We’ve all heard the saying “keeping up with the Joneses.” Sadly, none of us are sure who exactly these Joneses are, and to be honest, we shouldn’t even care. This saying is a farce. An embodiment of an antiquated idea that things are important, and that other people should see you with your things is even more important. Keeping up with the Joneses means that you are trying to be on par, or better than, your neighbors.
I mention things because we are taught that material possessions are a measurement for whether we are doing better than our neighbors - whether we are out jonesing the Joneses. Our houses have to be bigger, our cars faster, our kids’ school more renown, and our job titles more respectable.
While using material things as a measurement of success is wrong, trying to measure ourselves to our neighbors, colleagues, friends, or family is not only wrong, it’s plain misguided.
You can’t use others as a benchmark for your success and happiness. The only way that comparing ourselves to someone else makes sense is if they were born the same moment we were, went to the same grade school, scraped their knees at the exact moment we scrapped ours, dated our boyfriends and girlfriends at the same time we were dating them, felt all the same heartbreaks and happiness, and had the same goals and outlook on life. How many of us have led identical lives with even one person? None, of course.
Seeing as this is impossible, it’s equally impossible to derive success and happiness by comparing ourselves to others.
Rather than using others as a benchmark for our success, we should use ourselves as a benchmark for our success. The only accurate measurement for personal success is a measurement of your current situation in relation to a past situation. The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t “how do I compare to others?” but rather: “how do I compare to myself one year ago today?”
I call this the look-back window. Evaluate your life today: your job, your relationships, your influence, your impact, and your happiness. How does this compare to your life one year ago today? And if your life is better today than it was last year, you’re a success!
Think about it in terms of business. If you started your own company, you wouldn’t use Google’s revenue as a benchmark for your company’s success. That’s ridiculous. You would, however, use internal monthly or yearly revenue growth as a benchmark. If your revenue increased from 2013 to 2014, or if your revenue in October was higher than your revenue in September, you would say that your company is on the right track.
The same idea applies to personal success. How much have you grown in the past month or year? Are you better off today than you were yesterday, last month, or last year? Use personal improvement as a self assessment. We should focus on exponential personal growth rather than on where the Joneses are in their lives.
And by using a look-back window, we actually become more forward thinking. What can we do today that will moves us forward so when we look back on today one year from now, we’ll see how far we’ve come? Exponential growth doesn’t happen overnight, but if we focus on being better today than we were yesterday, we’ll be incrementally and exponentially more successful each day.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to see how far you’ve come when you’re in the moment. Down in the trenches of life, it’s not uncommon to feel like you aren’t moving. But when you zoom out a year, it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come.
So rather than focusing on keeping up with the Joneses, focus on keeping up with yourself. Be better today than you were yesterday. Before long, it’ll be the Joneses who want to keep up with you, and the funny thing is, you won’t even care.