Proving You to Who?

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo

I’ve previously acknowledged once being a Type-A, competitively driven, high achiever. It was part of my (younger) professional evolution. Many of us lived this and many still do. We are always becoming more. Who you are today is a result of the decisions you made yesterday. We are always in a state of creation. We decide and then we decide again, and the direction is always toward expansion. It is our human nature to expand.

It is years of evolution and social influences that have pitted us against our peers. I cut my career teeth on Wall Street. For ten years, I thrived in a dog-eat-dog environment. In the years since, gratefully, I have realized that the needs and desires that inspire us to compete with ourselves, are much more personal and more complex than those of competing against peers.

We awaken. A need to eclipse our earlier efforts – to confirm that we have grown as individuals – can motivate us to reach new heights of accomplishment. We find we can use our past achievements as a foundation from which we step into the unknown. Yet, if this drive to compete with our former selves is the result of low self-worth, even heaps of praise can be discouraging. Examining how we compete with ourselves opens us to new challenges that can often enhance our world.

There are plenty of reasons we try to surpass ourselves. Ambitious in our quest for growth, we strive to meet our own notions. We don’t seek external wins and losses to define our sense of self-worth. Instead, we become our own judges, monitoring our progress toward who we aspire to become; careful that our efforts are not to meet or exceed others standards.

If you believe that it’s not all about competing against others, here are three considerations to help you realize how it can be about taking pride in your progress (and thus, your growth) at any pace:

  1. You don’t have to have a dream (gasp!). If you have something that you’ve always dreamed of, go for it! After all, it’s something to do with your time. And if it’s a big enough one, it may take you most of your life to achieve it. But if you don’t have a dream, that’s okay. Instead, be passionate in your pursuit of short-term goals. Work with pride on whatever is the task at hand. And when you finish with that, focus on your next goal. Just make sure they’re your goals.
  2. Realize that you cannot always win. No matter what you do you can pretty much always find someone else that has more than you or is better at something than you. Is that really tough to accept? Does it always have to be a competition with others?
  3. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing with their block of stone. The statue that they are creating is one of their own intentions. How well you are doing with your block of stone is your business.

Winning isn’t everything. Being you is.

25 thoughts on “Proving You to Who?

    • Haven’t seen “WWS” but know enough of the story line to say, most likely so. It was and remains cut-throat, especially at/with the top-tier firms. Exiting that world was a relief, in many ways. I’ll take my nearly stress-free life today, any day. 🙂

  1. Great post Eric, I love the t-shirt phrase ‘self-worth, not net-worth’, though they tend to overlap for me. Great reminder that we can still move forward with smaller steps and goals. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

  2. Interesting post! Winning is definitely not everything, contrary to what most people believe these days. However, we tend to compare to each other in almost every aspect of life. As long as we keep feeding our egos, we will continue to compete.

    • You have isolated and identified a key factor, Noel – the ego-mind. It might be a very different world if that element wasn’t so powerful, and being too often fed. Thank you for stopping by and contributing to the thought exchange.

  3. You are so right Eric! we have to compete with ourselves and with our peers, friends, colleagues…all kinds of challenges, even our goals keep changing as we advance ahead. What is more important to my mind is, to uphold the values we believe in…as you say ‘winning isn’t everything’. How true!

    We may have failed in our attempts to excel in the eyes of those who rise by hook or by crook, our progress up the ladder may be slow but we must carve the statue the way we want to!

    Well articulated! Thanks for sharing.

    • Uphold (and practice) the values we believe in. So very true, Balroop! Thank you for catching and playing back the importance in carving the statue the way we want to! 🙂 Appreciate your kind remarks.

  4. Once again so enjoyed your post Eric. I just find the older I get the more at peace I feel with myself. I think back to those moments in my life when competitiveness reigned, both with myself and with others. I could never go back to that. I remember during that time discovering the profound link between competitiveness and compassion, compassion towards oneself and others and how little compassion there was in my life. It was an extremely sobering confrontation with myself. It happened at a retreat in the USA. It was a life changing event and set me on a course I’ve never regretted. Thanks again for the gift of your post.

    • I am always warmed when I learn about individuals who have experienced those “life changing events,” Don. They are significant is many ways. I understand and appreciate the link you describe between compassion and competitiveness, as I have been there as well. The compassionate me is grateful for having aligned so and I am quite contented moving forward with my life, absent the past, competitive associations. Thanks so much for sharing you wonderful, personal views. They are appreciated!

  5. Yes. Bravo! For a short time back in the 1980s, I thought I had to be continually striving for more, of what I’m not sure. It finally dawned on me that basically I liked/like my life that way it was/is. All it needs is a little improvement and/or adjusting on a regular basis — as they say these days, some tweaking.

    • I am keying on your “..of what I’m not sure” reflection, Glynis. I wonder how many of us really knew – back then. I like your reference to a little adjusting/tweaking. As simple as that sounds, it actually is fairly easy to do! It is relieving to no longer having to continually strive, isn’t it! 🙂

  6. You say: “We decide and then we decide again, and the direction is always toward expansion. It is our human nature to expand.”

    I’ve had a slightly different experience. For the past 17 years, we’ve been continually downsizing, contracting rather than expanding, giving things away rather than acquiring new things. Of course, since “Less is More” . . . maybe I’ve been expanding in less material ways during the same period of time. 😉

    • From a semantics perspective, I actually thought of this (expanding versus contracting) as I was typing. Having given it further thought, I still believe that most are on the expansion path. While I don’t yet have your 17 years worth of intentional contracting or downsizing, I am on that trajectory with many fronts. Love your reference to “Less is More.” You are clearly on to something there. 🙂

  7. Very true. Comparing ourselves to others is a sure way to personal spiritual disaster. You are who you are, as you say, by what you did yesterday. You can always change who you are tomorrow. Well said.

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