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Are you fast enough? Strong enough? Talented enough? Bottom line: are YOU enough?

This is a terrible question that will eat you alive. Don’t answer it.

This question invites your brain into the dreaded sea of compare and despair.

Instead, ask a different question.

Here’s how the wrong question impacts you:
I was recently on a backpacking trip with two friends who were through hiking 486 miles of The Colorado Trail. Our friends had been hiking an average of 19 miles a day for three weeks when we joined them. We jumped in at the highest elevations: over 12,000 feet. Additionally, my friend is a top competitor in Ironman.

Yet my brain asked the question, “How come I’m not fast enough to keep up with Mary?” The answers my brain found? Because I’m weak. Because I don’t train enough. Because I don’t have enough mental strength.

I was answering the wrong question.

You need to know what’s most important to you before you can determine what is enough for you.

Don’t adopt Someone Else’s Priority
Allow the way you pace yourself to grow out of your priority.

When I say, “I’m not as fast as Mary,” I’m unwittingly agreeing to her priority. Mary is an Ironman competitor. Mary values being fast so she has a shot at getting on a podium.

But I am a writer. I value stillness so I can hear the Idea Fairy when she whispers to me what my next piece is about.

Once I broke it down this concretely my comparing brain vanished. I wanted Mary to be faster than I am so she can reach her dreams.

Allow your pace to grow out of your priority.

Once you get crystal clear about your priority, you are able to stop comparing yourself to people who are on a different road.

I can hear you: but what if I do want to get better/faster/smarter?

Growth is good. We are happiest when we are challenged. Challenge helps us to grow. The key is understanding the type of growth we’re looking for at any given moment.

In college I compared myself to my sister (and despaired) until I understood my priority. I was never enough for Larry Boyette, my ballet teacher. He yelled at me for yawning in class and I felt myself fighting back tears. My sister was in the front row, demonstrating the perfect arabesque.

But after class my sister told me the back row – where I danced – was the golden spot in class. “You’re learning so much,” she said. “I’m bored in the front row.” A light bulb went on for me as she reminded me that all I wanted from ballet class was to learn.

My sister went on to found 3rd Law Dance. I never had ambition to become a ballerina, but hanging out with great dancers pushed me to grow and growth always brings confidence. Confidence you can bring to your top priority.

Change your question.

I changed my question from am I fast enough to keep up with a triathlete? To how many miles can I hike to feel like I’ve had a grand adventure? Adventure inspires me to write.

How can I be good enough to dance in the front row? becomes What new movement do I want to try to wake up my brain?

What is the question you’re asking? How does it reflect your priority?

The questions that lead us to compare and despair are typically borrowed questions. We have no business asking ourselves someone else’s question.

What is your fundamental success question?

• For my triathlete friend, she asks, how will I get enough movement today?
• For myself, I ask, how will I get enough stillness today?

Very different questions that make each of our lives happy. If she doesn’t get enough movement, her career is at stake. If I don’t get enough stillness, the idea fairy that feeds my writing never shows up.

So when you’re asking yourself am I enough? Stop.

Instead ask: what is my top priority?

Don’t crowd your brain with unnecessary questions that don’t support your goals. Build your questions to help you get where you’re going.

What is your top priority? What questions will help you build your focus? Where do you get derailed by compare and despair? I want to know about you. Join my newsletter so we can stay in touch.

4 Comments

  • What is your top priority?
    That’s a good question for this time of my life. My priority has always been family and then career… basically, catering to my responsibilities. Now that I’m a single, retired, empty-nester, I no longer have the responsibilities that come with parenting and working, and I’m struggling a little to find a new purpose. My priority is still family, but my kids are quite independent. I suppose now priority is health, happiness, and continued growth and learning.

    What questions will help you build your focus?
    How can I find joy and how can I help others? How can I stay healthy and fit? What are the things that bring me happiness? Who are the people who I most want to spend time with?

    Where do you get derailed by compare and despair?
    For me, I think it’s with getting visibility on social media. It’s interesting that I had a lot of social media attention with my professional work and that was very helpful with my career. But now, I compare the followers, subscribers, etc. on my personal pet projects and they are so comparatively low that I wonder if I’m wasting time.. I don’t even have a service or product.. On the other hand, social media is a way to make like-minded connections, and even one meaningful connection is priceless. I’m also learning a lot along the way and those are both priorities.

    Thanks for helping me step through my thoughts with valuable questions!

    • Rebecca S Mullen says:

      Thanks for chiming in so completely, Yvette. “Struggling to find a new purpose” is such a universal struggle. We go through that several times in our lives, don’t we? But your questions provide so much focus: finding joy by helping others and locating (at least mindfully) who are the people you WILL enjoy.

      Isn’t it interesting that your search for those people and your “new thing” also is what triggers the compare and despair. I think we forget that when we are new at something, we don’t yet have confidence. So we compare. Ugh. Then, when we get better, the compare monsters don’t have much tug on us anymore. This is a great insight for you to offer me today because, as I try new things, I’m more likely to compare. Instead, I want to be gentle with myself, sending encouraging messages like be gentle. Go slowly. You’ll find your way. The comparing monster wants me to be instantly phenomenal. Not very realistic if I’m going to regularly trying to change and grow.

      Thanks for your very thoughtful feedback.

      • Thank YOU, Rebecca! And you are already phenomenal in all the ways that count! But, yes, give yourself permission to not be phenomenal out the gate. By the way, one benefit of being really awful at a new skill is that it’s quite easy to improve, which always feels great!

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Rebecca S. Mullen
PO Box 346
Mesa, CO 81643