With a few taps, we can compare ourselves with thousands of other people. The comparisons can be anything we can think of. If there’s some kind of performance metric associated with your activity, you can bet there are places to compare results. It’s the nature of things. Humans like competition and comparison, so we build places where these comparisons are easy to find.
Due to this, whenever we find an activity we like, there will always be a push to compare your results. How good are you? Are you better than these top performers? Where do you fall in the hierarchy? These are questions that can be answered quickly due to our love of performance metrics.
This can lead to people moving away from the reason they began the activity, and instead becoming motivated by the performance metrics themselves. They might not even want to, but peers will push them toward it. To peers, this will seem like encouragement. They could say things like, “You’re so good. You just have to go for the bigger stage!” On its face, this sounds like advice from people who want to help. However, what it often accomplishes is a feeling in the person that they must go for bigger things with respect to the activity they do. After all, if they spend so much time doing it, shouldn’t they try and make something come of it?
This is where people fall down the slippery slope of moving away from doing what they enjoy to doing it because they feel obligated to. There’s a big difference between doing an activity on your own terms versus doing it with plenty of people watching, in the chase for external results.
I’m not saying the latter is bad. Rather, I want to highlight that the motivations behind an activity are different in both cases, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them. The trouble comes when a person starts out by doing an activity because they love it, but slowly transitions into doing it because they feel like they have to do it. It’s a terrible feeling, and the primary cause is due to the chase of external results in order to compare against others.
The truth is that you’re on your own journey. No one else is with you for all of it. This is important, because it means that you should be happy with what you spend your time doing. The external results might be fun, but they won’t carry you through day after day. They’re too brief. Instead, you need something else that makes you do the work. One necessary condition would be doing something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and are only doing it because you feel obligated, you will be miserable. You might enjoy those brief moments of comparison where you can get external recognition, but the bulk of your life is not like this. It’s a steady march, day after day.
The goal should be to seek something that satisfies you during your whole journey. This is much more difficult. If you strip everything away, and never get recognized, would you still continue doing what you do?
The answer to this question says it all.