Featured

Featured 47 Comments 

Download PDF

Never Measure Yourself against Perfection

By May 28,2015 Follow Me on Google+

View Count: 2098

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...
Summary
Use your past, rather than some unattainable ideal, as the yardstick for measuring progress in your life and career. The most successful people are also often the most unhappy, because they measure themselves against impossible ideals, which causes a constant sense of inferiority. There will always be someone better than you, and there are ideals all around you against which it would be unrealistic and stupid to measure yourself. Instead, compare yourself only to the person you were before; measure yourself against your own progress, and forget about others.

When I was in high school, one of the happiest kids I knew was an excellent athlete whom I’ll call Bill. He was very intelligent and always had the best looking girlfriends. He eventually ended up marrying his high school sweetheart.

Bill was from a relatively small town in Michigan, and he ended up going to our private boarding school, where he was surrounded by a lot of very high achievers. I think the type of people he met there really must have changed his perspective. Some of the kids he played baseball with in high school went on to play baseball in college. Some of these kids went on to Ivy League schools and planned on doing things like becoming doctors. I remember one of his friends went to Stanford. I don’t think Bill went away to college and he stayed home and attended a local community college for a year or two. After high school, his life did not appear to blossom the way the lives of others around him did. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with his life – he just didn’t appear interested in taking over the world.

When I’d first met Bill he’d been among the happiest people I had ever known. His happiness was very pure and deep. But something horrible happened to him, and I will come back to that in a moment.

Cranbrook-schoolWhat I am about to share with you is one of the most profound ways I know to look at the world and your place in it. If you consider yourself even slightly motivated, this may be one of the more useful things you will ever read. What you are about to read could change your life forever, and it could even save your life.

A few years ago, I was at a Tony Robbins conference in Palm Springs, California. Tony told a story about how his stepson had attended one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the world. An important person from the Middle East was apparently so happy with the assistance Tony had provided him that he told Tony he would get his stepson into this ultra prestigious school, which was in Switzerland, as a gift. Tony accepted the offer and sent his stepson off to the school.

What

 job title, keywords

Where

 city, state, zip



T-RobbinsTony made the point of saying before sending his stepson to the school, he’d been a very fit kid, and was also extremely happy. The boy had a positive disposition and lots of friends. He never seemed to care what other kids around him were doing and was mainly interested in just enjoying his own life.

Although Tony didn’t know it, once his stepson started going to this school, he started requesting thousands of dollars a month in spending money from his mother. Apparently he felt he needed new clothes and various other things to keep up with the other kids at the school. These kids were the sons of prime ministers and princes from Europe, famous actors, and other titans of industry – the children of some of the most important and well known people in the world.

After Tony’s stepson had been at the school for about six months, Tony traveled to Switzerland to visit him. He immediately noticed his stepson had gained at least 30 pounds. He hardly recognized him. His stepson insisted they go to a certain sushi restaurant for lunch, and the bill was several hundred dollars. Before, his stepson had never been concerned about restaurants and spending a lot of money. Aside from this, what Tony noticed most about his stepson was he now seemed very unhappy. He kept comparing himself with the people around him, and did not seem to feel good about himself.

His stepson had started comparing himself to others and felt like he came up short in every category. The boy simply did not feel good about himself or his family any longer. As Tony was speaking with him, the boy would say things like:

-This person was better than he was in this category.

-This person was better than Tony in this category.

-This person had a newer this or that.

-This person had more important parents.

-Tony was “new money,” and this was not good.

-This family was better than his because of this reason.

According to Tony, it was as if the school had given his stepson reasons to no longer feel good about himself. He compared everything in his life against something or someone else. Consequently, the boy gained tons of weight and became very unhappy with himself. Tony felt the damage was so severe he pulled him out of the school a short time later.

When you’ve achieved a high level of success and are around people with the most privileges and advantages, you often find the people who are the unhappiest with themselves. I think there is some truth to the idea the most successful people are often the unhappiest. The reason this may be true is they constantly measure themselves against ideals they simply cannot attain.

