This is Peterson’s 4th rule. He encourages to have realistic expectations of ourselves. Failure to do so is a major cause of unhappiness.
No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.
What do you know about yourself? You are, on the one hand, the most complex thing in the entire universe, and on the other, someone who can’t even set the clock on your microwave.
However, we find this difficult to accept. We therefore struggle with comparisons.
When the internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavourably with someone truly stellar, within that domain. It can take that final step even further, using the unbridgeable gap between you and its target of comparison as evidence for the fundamental injustice of life. That way your motivation to do anything at all can be most effectively undermined. Those who accept such an approach to self-evaluation certainly can’t be accused of making things too easy for themselves. But it’s just as big a problem to make things too difficult.
Another problem we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves in the future, and then comparing ourselves against our failure to match our expectations.
Because we always contrast what is with what could be, we have to aim at what could be. But we can aim too high. Or too low. Or too chaotically. So we fail and live in disappointment, even when we appear to others to be living well.
Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak. Much of happiness is hope, no matter how deep the underworld in which that hope was conceived.
Aiming at the wrong thing has serious adverse consequences. It causes us to miss other things.
Perhaps what you really need is right in front of your eyes, but you cannot see it because of what you are currently aiming for.
We only see what we aim at. The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden. If we start aiming at something different—something like “I want my life to be better”—our minds will start presenting us with new information, derived from the previously hidden world, to aid us in that pursuit.
The answer to this, and therefore a key to happiness is –
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Written by Tony Thompson