Whose race are you running?

By Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Dr. Michael Mantell

SAN DIEGO — My family owned shoe stores in Newark, New Jersey. when I was growing up.  I worked in their stores from the time I was seven years old.  One day, my grandfather brought me outside to teach me an important lesson.

He pointed out the competitor down the street and told me to observe what he was doing.  The man didn’t seem to be doing anything much, other than standing in front of his store for quite awhile watching the people come into our family’s store and walking out with bags of shoes.

“Michael,” my grandfather told me, “You see what that guy is doing? He’s watching our store instead of his own. He’s angry that nobody is buying shoes from him. He’s too busy taking care of OUR business instead of his own. When you grow up, run your own store, run your own race, and don’t run or watch anyone else’s.”

Recently I was in the gym doing some resistance training with free weights. The fellow next to me was lifting as well. He was a bit older than me, and was lifting noticeably less weight—not that I’m a competitive body builder or anything close to it.  I was doing bicep curls with about 75 pounds on the barbell. When he saw what I was lifting, he made an obvious grimace. I wondered what he was telling himself about himself, that led him to put down his barbell with 45 pounds of weight and attempt to lift a 100-pound barbell. He squeezed himself into my lift, my body, my muscles, my experience, and guess what? He immediately got down on himself, had to run my store, lift my weights and sure enough, he injured himself. Lao Tzu observed, “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” I’d add to this, “Especially yourself.”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do better, executing carefully constructed intentions and goals, to become the best you can and were meant to be, to strive to be better tomorrow than you were today. It’s another to compete against yourself, with all of the negativity, labels and name calling, and personal put-downs that go with it, and potential for real injury.

In all of the years I worked in my family’s shoe stores, I never saw anyone try to actually wear someone else’s shoes. It’d feel uncomfortable, wouldn’t fit, and could even be a bit dangerous.

It’s been said that at 20, we worry about what others think of us and at 40 we don’t care what others think of us. As someone who has passed 60, my friends and I now realize that nobody was thinking about us to begin with. So why give in to the distraction of comparing yourself to others? They weren’t created for your purpose and you weren’t created for theirs.

The best place to start a self-improvement plan is to see the gifts, talents and skills Hashem has provided to you.  Criticizing yourself and complaining against yourself because you aren’t lifting the heaviest weights, running the fastest, aren’t voted most likely to succeed or don’t have more customers in your store than the competitor has in his store up the block, only feeds the negative and holds you back. It’s saying to Hashem, “You don’t know what you are doing!.”

Are you thinking,  “OMG Michael, you’ve described me perfectly”?

Then STOP.  That’s Stop when you see the negative label you just laid on yourself. Take a breath, and Observe the feelings in your body and the thoughts in your head. Last, Proceed and move on free of the despair.

Here’s how I coach athletes, business leaders and everyday folks who suffer from their own “compare and despair” thinking. I ask them to answer these questions fully and carefully:

  1. Who are you? Focus on being the best YOU, not a second rate someone else.
  2. What’s it take for you to unpack the genuine, authentic you that Hashem had in store when he created you, a masterpiece?
  3. Don’t DIE. Huh? That means, don’t Demand, Insist and Expect that YOUR performance be better or even match the person with whom you are running or working out.
  4. Recognize the fixed beliefs you have about yourself and reject them and then replace them with truer beliefs
  5. Enjoy your time in the gym, at work and in your home life. You can only be the best you that you can be. If Hashem wanted you to be different, He would have created you differently.

*
Dr Michael Mantell, based in San Diego, provides coaching to business leaders, athletes, individuals and families to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives. Mantell may be contacted via [email protected]  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)

 

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