People who want to get very good grades may say to themselves, “nothing less than an ‘A’ is acceptable.” When they fail to get an A grade, they feel badly about themselves. Even if they get all As, if they get one A+, they might feel angry their other grades are not “A+” as well. A thinking process geared towards an ideal leads people to see they are failing to be “perfect”, and to meet a certain ideal in numerous other areas of their life:

-Their relationships with others
-Their wealth
-Their athletic ability
-Their health
-Their attractiveness
-Their popularity
-Their material possessions
-Their social status
-The social status of their parents
-Their weight
-Their natural intelligence
-Their talents of every kind

This list could go on and on. When people see others who are better than them, they often feel a sense of inferiority.

When many of us hear about stars overdosing on drugs or having other severe problems, the reaction often is, “Why would someone with so many advantages do this?” Stars are so programmed to achieve success, they often simply feel they do not measure up in a variety of areas. In many cases, it is the people closest to the star who make the person aware he or she does not measure up.

When I started seeing headlines about Britney Spears hanging around with Paris Hilton, I knew it would not be good for Britney Spears, and instinctively knew Britney was likely to start having severe problems. Paris comes from a different background than Britney, having grown up among the upper class, and she has an awareness of society I am sure Britney lacked at the time. In short, Paris’ insight into society could surely make Britney feel as if she were not measuring up, despite her massive fame and fortune. Paris knows what it is like to be from money; Paris knows about the social pecking order better than Britney.

Paris-Britney1Sure enough, very shortly after the two were announced to be friends and were seen frequently together, all sorts of horrible things started happening to Spears, which were of her own making. She shaved her head, was carted away to a psychiatric ward on a stretcher, and more. I am sure a lot of what happened had to do with Paris showing Britney how she did not measure up. Paris’ influence on Britney might not have been direct, but the effect occurred nonetheless.

There is a real danger in the way most of us have been taught to think about ourselves and the world. This way of thinking about ourselves and others never allows us to measure up. Instead of appreciating where we have come from and what we have achieved, most of us compare ourselves to an impossible ideal. All around us there are ideals we think we need to measure up to. We never can.

I want to propose a way of looking at the world and your place in it that will virtually guarantee you happiness and success throughout your life: you will never achieve the “ideal” in anything. You can keep trying, but you will never, ever be the best at everything. There is always going to be someone better than you.

Compare yourself only to the person you were before. Measure yourself against your own progress in various categories and do not compare yourself to others. Forget about others.

If you can understand this idea and apply it, your life will be changed forever. When you measure yourself against where you have been in the past, you are always going to feel a sense of progress. Each new success you achieve is going to give you a greater sense of satisfaction and push you forward with more positive energy. You can always improve on where you have already been, and what you have already accomplished. If you want to make improvements in any area, write down where you are right now and set out to improve. Measure yourself against where you have been, not where others have been.

Our brains like to set goals. Goals are absolutely necessary to drive us forward and make us achieve in life. But we cannot measure ourselves against others. We need to measure ourselves against ourselves, and gauge our progress in that fashion.

People who measure themselves against an ideal always feel disappointed. It is impossible to achieve every single goal you set for yourself. When you do not reach your ever-elusive goals, you end up feeling like a loser. You cannot possibly achieve every goal you set for yourself. What you can do, however, is constantly improve. This way you will continually feel a sense of victory as you move forward in life.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you can look at the scale a week from now after dieting and see that you have lost some weight. You have achieved something and have a reason to celebrate. This small victory will improve your self esteem and help you feel better about yourself.

Now, if you want to weigh 115 pounds like a star you read about in US Magazine, the reality is that you might never be able to achieve this. This is not how you should measure yourself.

I am sure you love watching television as much as I do, but most of the time what we are seeing is not the way the world really is. Nevertheless, many people are led to believe that the outside world is very similar to what they see on television, or read about in books and gossip magazines. There is an ideal that everyone aspires to attain. This ideal is a fantasy that simply does not exist. Comparing yourself to a fantasy world is a recipe for disaster and continual frustration.

Many people believe they can only be happy if their lives match a blueprint of what they believe a perfect life should be. When you really think about this, it is their model of the world that consistently makes them come up short. You need to compare yourself to where you have been and not where you think you should be.

You will start to feel fulfilled when you start comparing yourself to where you have been. You will be experiencing the life that you want. You deserve to feel fulfilled in life and to feel good about yourself.

