You vs You
Many, if not most, important things in life are generated internally and not taken from the external.
Things that satisfy your soul. Things that strengthen your family bonds, your community, your inner well being. These are all internally made.
When interviewed about how he selects his senior executives, how he found his most successful staff, how he reliably predicts whether start-ups are worth investing in, Warren Buffett explains how he appraises people: He likes to assess whether they have an “Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.”
To make his point, Warren Buffett often asks another question: “Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover but have everyone think you are the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you are the world’s greatest lover?”
An external scorecard, or the continuous need for external inputs to validate your behaviour and performance, can become dominant. You become needy. That need drives your desire for praise, clicks, likes and adulation.
The other danger for addicts of external validation is in the harm from comparing oneself to others. Comparing ourselves to others allows them to drive your behaviour. It also means that their parameters for success, which ironically may be something they perceive as stratospherically high but in real life are incredibly low, become your own parameters.
This type of comparison is between you and someone else. Sometimes this is about a genetic trait and results in a wish to be taller or better looking, for example; but more often it is about something the other person is capable of doing that you wish you could do too. In dentistry we often see people who seem capable of creating a wonderful, productive, stress-free digitally revolutionised private practice, whilst you are struggling on a UDA contract. We then see them jetting off to sunny climes and going to their next speaker invitation in glamorous cars and adorned in beautiful clothing. They are capable of this and you are not. Perhaps it is simply that the person who works in the surgery next to you prepares better crowns than you, and maybe the chap upstairs is better at endodontics than you. Sometimes this comparison can be motivating, but other times it can be highly destructive.
Rule on comparison: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Now, dear reader, you are clever, so you can be anything; but you certainly cannot be everything.
This applies to us in our wider personal lives and to us as professional dentists. When we compare ourselves to others, we are often comparing their very best features against our average ones. It is like being a gifted endodontist who gets perfectly good outcomes despite only earning 3 UDAs and feeling inadequate when you look at the overwhelming and bizarre, brainwashed obsession with composite veneers, which are currently back in fashion in dentistry in the UK. Not only do we want to be better than the people we are looking at, but the unconscious realisation that often we are not becomes harmful, can lead to stress and – ultimately – a self-destructive thought pattern.
Comparisons between people are a recipe for unhappiness unless you are the absolute best in the world. Let us be honest, only one person is, and it is neither you nor me. Usain Bolt was probably justified to feel the best, for a while at least.
Comparisons of each other are awry and biased and mean that not only are we unhappy but the other people are probably unhappy as well. Others compare themselves to you, too, and maybe you are better at networking than they are, or have more emotional intelligence, and they are jealous. At worst, we end up focusing our energy on belittling others’ achievements, and perhaps even bringing them down, instead of raising ourselves up. People who engage in this denigration are commonly referred to as “haters”. Those who are blessed with a strong sense of internal, rather than external, validation, aren’t upset by envious haters because they know – between the two – they are the ones winning.
Without going too deep into psychological analysis in this blog, it is worth noting that there is only one thing you are better at than all other people, and that is being you.
Hence the Warren Buffett “Internal Scorecard” rule above. This is a healthy comparison which offers you a path to growth and self-improvement. Self-comparison is a good thing for setting your direction straight.
That is the only game you are ever going to win. When you start with that mindset, the world starts to look better again. No longer are you focused on where you stand relative to others. Instead you can place your focus and energy on what you are capable of now and how you can improve. This means the only competition you ever deal with is a future version of you. And it means that in three months’ time I could be leaner, stronger and cleverer. Alternatively, I could be fatter, sweatier and have pickled my brain on excess gin and tonics, processed food and the sofa. I am going to choose the upgraded version of me, by the way.
One’s path through life, when taking decisions to compare and upgrade, becomes about being a better version of yourself. Sometimes delegates are directionless when we meet them (picked dentistry because parents made them, promised a pot of gold which doesn’t exist, etc.). Without a roadmap to inspire, with step-by-step planning to upgrade, they don’t know how to become a better version of themselves. Is that you…at all?
At Aspire we help you become the very best version of who you are, both internally, externally, physically, psychologically and dentally. This is not an obligation for all of our delegates but is certainly something that is on offer to all of them. We can help you steer your focus and energy onto what you are capable of now, how you can improve yourself, and what happens next, rather than where you stand relative to others. The 1% gain on a daily basis compounds into a vast improvement in you at the end of a year’s cycle.
Human nature means that we have a compelling propensity to compare ourselves to others, so adjusting from this takes active effort. If something you do does not meet the expectations of others, well, too bad for them. The way they look at you is probably the reverse way you were looking at them, i.e., through a distorted lens shaped by your experiences and expectations.
What really matters is what you think about what you do, what your standards are and what you can learn today. That means if you have a strict internal validation system and you do not meet those expectations, well, good news, that is rocket fuel for getting better; there is your energy for becoming a better version of yourself, and you upgrade that part of your life. That stays upgraded and you can move on to the next one. At the end of a relatively short period the comparison between you and your former self will be unrecognisable.
All of the above should not act as a caveat or an excuse to ignore the thoughtful, heartfelt opinions of other people. The opinions of other people might give you a picture of how you fall short in being your best self. Make sure their motivations are to improve you to be the best version of yourself, however, and not to glorify themselves – something I find all too common throughout the hierarchies of hospital and general dental practice. Some people are happy to be referred to as a Star!!
Valid opinions from other people are a reminder to compare yourself to who you were this morning. Are you better this evening than you were when you woke up? If not, that is a day wasted. It is less about others and more about how you improve relative to who you are.
When you stop comparing between people and focus internally, you start being better at what really matters – that is, being the best version of you. This is a simple concept, but it is not easy to adhere to it.
We are conditioned from a young age to seek external validation, and this can become pernicious, particularly with the never-ending onslaught of social media feeds, be they fake or real, which allow us to compare ourselves against these wonderful people. It also becomes incredibly quick and easy to get your dopamine hit from people clicking likes on a picture of you which, if you were to show it to a non-biased third party, would be full of pity for you, not admiration. Have you ever offered anyone a “pity click”? I confess I might have, against my better judgement.
Trying to think about what matters to you is hard. Playing to someone else’s scoreboard is easy, and that is why a lot of people do it. It becomes particularly easy when you have a group of people who play to each other’s scoreboards. What these people are doing is forming a group, a coterie, who only share positive opinions with each other. Whilst this might sound great, it is actually an echo chamber where we do not get to listen to our own inner voice or other thoughtful, more critical, opinions. Certain groups on social media do this an awful lot and then leverage it as proof that you need to sign up to their way of thinking, you need to adopt their treatment modalities, you need to be more like them. Can you see what they have done? Can you feel how less you feel because of it? Don’t fall for it!
They have leveraged your anxiety when you compare yourself to them, and the fact that there is a group of them has made their doctrine ever more convincing. This life is NOT about them, this is about you. Playing their game means you might do ok; you may even win, but you are going to win the wrong game, which is pointless and empty, and you may have won a game that wasn’t worth playing. You get one life. Play your own game.
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
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