Comparison is the thief of joy.Theodore Roosevelt
Entrepreneurs spend most of their time looking for the next problem to solve.
This is often good for business, but bad for the entrepreneur.
According to Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy in The Gap and the Gain, “Gap Thinking means looking at the distance between where we are and where we want to be (or comparing ourselves to what other people have achieved).”
When you’re “in the gap”, you can’t be happy, because you’re always desiring the next thing – the next revenue milestone, the next acquisition, the next hire. Unfortunately, this means you can never be happy, no matter how successful you are.
Sullivan’s advice is to focus on “The Gain”: look back at your progress you’ve already made. He calls this “measuring backward, not forward” – which means comparing your current position against your former position, instead of your ideal position.
You have an ideal in your mind, and you’re measuring yourself against your ideal, rather than against the actual progress you’ve made. This is why you’re unhappy with what you’ve done, and it’s probably why you’re unhappy with everything in your life. Don’t let your past be forgotten. Always measure backward.Dan Sullivan
This makes conceptual sense. Buddhists have been preaching the pitfalls of comparison and desire for millennia. But in a world of constant comparison, where we’re watching everyone else’s highlight reel on Instagram every single day, how do we avoid comparison–or even jealousy?
Here’s how to build the habit of living in “The Gain”.
Daily: before you go to bed, ask yourself “What was ONE thing I did to grow my business today?”
I’m not looking for big gains here – it doesn’t have to be a new client or $5000 in revenue. I’m looking for one thing–it could be a blog post, it could be a phone call, or even a sales appointment. The most important thing isn’t WHAT you did, but that you kept your momentum.
Sullivan recommends recording three “wins” from the day in his free app, WinStreak (it’s good.)
Bonus: you can set yourself up for momentum by projecting what you’ll do tomorrow to keep up your momentum.
Weekly: every Friday, think back over your week and list the highlights. We call these “Bright Spots”. What were the 3-5 things you did to grow your business over the last week?
Report those Bright Spots to a mentor or a group of peers on the same journey as you are.
Inside our mentorship practice, we call this “Bright Spots Friday.” The purpose of Bright Spots Friday (or BSF) isn’t to brag; it’s to reflect, acknowledge progress, and keep our momentum high. I use BSFs in my gym with other members; and my mentorship practice for gym owners.
Bonus: seeing others’ Bright Spots actually feeds you, too. It’s like borrowing a set of batteries to charge up your own.
Think back to where you were two years ago, and compare that person to now.
How big was your business?
How much revenue did you have?
How happy were you?
How much time were you spending with your family?
How stressed were you then?
How much were you working?
Now, practice gratitude: thank yourself for doing the work to get yourself here.
Any progress is good progress. While you might not be where you want to be YET, don’t compare yourself against your future–this will create unhappiness. Compare yourself against your past.
The best time to do this is when you review your metrics each month with your bookkeeper or mentor. Take one minute and reflect on your state two years before. Looking at your metrics is helpful.
Bonus: if you keep a journal, flip back 730 days and review your thoughts, your progress, your frustration and your mindset. You’re probably a much better entrepreneur now!
Double bonus: when you start practicing self-gratitude, you start doing things to help your future self. I call this “sending a gift ahead”. Whenever I have to do something hard–like firing a client–I know that I’m giving the Chris of the future a huge gift. That’s really what taking one daily action is all about: gifting your future self.
Business is a game of momentum.
If you feel like you’re ‘losing’, everything becomes harder. You feel overwhelmed; jealous of others; and frustrated. Your patience begins to wear out. You start to wonder “Why am I beating my head against a wall here?”
This creates a downward spiral: soon your staff sees your frustration and starts to mirror your stress. Then your clients see your stress and start thinking about alternatives, because nobody wants to be around someone who’s angry.
But if you feel like you’re ‘winning’, it’s easy to rise in the morning and get to work. Your optimism and energy will rub off on your staff, and your clients will feed off their energy. Your positivity will attract people instead of repelling them, and you’ll build even more energy from it.
There will always be wins and losses. The key to long-term success is to build and keep a sense of progress. Forget the fake smiles and empty energy; forget trying to motivate people. Build a habit of looking for your wins, and start living in the Gain.
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