Growing up, I had the privilege of having relatives who lived out in the country on farms, who did things like drive trucks for a living. In spending time with this family, I also met many of their friends who had far different expectations for their lives than the sort of people you meet in big cities. The people I met from the country typically had very low expectations for themselves and their lives. They were mostly concerned about things like putting food on the table and having a family. They did not believe they would ever be rich, or their children should be attending important schools. This simply was not part of their blueprint.

truck-on-farm1

These were also some of the happiest people I ever met. The fact their expectations were so low meant there was very little to disappoint them. Things we might take for granted (like new tires on a car, for instance) were things that gave these people a great deal of satisfaction.

Conversely, I also grew up with people who had extremely high expectations for themselves. These were the people who went to the private high school I attended. Some of them were continually disappointed in themselves and the world around them, and they often turned to drugs in order to feel better about themselves and their lives. These kids were very intelligent and extremely capable. Many of them ended up going to the very best colleges and today are living in big cities, doing things like working for investment banks. They are also still very unhappy.

One of the kids I went to school with was Bill – the baseball player I mentioned at the beginning of this article. He was from a small town background of lower expectations, like my relatives, or even Britney Spears, who grew up in rural Louisiana. This young man was thrust into a high-expectations environment of a private school, where I am sure he learned to compare himself to numerous ideals:

-It is important to have parents who are rich.
-It is important to drive a nice car.
-It is important to get into the best college.
-It is important to get the best and highest paying job possible.
-It is important to score in the top 10 percent on your SATs.
-It is important to be the best athlete.
-It is important to impress others.

He was a happy kid when I first met him. After college, his first day of work in an “official job” was going to be for his wife’s father. That night, he went to sleep with his wife just like any other night. At least, that’s how it appeared to his wife. In the morning, she woke up and did not see him anywhere. A short time later she checked the basement and found him hanging by his neck from a noose. He had committed suicide.

Who knows what was going on inside his mind or why he ended up killing himself? No one around him ever expected anything like this would ever happen. When I think about this, I bet the young man simply did not measure up to his ideals, or whatever he thought he should be doing with his career. There must have been something in his mind that made him feel like he did not belong on this earth and that he wanted to escape.

You have already achieved so much, and you will continue to achieve great things in your life, step by step. Let yourself be carried forward by the knowledge you have improved and are continually improving. Use your past as a yardstick, and never use an ideal. You are capable of greatness. Just be patient and let your life unfold – and enjoy the process.

THE LESSON

Use your past, rather than some unattainable ideal, as the yardstick for measuring progress in your life and career. The most successful people are also often the most unhappy, because they measure themselves against impossible ideals, which causes a constant sense of inferiority. There will always be someone better than you, and there are ideals all around you against which it would be unrealistic and stupid to measure yourself. Instead, compare yourself only to the person you were before; measure yourself against your own progress, and forget about others.

Resources
Search Employer Websites
Post Your Resume to 65+ Job Sites
Resume Service

For a step-by-step guide to transforming your career in just 44 days—including interviewing, where to find jobs people are not applying to, negotiating the best offers and strategies for the on-the-job success—check out Harrison Barnes' Career Transformation System.

You May Also Enjoy These Posts By Harrison Barnes

  • brandon

    hey mr. barnes
    i just wanted to say that i enjoyed reading your article and it put a lot of things in perspective for me, also i wanted to share some of my thoughts with you

    i think part of the problem is that not only should we not measure ourselves against perfection, but to also understand that perfection is by and large an illusion. tony robbins child came out of that school believing his own father to be somehow inferior, believing himself to be inferior

    but those are really illusory because the people who are in that private school are just thinking with dogma, not real critical thinking. their parents success is handed down to them and they just assume that its because their parents had the right idea about how to live life that it got them there – or if not their parents their ancestors; but you get my drift

    but this is just dogmatic thinking because the world is in a constant state of flux and todays solutions are definitely not tomorrows solutions. after all, old money was at one time new money; and old money basically does itself a disservice by unintentionally alienating so many obviously talented individuals who all require a feeling of respect and dignity and without a doubt, they have something to contribute to our collective humanity.

    and its also telling how fallible people “at the top” are; i think doing our own personal best and challenging our own limits, and expecting mutual respect from the people above us and giving a hand to the people below us – this is the only way to go about making our collective existence meaningful in any way.

    anyway, i really enjoyed reading your article and wish you the best.

