How much of your life have you spent comparing yourself to others? I know I’ve put a frustrating amount of time into it, even though it’s never been intentional. I think on how far I’ve come in my career relative to famous entrepreneurs, and dwell on counterfactuals: if I’d done what they did, pursuing the same qualifications and experiences, might I have yielded similar results?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, admittedly. Many of those famous entrepreneurs did the exact same thing as they were building themselves. Although, the difference is that they used a comparison to motivate themselves rather than guide themselves. Essentially, they wanted to reach the same goals but in their own ways.
This is key. Taking inspiration from those around you (and those who’ve succeeded before you) but ultimately carving your own path. Allow me to explain why this is the case, and offer some tips for managing it:
You Can’t Typically Replicate Someone Else’s Journey
Let’s say you wanted to save a lot of time and effort by taking a well-travelled path, the ground worn down by the many who’ve taken it. It’s an understandable impulse, but it hinges on the deceptive nature of the metaphor. After all, heading down a literal path is very simple, but navigating a path of personal and professional progress is anything but simple.
Much of my time goes towards e-commerce and IT-related matters, so I’ll offer you an analogy that could be more useful: building a desktop computer. A working PC consists of a complex web of connections. Some connections made for you from the outset (connections on circuit boards) but others that you must create yourself. You need cables in place to connect everything from disk drives to cooling fans. So you know where they need to link up, not necessarily how to do it.
Now, you could open up someone else’s computer and try to copy the layout there — but there’s a problem. Their case is likely to be different, along with the components inside it, meaning that connections will be placed differently. This is why anyone who’s built their own PC has stressful memories of using SATA cables (cables needed to connect disk drives): if your cable is slightly too short, or too long, at the wrong angle, then it’s never going to fit.
If you’re careful to buy the exact same configuration as someone else (which is tough, because parts enter and exit the market fairly quickly), then you can copy their setup. But it’s tricky, and life is infinitely more complex than a PC. Can you see now why the idea of walking the exact same path as someone else is a non-starter? And even if you could, wouldn’t that be dull?
There’s A Simple & Primal Joy In Following Your Nature
The reason I say it would be dull to walk the exact same path as someone else is that you wouldn’t make a unique impression on the world. You’d just be one of many to follow a simple formula for the rest of your life. There’d be no interesting feats for your loved ones to remember, and no remarkable stories for friends or family members to tell about you at your funeral.
Does that sound fun to you? Doing everything by rote? Not necessary because you want to, but because it fits into a premade process. To me, that sounds exhausting, frustrating, and despair-inducing — and contrary to human nature. Humans evolved as go-getters: we shared stories, yes, but we ultimately went out and pioneered ways to survive. We slept when we wanted to sleep, went where we wanted to go, and weren’t burdened by glossy social-media life stories.
Your own path might not go smoothly towards the destination you’d like to reach, but it’ll be so much more gratifying than any path you could take from someone else — and likely no less effective on the whole, since there are a lot of people out there who’ll tell you how to do something despite never having done it.
It also bears noting that failure is the best teacher you’ll ever have, so even if you can find some finely-honed set routines that truly will lead to success, they’ll coddle you to some extent. This will ultimately hold you back from making mistakes but also make it much harder for you to achieve remarkable successes.
How To Take Control Of Your Life
Now that I’ve been through the two major reasons why it’s so important to carve your own path in life, let’s run through some simple tips for achieving it. Ready?
1. Spend less time on social media
As I noted before, social media is full of glossy stories about perfect lives and incredible successes, and it almost doesn’t matter which ones are true and which are embellished because the effect is the same: social media users become convinced that they’re disappointments. It might seem as though social media is vitally important, but it really isn’t. You don’t need to give it up entirely, though: just start using it less, and spend more time thinking about your own life.
2. Follow your passions
Stop thinking so much about which options are the most practical, and start envisioning a future of following your passions. In the end, you might make less money and have a smaller house, but you’ll most likely be considerably happier and more grateful for your life.
3. Embrace life’s uncertainty
No one really knows where their life is going, no matter how meticulously they have their futures planned out. Part of the reason why people look for paths already travelled is that they want to avoid turbulence, but it’s inevitable. What’s more, it’s both productive and enjoyable. Surprises keep us on our toes and force us to adapt, and in the long term they’re quite welcome, so don’t work so hard to avoid them.
There you have it! My reasoning for why carving your own path is vital for happiness, and my key tips for managing it. Now, it might seem intimidating but lean into that. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of life!