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The Simple Dollar

Why comparing yourself to others is fruitless

It doesn’t matter what stuff your best friend has; the only thing that matters is whether or not you get personal fulfillment out of the elements of your life, Hamm says.

By Guest blogger / June 8, 2013

One woman works at her cubicle desk while another makes copies on a copy machine at Z Corporation headquarters in Burlington, Mass., in 2010. While it is easy to compare yourself to others when it comes to money matters, Hamm says you should focus on your own financial success — not that of your neighbor's or friend's.

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/File

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Don’t spend a second worrying about what kind of financial success someone else has achieved. Be happy for them, but don’t waste even an ounce of your energy using it as a benchmark.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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The only benchmark that matters is whether or not you’re in a better place than you were a year ago.

It doesn’t matter what stuff your best friend has. If they’re made happy by the things that they have, that’s cool.

The only thing that matters is whether or not you get personal fulfillment out of the elements of your life.

Measuring yourself against a standard – or “keeping score” – is an incredibly powerful way to motivate yourself to improve, but putting that yardstick up against someone else, while potentially motivating in some ways, often gives you a very poor picture of your own success.

When you compare against someone else, you aren’t just comparing something as narrow as “possessions” or “net worth.” You’re comparing so many other factors, many of which you have no control over. You’re comparing health. You’re comparing genetics. You’re comparing families.

The comparison isn’t fair to either one of you and, honestly, it’s kind of meaningless.

You can’t compare your professional success to someone whose brother hired him and helped him climb the corporate ladder.

You can’t compare your financial success to someone whose parents paid for their full college education and bought their home for them.

You can’t compare creative success to someone who has been training since age four to be a concert pianist in a home environment that’s geared around music.

The only comparison that’s fair is you. With you, all of those things are the same. The person you were a year ago has the same health concerns, the same genetics, the same personal connections, the same career situation, the same family, and the same desires as you have.

The positive changes that have occurred in your life over that last year or those last five years are almost entirely due to your effort.

That effort is the real sign of success, nothing else. If you have put forth consistent effort, you will see progress.

If you want a measuring stick for your progress, it’s simple. Start keeping track of your own status – your net worth, your weight, your income, your career status, whatever it is – right now. Then, in a year or so, start using those older numbers as your measuring stick. Are you moving forward? That’s the measuring stick that matters.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.thesimpledollar.com.

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