  • Carolyn Ortega

    I love this. The youth of today are so troubled because their idea of success and happiness is warped. This is the same message I strive to impress on my family and friends.

  • Mamun

    I enjoyed reading this article and it put a lot of things in perspective for me, I also want to share with some of my friends.

  • Michelle Simard

    Great article written by Harrison Barnes. Its nice to hear that these points resonate with people and the nuanced reminder is always wonderful. I am sending this article who is having difficulty now with substance abuse, hopefully it will help her perception.

  • Sazia mahmud

    From this article we can learn that if you compare your happiness
    then nyou woll not get happiness in your life so please think happy , live happy.Bravo to harrison Barnes.

  • Your article entitled “Never Measure Yourself against Perfection” was wonerful, it’s the most constructive thing I’ve read in a long time and I want to thank you for writing it.

    Sincerely,

    Pamela Slater

  • shoumen

    Great article written by Harrison Barnes.From this article we can learn that if you compare your happiness
    then you will not get happiness in your life so please think happy , live happy.The youth of today are so troubled because their idea of success and happiness is warped.

  • shoumen

    Harrison Barnes web site is very popular for job search advice. Harrison Barnes site like a career advice web site. This web site is providing career advice to choose their expected jobs for their life. Harrison believes that the best stories typically revolve around the employee being very motivated to do a good job and continually wanting to improve in his or her employment. If some people are living in poverty and alone, spend some time with them and you will understand why they are in their situation.

  • shoumen

    A Harrison Barnes Employment Crossing believes that the best stories typically revolve around the employee being very motivated to do a good job and continually wanting to improve in his or her employment. Harrison Barnes did not gain this reputation overnight. He has worked for it tirelessly for years. In the process he has also benefited himself and tens of thousands of job seekers spread all across the globe. This website is giving the people advice. A website is advice is law related jobs.

  • shoumen

    From this article we can learn that if you compare your happiness
    then nyou woll not get happiness in your life so please think happy , live happy.He walks his talk and has promoted many job search sites which are very effective and have gained leading position all over the world. Harrison Barnes advice people, is the best way to find a job is to apply to every job opportunity for which you are qualified—and even some you may not be. You also need to know about everything that is going on in the market and all the jobs there are. The more jobs you know about the better off you will do.

  • shoumen

    Harrison Barnes Reviews is the best way to find new jobs. Harrison Barnes web site is very popular for job search advice. Harrison Barnes site like a career advice web site. This web site is providing career advice to choose their expected jobs for their life. Harrison believes that the best stories typically revolve around the employee being very motivated to do a good job and continually wanting to improve in his or her employment.

  • Shann

    I am so glad that I subscribed to this blog and I thank you Harrison for really reinforcing the fact that perfection is an illusion. I’m almost 30 years old, and growing up I had an innate drive to be the best at everything, which ultimately made me a very depressed, and even suicidal, teenager and young adult. I made very good grades and got into college on scholarship, but I was never happy with myself, because I was never good enough. After making it into a study abroad program at 22, I finally began to come into my own and see myself in a different light, however I am just now overcoming the illusion of perfectionism and realizing that I’m an intelligent person, I am talented, I am attractive, I am ambitious and most importantly, I am worthy of happiness in spite of everything I see and hear around me. No one can limit my success in life but me.

  • ikram

    This is a Great article .From this article we can learn that if you compare your happiness then you will not get happiness in your life so please think happy , live simple and happy.

  • Gaurav

    Pursuit of perfection is endless like chasing a mirage. It fetches disappointment and unhappiness sooner or later. Instead, one should set his own pace in life based on the parameters of his strengths, weaknesses and natural inclination. This is the way to achieve contentment which is the mantra of happiness in life.

  • Thank you for this real article.
    After read your artcle, relate to life differently. It is a good lesson in many ways.
    I remember those and apply what I learned here.

  • This article is very nice.It tells that goals are absolutely necessary to drive us forward and make us achieve in life.But it instructs that we cannot measure ourselves against others.It is really nice

  • I enjoyed reading this article.This article gives the information like Use your past as a yardstick, and never use an ideal.This is wonderful idea for getting success in their life.

