Just a thought: The danger with looking left and right

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Many people live their lives looking to their left and right so much that it is amazing they don’t get a very sore neck. What we need to be doing is looking forward. That is why God put eyes on the front of our head. In other words, there is a reason God did not give us eyes on our left or right, nor did he put eyes on the back of our heads.

People who are continually looking left and right will not accomplish what they need to be accomplishing in this world. They are too busy watching others and measuring themselves against what others do and don’t do.

There will always be someone out there who is better and someone who is worse than you in whatever you are using as a measuring stick. And comparing yourself to others is dangerous.

There is no win in comparison.

I have run nineteen 26.2 mile marathons. I have run races with less than 100 runners and races with over 25,000 runners. I have never finished first or last in any marathon I have run. Regardless of what the clock has said when I have crossed the finish line, there has always been runners who have finished ahead of me and runners still on the course behind me.

If my point of reference is the fastest runner on the course, I would have crossed the finish line depressed every time. If my point of reference is the last person to finish, then each of my races would have been a great success.

You see, every marathon I have run I have done so with a goal based upon my training and my capabilities, not anyone else’s. Whether I finished 152nd or 12,413th, wasn’t a measurement of success for me. If I keep or beat my predetermined pace, I have run a victorious race. If I fall off pace and finish below my goal, I have failed in my quest.

Other runners may motivate me to perform better, but whether or not my run is a success is not tied to any other runner on the course. I cheer for the others as I cover the course, saying words of encouragement as I pass them or they pass me. I like the saying, “If you can’t finish first, make sure the one that finished ahead of you does a personal best.”

I heard a sermon some years ago entitled “The Land of Er.” The pastor pointed out that it is not good to live in a world of “er.” People who live in this land are always seeking to have an “er” after words that describe how they compare to others: rich-er, skinny -er, smart -er, pretty -er, happy -er, talented -er, tall -er, heavy -er, slow -er, short -er, poor -er, nerdy -er, superior -er.

Sometimes it gets even worse and people seek to get an “est” in their comparison. These people want to be the smart -est, the rich -est, the pretti -est, and so on. It is basically the condition of trying to not only “keep up with the Joneses,” but to do better.

People who live in the land of “er” make decisions that aren’t necessarily best for themselves or their families, but decisions that are designed to gain the approval or attention of others. These people think, “if we take this action, we will make the ‘Joneses’ envious.”

Some purchase things solely to impress others and often incur debt in the process. Sometimes it is the concept that if someone else can afford something we think we want, so can we. We live in the now. We live in an entitlement society. We believe we deserve something or we are entitled to something so we do it or go out and buy it.

I think this saying is appropriate, “ At age 20 we worry about what others think of us. At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60 we discover that they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” Amazingly enough, people often do things seeking to gain favor with others when the others they do it for really could care less.

There are people who choose spouses for the purpose of impressing others. They may look good in public, but in the privacy of their home they live an incompatible life. The problem is, a person who does this does not live with the others he or she is trying to impress in public, the person lives a stressed relationship with his or her spouse.

Bottom line, you are never as good as others think you are and you are never as bad as others think you are. Don’t hand off the determination of your self worth to others. If you are doing the best you can with what you have been blessed with, then you can do no more. What the person on your right or left is doing does not define you.

The prose “Desiderata” includes “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

My challenge to you is to not live in the “Land of Er.” but to live in the “Land of Or.” The land of “Or” is the land you see when you look in the mirr “or.” Don’t look left or right, but look inward and ask yourself, “Regardless of what anyone else is doing, are you doing the best you can with the one in the mirror?” Don’t get “er” disease. The symptoms are easy to diagnose, one being having a sore neck.

Stop assessing yourself by looking left or right. Look inward and forward. Give your best regardless of what others think.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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