Comparing Yourself to Others? 3 Key Questions to Ask Yourself

I have to confess: I’m jealous of people who spend extended time traveling — whether it’s a few months, a year, or more. I constantly see posts on social media related to this topic — Facebook knows me well! — and I can’t help but imagine my husband and I setting off on a fully-funded globe-trotting journey without a care in the world.

In what situations do you find yourself comparing yourself to others? Maybe it’s when you see a sports car speeding past you on a highway, your neighbors standing out in front of their newly renovated home, or your friends jet-setting on yet another trip. You may wonder: How can they afford that?

It can be pretty challenging to get an answer to this question. The person you are jealous of may have more money at their disposal. They may be deep in debt. Or, they may have put all their resources into achieving their goals.

A few months ago I saw a video featuring a woman who travels full-time telling her story of how she does it. Spoiler: It’s not that she’s a trust fund kid. It’s because she made travel her only priority. She doesn’t go out to nice restaurants or live in a nice apartment. Her focus was on paying off debt and saving so that she could sustainably afford this lifestyle. She made concrete sacrifices to make her dream possible.

I think the trap many of us fall into is that we want it all — the classy car, a nice house in the perfect neighborhood, trendy clothes, international travel, and more. But we don’t always do the hard work of matching up our money and our values. We aren’t necessarily willing to compromise in other areas of our life to achieve our most important goals. And if you’re going to meet those big, audacious goals — like traveling for an extended period of time — you have to prioritize.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when jealousy creeps in, so you can take a step back in order to take a more confident step forward:

1.     Do I actually want what I’m seeing? Do you really want that car, purse, or vacation, or do you just like the idea of it? If it’s something you really want, hold onto this feeling and put it to good use. If isn’t something you really want, then what is this feeling about? Is there something else you want that this is reminding you of? Are you jealous of the lifestyle or image? Or, do you find yourself just in want of more? As I reflect on people who spend their lives traveling, I realize there are some things about that lifestyle that appeal to me. But I also really enjoy having a stable home and community. I think what I really want is more extended travel in my life, not a life of always being on the road.

Tip: Really struggling with comparing yourself to others? Every time you get jealous of something you don’t really want, remind yourself of a goal you are pursuing (such as saving up for your dream vacation, paying off debt, or buying a home). Bring to mind what your life will be like when that goal becomes a reality.

2.     What would I be willing to give up to have it? If you’ve determined this is something you actually want, you’ll take the next step. It’s time to shift some priorities, and potentially make some sacrifices. Over the course of my husband’s recovery from his car accident, he’s become more and more interested in Jeep overland vehicles. What started as piqued interest quickly turned into jealous feelings whenever he’d see another person driving a Jeep. Over the last few months, my husband has come to the realization this is something he actually wants. In fact, making this dream a reality has now become his top goal. Still, I kept catching him saying things like, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to get my Jeep.” He didn’t really believe he could make it happen. So last week we sat down and made a plan to make this goal a reality in two years. My husband will have to make some sacrifices on some of his individual goals — like buying a new camera — and we will have to make some sacrifices as a family. But we are both willing to do this for the joy of bringing this goal to reality.

Tip: Take a hard look at your budget and your other financial goals: Where does this goal fall in the list? Are there things that aren’t adding much value to your life that you are willing to sacrifice to make this goal happen? Be patient — likely it won’t happen overnight, but hopefully it will be worth it in the end.

3.     How will I make it happen? Like my husband and I did with his overland Jeep goal, it’s time to put together a step-by-step plan to make this goal a reality. This takes focus and diligence, but don’t shy away from it. Make a realistic plan you can stick to. Be sure to put the date you’ll achieve this goal on your calendar.

Tip: Picture life when this goal is achieved. You may want to find an image that captures what it will be like and put it up on your fridge or bathroom mirror. Or, like my husband, you might put a picture of your goal as the background on your phone. Hold on to the feelings associated with making the goal a reality; they will keep you on track when sticking to your plan gets difficult.

Do you often find yourself being jealous of others? Has this jealousy fueled you toward your goals, or left you just wanting more? Share your story in the comments below.