  • In this article,the author said that Measure yourself against your own progress in various categories and do not compare yourself to others.
    ” Forget about others” this is really good.

  • Your article entitled “Never Measure Yourself against Perfection” was wonerful.It tells that Each new success we achieve are going to give us a greater sense of satisfaction with more positive energy.Thanks for this article

  • shoumen

    I enjoyed reading this article.It tells that Each new success we achieve are going to give us a greater sense of satisfaction with more positive energy.Thanks for this article. Pursuit of perfection is endless like chasing a mirage.

  • nancykaren

    From this article.most of the youth are fairness..I have read in a long time and I want to thank you for writing it.i really to enjoyed to reading this article…

  • This is an article worthy for any and every one, particularly in our current society in the US to read. We really need to instill this in our children, and remember it ourselves.

  • Good pragmatic advice. In our commercially-hyped and celebrity-worshipping youth-obssessed society we all are guilty, from time to time, of failing to discern reality from fiction, and aspirations from attainables.

    It often takes acquiring years of experience of living to fully appreciate from where one comes and to where one wants to go.

    I hope the recipients of your message pause long enough to understand its importance…

  • holly

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It has really struck a chord with me, as I struggle with many of the same issues every day. I will try to heed your advice!

  • Michael

    Very inspiring

  • jeniaddie

    A Harrison Barnes is the best site for others websites. This site article is very nice. Most of people like this site. Thank you.

  • D. Van Valkenburg

    Thank you for helping me to reorient my thinking. I think that most people who have achieved some measure of success compare themselves to others. Our society is geared towards constant competition. Team sports, performance evaluations, constant testing, and the expectations of family drive us to compare ourselves to others. People are not equipped with equal gifts and do not start from positions of equal wealth. Therefore, as you have stated, the true measure of success is how much you have improved upon what you started out with.

  • yingchang

    we are surounded by heroes and stars, and we are living in lives with hopes and achievements.
    If we appreciate everythings with care, we should understand ourselves and care about ourselves.

  • David May

    Excellent article to reflect upon. Thanks

  • Ebony

    I understand the concept of not looking to outside standards to measure success, but I think that this article goes about it the wrong way by giving examples of people with low expectations having greater happiness. It sounds to me like if in order to be happy that you should not strive for anything great. Most people that have accomplished great things did not do it by having low expectations, especially since so many will tell people that they cannot accomplish something. You can be in great physical condition, you can get top grades. You can become wealthy. You can reach the top of your profession. The people that achieved those goals started some place. This includes people from different backgrounds that found themselves around the so called elite in the article, but instead used it to their advantage to succeed in life without focusing on superficial matters of restaurants and the like which is not exclusive to that class of people. It is just a superficial measurement of material items that happen at all class levels of keeping up with others.
    What would be more valuable is to not say to have low expectation but to set steps toward the self defined goals that you have for yourself without focusing on outside mattes material items or status. As a person works towards the goals, success will be achieved and the person will know that they have done everything they can to meet their ultimate goal, which can be adjusted if needed or extended once achieved. To have low expectations is more likely to lead to not achieving things that are actually possible.

  • PLEASE DO NOT POST MY COMMENT:
    Thank you for this very inspirational and encouraging article. You have reaffirmed what I have taught for many years to elementary, middle school, high school and even college students: HAPPINESS IS A DECISION.

  • Tamara Reeves

    Wonderful article!!

  • Sharon McWillis

    Wow, I ready your story. You are a great writer and I think you should write a book about your life.

    Thanks for the email

  • Al

    This is such an inspiring message. It has caused me to start writing down realistic goals for my life and stretch goals that I need to strive for down the road.
    Please continue to publish this message.

  • Evelyn Miller

    This is a wonderful and inspiring piece. I would add to this, the advice not to look back in disappointment, but to look at the present with energy and the future with hope. In spite of the BCG counselors repeated emails to me that I am outside of their criteria and therefore must pay for my age and experience compensating someone to be my recruiter, I soldier on. At some point, someone will scrutinize my resume and champion me for my flexibility, wisdom, experience, and quality, all at a very reasonable price, with no partnership expectations.

  • Susan

    Thank you. I needed that perspective today.

