We assess every facet of our lives in comparison to others. Do I make more or less money than my peers? Do I live in a smaller or bigger house than my parents or siblings? Do I have a more important job than the people I went to school with? Am I in better physical shape than my friends? Are my children as successful as my friends’ children?
There are a number of problems with keeping score in this way:
• Being more “successful” than those to whom you compare yourself may not make you happy.
• People have completely different advantages and “starting points.” If you are in the race for wealth, you may be at quite a disadvantage competing against someone who has inherited a vast fortune. In every respect — beauty, intelligence, athletic ability — people have widely varying inheritances.
• There will always be others who are more successful than you in some way, thus it may be impossible to win the game; this fact may lead you to feel bitter. Conversely, there will always be those who are not as successful as yourself, perhaps leading you to arrogance or conceit.
• You have no control over the actions of others. Thus, no matter how hard you try, you may lose the game. And just the fact of not having control may be frustrating.
• Those whom you are competing against may play by a completely different set of rules; it is very frustrating to play a game against those who use different rules.
• Competition with others implies that for some to win, others must lose. This is neither healthy nor true. In fact, when an individual creates value, many people benefit.
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