Measuring Sticks

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I was hobbling down the hallway, cranky and sore, when one of my coworkers asked if I was okay. Headed to the bathroom, I kept it short: “Crossfit.”

“Wow,” he responded. “How often do you usually go?”

I stopped. Apparently we were having a conversation.

“I try to go four times a week.”

He whistled. And apparently people actually do that in real life, not just in cartoons. 

“That’s really impressive,” he said. “I could never do that.” And he walked away.

I resumed hobbling. Why do we make everything about our own lives so quickly?

In our defense, we come by it honestly. From infancy, we learn to compare ourselves to the people around us. What starts as a good way to make sure your child doesn’t have developmental disabilities slowly grows in all of us a competitive worldview. Our hair, our baseball swing, our reading rate, our parents’ incomes, our grades. Comparison becomes a habit, a way of thinking that’s nearly unavoidable.

But. What if we could shift our measurement from results to goals?

Comparing results is like telling Person A to make breakfast out of three ingredients and Person B to make dinner out of 24 ingredients, and then commending Person B as the better chef because their dish was more complex and thought-out. It makes no sense. They had different goals, so they worked differently to accomplish them.

I know if my coworker really wanted to – if he made it his goal – he could actually go to Crossfit four times a week. It’s just not his goal. It’s my goal. And I don’t always accomplish it. In fact, that day I was hobbling and sore and cranky because it was my first day back at the gym after almost two weeks off. I was feeling frustrated and lazy. What I would have loved to hear from my coworker was a follow-up question: “How’s that going?” Rather than measuring himself against my goal, he could have heard my goal and chosen to care about me and my results as I work toward that goal.

Now, lest you think I am simply judging the rest of the world while ignoring a Lincoln Log in my own eyeball, I’ll tell you another quick story.

On Memorial Day, all of Crossfit around the US usually does the same absolutely terrible workout called Murph. It’s dedicated to a fallen US soldier and is one of the hardest things we do. Because I hadn’t worked out in nearly two weeks, I decided it would be a bad idea to have my first day back be doing Murph. Plus, I’d had too much ice cream.

Later that day, on the great Comparison Network known as Facebook, I saw a picture of an acquaintance’s husband (a Marine who lost both legs in Iraq) doing Murph with a ten-pound weight vest on. This man has no legs and has already honored his country and fallen brothers many times over, but there he was, his chin over the pull-up bar, sweat dripping to the floor.

RESULTS COMPARISON ALERT! 

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I think now is a good time to mention that comparison can, and should, sometimes happen. That Marine has different life goals than I do. And thinking about his life goals can, and occasionally should, make me rethink mine. But I cannot compare my results to his results. I don’t need to put myself down because I did not accomplish what he accomplished. I can simply adjust my goal and my work toward that goal, because of what I learned from that Marine.

And in the meantime, I can celebrate his persistence, determination, and hard work, without making that about me.

I don’t want you to compare yourself to my results. And I don’t want to compare myself to your results. We have different goals, different resources, different handicaps, and different support teams. I want to support you as you work toward your goals, then celebrate or weep with you as you meet or miss them.

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