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Don’t Let the Success of Others Keep You From Achieving Your Goals

Submitted by on February 17, 2014 – 5:02 am 65 Comments
You Can Do It!

You Can Do It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does other people’s success ever stop you from achieving your goals?  We were reminded the other day of a time when we let this happen to us.  It all started with a post over at Out of Your Rut.  Kevin wrote an article about the dangers of The Brady Bunch, and the memories came flooding back.  It was 2012, and we were in the throes of realizing that we were in way too deep concerning our debt.  But of course, that didn’t stop us from buying seasons 1 and 2 of The Brady Bunch for the kids.  We’re always looking for “healthy” TV shows for the kids; ones with not too much violence, illicit encounters or other garbage that don’t do much good for either kids or adults.

However, the Brady Bunch didn’t do too much good for me, either.  The Brady family left me feeling like quite the failure with their perfect hair, perfect house, perfect clothing (well, perfect for the 70’s, anyway) and stable finances.  I would’ve loved to go to bed perfectly coifed like Carol Brady, complete with stunningly modest nightgown and high heels, but frankly, we were having trouble paying the bills, and I’m not sure Rick would’ve felt much more for that nightgown other than “What the he___ are you doing spending money on that?  Take it back and go back to wearing my old, torn-up t-shirts, da**it!  We just can’t afford this!”  After watching a few episodes of the perfect TV family, we were once again convinced that we shouldn’t bother trying to work toward financial freedom.

Often times too, in the world of personal finance, those little voices in our own heads use the stories of personal finance success, lives of early retirement and the joys of traveling around the world, instead of motivating us, to discourage us. We read stories of great financial success, we look at our own situation, and we just want to give up.  Our dreams of freedom from debt and financial independence seem completely unachievable, so we don’t even bother to try.

You probably know by now that the road to financial independence is even more of a mental battle than it is a money battle.  So, how do we work on achieving our dreams of financial freedom with those little monsters of doubt running to and fro?  Here are some tips for staying strong as you work on achieving your goals:

1.  Get tunnel-visioned.  Focus on the day, the hour, the minute or the decision that faces you right now.  Focus on making dinner based on what you have in the house today and fight that urge to order pizza.  Then, congratulate yourself on the victory.  Focus on paying off that one small credit card bill, and don’t worry about/focus on the rest.

2.  Change your perspective.  Instead of focusing on how dire your financial situation is, spend some time imagining how much better things will be a year, or two, or five from now if you stick with your plan.  Make a list of what you’ll do with all of that extra money once the debt is gone.  Work to see yourself as the conqueror instead of the defender.  Work to see yourself as the attacker instead of the attacked.

3.  Count your wins.  Write them down – every one.  Write down every time you’ve said “no” to your wants and how much you saved by doing it.  Write down every time you made dinner at home instead of going out, and how much you saved by doing it.  Write down every time you had to buy a need and saved money by buying on sale or used instead of paying full price, and how much money you saved by doing it.  Each time you use a new money habit instead of an old, unhealthy one, document it, celebrate it, and count it as a win.

Last night we were watching The Middle.  Those of you who’ve seen that program might argue that it doesn’t exactly fit in line with our purist TV viewing preferences, and you would be right.  The parents on The Middle are far from perfect, and the dysfunctional, awkward kids in the family often leave us cringing.  But as I compared it to the Brady Bunch, I realized one very important thing that puts The Middle far above the Brady Bunch on the “good TV” scale.  The characters on The Middle are REAL.  They fail, often miserably.  But at the end of the day, they chalk it up to experience, commit to do better next time, while at the same time accepting the way things are.  And most of all, they love each other.

On your walk toward financial freedom, no matter how long it takes, remember that what’s important is not that you are “there” but that you are “getting there”, no matter how long it might take.  You might not have achieved your goals – yet – but you are achieving your goals.  Give yourself credit where credit is due, forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made, and keep on keepin’ on.

65 Comments »

  • You are so right- it is far too easy to compare yourself to others! I like your advice to keep track of your own “wins.” Those moments are what matters most.

  • Great post Laurie! We spend so much time measuring ourselves against others rather than viewing our own life path as unique. Our individual roads are what make us special and even though my path to financial independence may take longer than someone else, it doesn’t make it any lesson enjoyable or worth while. My husband was a track coach and he would always tell his runners, “Run your own race.” It’s the same with money and finances. We all have to run our own races.

  • I love the idea of keeping track of your wins!! 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Love this Laurie! I just found out about The Middle and watched a few episodes. I love how “real” the family is and how they are not picture perfect.

    Changing your perspective is important, and that’s what really worked for me when I was trying to get rid of my student loan debt.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it’s kind of nice to see, isn’t it? Glad to hear that changing your perspective worked so well for you. We’re trying very hard to do that as well.

  • Alicia says:

    I try to stay clear of these comparisons as much as possible because they always make me feel “blah” afterwards. I am with Holly about keeping track of your own wins – it has definitely helped me get through some tougher times, when I can recall my own track record.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Alicia!! We can always find someone who’s doing better than us if we try, and it can be damaging if we use it to condemn ourselves rather than to motivate ourselves. Great comment!

  • In all honesty I DO sometimes find it discouraging to read of other people’s success. I think part of it is that sometimes I feel like others are simply bragging versus trying to inspire others. But let’s not go down that road right now haha. I should say there have been many who have had success at certain things that I also want to succeed at who have helped me along the way whether it’s blogging, my career in Finance, or any number of other pursuits.