  • Susie

    Thank you for the above article. I have been struggling with much of what you write about and have been unable thus far to put my law degree/experience to work in a way that is compatible with my values,with who I am and the simple things I deeply desire for myself and my family.

  • Awesome! it was my very first time to read such stories… I was really inspired. I came to realize that in this life we must learn to be contented… but remain achieving…

  • Philip J. Germani

    This is a very inspiring article. I needed to read this after the most discouraging week ever. Thank you.

  • Terrence Meyerhoff

    Harrison – Thanks for the insightful article! I could not agree with you more.

  • Sveta

    Very encouraging story, thank you!

  • Dianne

    I have truly learned alot from the above articile. Right now I feel like I am stuck in my career. I am continously educating myself but the oppunities are so few. I am unemployed but I am not giving up my education although I sometime think its a waste of time. Thanks again for sending me the story.

  • Andrew S. Pikoff

    Very positive and insightful despite the sad ending.

  • Michael Tine

    Hello Sir Barnes,
    I always read your articles, but this one is a great lesson according to me. I found out why it’s so necessary to listen to my elders and other people who get knowledge and are wise. The other idea is that in this life every person must remember his past and measure himself while forgetting what others are, do or get. I can add this: in my life I never have measured myself by others or focused myself on what others people do, earn in their job, their homes, and their wealth. All I know is that I need to learn, work, and pray everyday. I also know that I need to be myself everywhere and everytime with everyone, because after all, God is the only Creator.

    Have a good weekend!

    Thank you! Hope to get more articles from you!

    Michael TINE

  • Good article!

  • Phil Jones

    Your goals have to be your own, not those suggested by peers or the media. Even if you manage to reach the expectations of others, the fact it was never your own can only result in disappointment. Sure you get a kick out of doing stuff that takes time and effort but you need to know and identify what you want first before going after it.

    I left a career in chemistry to get in to IT for the money. Made plenty of it but the work never gave the the same buzz as my previous occupation. Also I never felt I was achieving anything in IT save help rich corporation make more money.

    Do what you do best and do what makes you happy.

  • Anisa williamskn

    I really appreciate this website. It alwahs hits home. My dad is a lawyer. As a child I thought us to be rich…until highschool my parents divorced and my mom got a house on the edge of indian hill a rich community as I caught the bus past mansions and returned home to our shack I began to feel what u descdibed. I am a lawyer graduated cum laude have a llm but I am on welfare lol. I am trying to figure this out.

Filed Under : Featured, Life Lessons

Tagged: , , ,

BCG FEATURED JOB

Staff Attorney with 3+ years of technology transactions experience

USA-MN-Minneapolis

Minneapolis office of our client seeks staff attorney with 3+ years of experienc...

Apply Now

Complex Litigation Attorney with 2-3 years of arbitration experience

USA-FL-Miami

Miami office of our client seeks complex litigation attorney with 2-3 years of a...

Apply Now

Litigation Attorney with 3+ years of real estate experience

USA-CA-San Jose

San Jose office of our client seeks litigation attorney with 3+ years of experie...

Apply Now

TOP LEGAL JOB

  • SEARCH LEGAL JOBS

RELEVANT JOBS

Associate Attorney

USA-FL-Miami

Trujillo Vargas Gonzalez & Hevia LLP, a mid-size Florida law firm specializing in first-pa...

Apply now

Paralegal

USA-NC-Goldsboro

Charleston law firm seeks applicant for paralegal position for Monday through Friday 8:00-5:00. Posi...

Apply now

Certified Civil Trial Attorney

USA-NJ-Toms River

Career opportunity to join a dynamic team of attorneys with a long-standing reputation of high profe...

Apply now

Job Market

The Dangers of Getting Jobs Through Friends

By on May 04,2017

Despite the obvious advantages, getting jobs through a friend or relative may ultimately harm you. When you do so, you risk lowering your colleagues’ opinions of you, who may see your connections as evidence that you lack the skills to get your position on your own merits. Nonetheless, there are situations in which it is acceptable to take advantage of such connections, but you must be on your guard; make sure that the job you get is a good fit, and one in which you would perform well regardless of your connections.

continue reading

recent posts

Related Posts:

Want Powerful Career Advice?

Get my free newsletter and strategies that make people successful




Subscribe!