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July 14, 2011 2:00 PM   Subscribe

How to stop being distracted with what other people are doing

How do you focus more on yourself and less on what other people are doing/accomplishing in their lives?

I fall into the mode of comparing myself with others (particularly in the same field) and eventually I DO get past it, but I'd like to know how you deal with those feelings when they pop up. I know that doing that kind of stuff does me no good (booo!) .

posted by sprezzy to Human Relations (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have found that once you "find yourself" (ie, discover what your passions or professional calling is) the work and accomplishments of other people fade in importance.

Only when you are personally adrift does the problem of invidious comparison loom so large that it is a distraction.
posted by jayder at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I work in the entertainment business and I'm surrounded by people who are doing jobs that I wanna be doing, making the kind of money that I wanna be making, and having the career that I shoot for on a daily basis. That being said, there are many people who dream of having the career that I have. I consider myself at the bottom of the highest level in my field...if that makes sense. While I often spend time admiring the work of those who rank higher then me on the ladder, I try not to second guess myself and I always try to shoot for realistic at a time. Having realistic goals is something that helps. It's ok to pay attention to what others are accomplishing but you can't dwell on where they are and what they're doing. Make a plan for yourself. Write down all the steps you'll take to accomplish many small goals to reach the large goals. Writing things down is key. By focusing on each small task at hand you will begin to mover forward towards your goal. You will start to feel accomplished and gain self worth. Eventually you will surpass those who seem to be farther in your field. Stay focused, stay motivated, enjoy the journey, and never regret the path you've chosen.
posted by ljs30 at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I work in a rather narrow specialty, and thus, am in competition with the same people over and over again for the few jobs that need our skills. I do like to see how I can improve my skills or presentation and step up my game if need be. I don't think of it as a comparison of worthiness but of acquisition of skills--do I need to learn a new database or program? Do I need to cultivate a new set of potential customers? Am I providing as complete a service as others do?

But I don't let someone else's good fortune or opportunity drag me down--I look at this stuff as opportunities or ways to spur myself into more productive actions.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:01 PM on July 14, 2011

You may want to get the book Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott, or at least read one of its chapters -- it deals with precisely this issue. The cover says it's a book about writing, but this chapter could be applied to any field, actually.

It's been a while since I read it, but one of the main points she makes is that you should first of all forgive yourself for feeling this way, because it's very human. (Lamott's voice is also endearingly flighty in this, so she comes across as more of an "I've-been-there-too"companion than a lecturer.) She does also have practical advice for how to handle the jealousy when it's just other people you hear about, and how to handle it when it's a friend (and also how to handle it when that friend seems to kind of be rubbing it in your face).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2011

I focus on how life was handed to me and not them. For instance I think:

"Wow - they never went through [insert life experience here], and I did. Boy was I glad to have gone through that because clearly they don't know [insert lesson from life experience here]."

This includes both peaks and the valleys of life.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:50 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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