improvement

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