In our modern, digitally led world, it’s all too easy to fixate on the lives of others whilst neglecting to celebrate our own. Therefore I believe it’s essential to approach every aspect of life with the goal of only ever trying to be your personal best, or as I like to paraphrase ‘Be Your PB’.
You’ve probably come to think of 'personal bests' as a measure of athletic performance. A way to measure a sports person over the course of their career, in addition to comparing their efforts to others in competition.
So even if they’re not the greatest in their field at that time, they can still work to keep improving against their own previous work. This allows them to always be striving to be the best version of themselves that they can be, instead of obsessively comparing their performance to others.
Because only focussing on the achievements of others inevitably becomes paralysing. For example, imagine if you were any 100 meter sprinter over the last few years other than Usain Bolt. How productive would it be to just focus on how far behind the 'fastest man in the world’ you are?
Quite simply it would put far too much emphasis on how you failed to match his pace, as opposed to just looking at how you had improved since your last race.
I’m not saying that there’s no place at all for looking ahead of where you are, using others achievements to aspire to or be inspired by. Simply that by only ever focussing on other people's performance, while failing to acknowledge your own growth, you leave yourself open to never feeling truly fulfilled.
"Comparison is the thief of joy"
This quote by former US president Theodore Roosevelt sums it all up beautifully. So in the context of your own life, how focussed are you on what other people are doing, as opposed to just trying to be your personal best?
We’re blessed to live in an age where we have greater access to more knowledge than ever before. The internet has changed how humans live forever, giving us a tool that can be used to inform and inspire ourselves to live better and possibly even longer.
The world is quite literally at our finger tips, with everything and anything you could ever want to know accessible in seconds with only minimal effort. I mean, how often in a normal week do you use or hear the phrase “Google it”?
However, as with most technology, with the good, inevitably comes some bad. So while we’re now able to learn and communicate far more effectively, we also have a far bigger window into the lives of other people, leaving us prey to the lure of comparison.
From our friends to colleagues and even our favourite celebrities, a simple scroll through social media gives us the great and good from a variety of seemingly more interesting lives.
The result? We feel like we just aren't enough. So what's the solution? Leave Facebook? Exit Instagram?
Of course you could do that. However you might then risk missing out on other great information and inspiration that could help you to better yourself. Remember that ultimately these applications are just tools for you to use as you see best.
So before you log out and delete your favourite apps, try applying these 3 mindfulness based practices to the situation...
The Best 10%
Whenever you’re using these platforms, remind yourself that the vast majority of what people post online often only shows the best 10% of their lives. Think about it. What are you more likely to post yourself? Pictures of you looking happy and healthy, relaxing on holiday or the screaming struggle of the morning school run?
If you can see each individual post as likely being the one great thing that happened to that person today, this week or even this month, you stop believing their entire life to being better than yours. In fact you might even start to see some similarities to your own experiences, allowing a little compassion to take comparisons place.
More importantly, make sure you see each post as what they are, different posts by different people at different points in their life. Because often its not just one post that gets to us but rather the cumulative weight of all those 10 percents adding up to leave us feeling as though we’re failing.
Who knows, some of those people most likely have even greater struggles than you do but that you can’t see. Remember, even for all the affluence and opportunity of 21st century life, it’s fair to say that everyone is still fighting their own personal battle at some level.
Don’t believe the hype.
Not only are you seeing the best of others lives but there’s a good chance that even that is being inflated a little. Social media is a great way to exaggerate achievements or completely falsify them altogether. So before you start believing everything you see or read remember, there might just be a little filtering or fibbing going on.
For example, when people post pictures of their 'bikini body’, what we see is someone with a super lean physique, a flat stomach and shapely bum. What we don’t see is the person getting the lighting just right, endlessly practicing their most flattering pose and all the time they’ve spent adding filters to the shot before posting.
Obviously they still need to have something resembling a good body, after all there’s only so much photoshop can do. It’s just that all those ‘extras’ can make them look superhuman so just be careful to apply your own ‘truth filter' when taking a peek.
What works for one rarely works for all...
Typically when we see someone we admire or envy, there’s a good chance they are demonstrating some success in their health, relationships or career. Problems arise when we start to believe that if we follow the exact same process or plan that worked for them, that we’ll get the same results.
This is rarely the case as what works for one person in the context of their life, under one particular set of circumstances, isn’t a guarantee it’ll work for you as part of your unique life, with it’s all of it’s own nuances.
Again, I’m not saying you can’t be inspired by what others are doing, simply be mindful not to think you have to do exactly the same to achieve your own goals. Instead, look for the common trends between different approaches that resonate with you then focus on implementing the ones you feel will fit best into your life.
For example, if you can’t decide whether a 'raw vegan' or ‘paleo' diet will be the best way for you to lose weight and get healthy just take a look at the key features they share. Both approaches recommend eating more vegetables and less processed food as well as eliminating dairy products.
Therefore, just ask yourself which of those three things you could most easily start implenting into your own existing diet, rather than having to follow all the hard and fast rules of one specific belief system.
Ultimately, when it comes to building your own best life, you need to start by focussing on you and where you currently are. Remember, you are unique at every level and while we all share certain physical, psychological and emotional similarities, it’s the different combinations of these things inside of your unique body that make you, you!
So to truly ‘Be Your PB’ just aim to not allow yourself to be too distracted by what others are doing, using them for motivation only. However, if their posts still leave you feeling more down than up then don’t hesitate to unfollow, unsubscribe or at the very least, hide them from view.
Be patient and don’t be afraid to experiment with new approaches, ideally only ever changing one thing at a time then keep checking in to review your progress to see what's working. Celebrate every win no matter the size small and aim to take small, simple steps to do what you can to most immediately change things for the better.
Above all just keeping striving to release your own greatest potential by taking the best action for you personally. Because by doing it all on your own terms, you’ll be left feeling far more fulfilled throughout your journey.