  • Love the post Laurie! It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what others are doing and all too often that’ll do us no good. I loved your tips as well – especially #1 and #2. I find that focus is so necessary in reaching what you want, especially when it’s financial in nature.

  • Liz says:

    I do sometimes feel a ping of jealousy when I hear others are done paying off their debt or doing something fun like extensive traveling. I try to tell myself to not worry because eventually it will be my turn too. We will pay off our debt eventually and eventually I we will travel too. Just need to keep on trying : )

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Liz – it will be your turn soon too! That’s been our focus too, just keeping on our own path and trying not to let jealousy hinder us. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  • E.M. says:

    It can be discouraging at times to read about how successful others are, and the awesome things they’re doing now that they are debt free/retired. Most of the time, I just tell myself that their journey was probably not easy and they deserve to be happy. I’ll get there at some point. It can be really hard not to compare, but I try and let it go immediately and focus on my own goals.

    • Laurie says:

      Excellent point, E.M. Remembering that others had to work hard to get to their success too does help a lot in curbing that green-eyed monster, doesn’t it.

  • Over the years I’ve learned to be happy for others who enjoy success. I don’t need to be jealous or envious of what they’ve done. They worked hard to achieve success…they’ve earned it and deserve all the praise spread their way. Why should I let their success drag me down? That simply doesn’t make sense. If anything it’s encouraging for my own walk, knowing that tough things can be accomplished if you put your mind to it.

    • Laurie says:

      Right! Our own minds are often our worst enemies, don’t you think? Besides, being happy for others and using their success to propel you to your own is definitely the healthier way to manage your emotions. Thanks, Brian. 🙂

  • I find this post interesting. Usually it is aimed at not achieving goals from watching the failures of others. It can be disabling either way. This is something I am still working on. I want to be the person who is happy for a person no matter what.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Girl!! This is why the battle of the mind is so important in achieving goals, because the seeds of doubt and failure can come at you from all angles. Great point!

  • It’s very easy to see the public image and make assumptions. If the Brady’s were real, there is no way a couple could bring all those kids together and everyone would get along. I’m not sure what happened to the ex spouses of Mike and Carol, but there would be all that drama as well. Custody and which ex paid for what would be a nightmare! I also love when I see someone that I’d think was really poor and they are just frugal and have a mint socked away. I’d much rather be in the latter category!

  • Mark Ross says:

    I must admit that I often feel discouraged whenever I see or read someone achieve his goal much faster that I could or if he achieved it much easier than I did, but at the same time I still feel good for that person who achieved his goals.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I think the point is to not let those feelings of failure overtake your joy for that other person, or allow those feelings to discourage you. Staying positive is the key.

  • I like the advice here, Laurie. I’m typically a ‘big picture’ guy, but often times what we need is to laser focus on one issue, if the big picture is too overwhelming. Stepping back doesn’t do us any good if we just get discouraged.

    Joe from Stacking Benjamins had a great quote about how we only can see our real options after narrowing our focus…

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great quote, DB40. Trying to do or focus on too much at once rarely works. Glad to see you guys back safe and sound from Hawaii!

  • Britnee says:

    I sometimes feel this way when I read about others. A way I get out feeling like this is, like you said, counting my wins. I never liked the Brady bunch.. *hides* .. but I loved watching Married with Children.. LOL Great post again, Laurie. Thank you!

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny. 🙂 Yeah, I always tell Rick that’s why he likes the show Cops so much, cuz it makes him feel better about himself. 🙂

  • Great post, Laurie! Some days seeing others succeed is powerful motivation and other days it just deflates you. You outlined some great steps to take when those days occur. And I think it’s just as important to realize that some days … for whatever reason … we feel defeated and to not feel bad for feeling that way. That just makes it worse. Go back and review that list you wrote down of every single win and you’ll start to feel better. Give yourself 24 or 48 hours when you don’t think about debt. It doesn’t mean you spend money but do things you love that don’t cost a thing.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s an awesome point, Shannon. I love your idea of giving yourself a day or two not to think about the debt. Sometimes we all need a bit of a reprieve from goal chasing, anyway. Thanks for the valuable advice. 🙂

  • This is definitely something that many of us struggle with. Sometimes other people compare you to someone else that is doing better and that is frustrating too. You offer some great tips on how to deal with it. I especially like the change your perspective one because sometimes you realize you’re not doing so bad.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Raquel. Sometimes if we get too much into self-pity mode, we can forget just how well we’re really doing. Thanks for weighing in. 🙂

  • We practiced the idea of “tunnel vision,” and still do. Be concerned with what’s ahead of us. I’ve got enough to worry about with my own issues and goals without having to compare myself with someone else and worrying about them or how I stack up against them as well. 🙂

  • “the road to financial independence is even more of a mental battle than it is a money battle.” How freaking true this is! You guys are doing great on your journey Laurie. Thank you for always writing such uplifting posts to keep me motivated. 😉

  • In the workout world, we would always track our NSV (non-scale victories) to remember that not everything was about the weight loss. Maybe we need to do that with money as well.

    Also, I love The Middle. I was totally a Sue Heck growing up.

    • Laurie says:

      Non-scale victories – love that, Michelle!! And I totally love Sue on that show. Her passion about life and her optimism really are contagious!

  • Big long term goals are had to achieve because it seems so far away, celebrate the little wins. Set checkpoints within your goals for better success. Saving for retirement you should make the first time you exceeded the match, first time you broke 10K, first time you made more than 1K in gains, 1st time you hit 1X salary, first time six figures etc. Otherwise trying to reach 300K seems such a daunting task.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Charles. We count every time our cc balances go down as a victory. No matter if it’s $100 or $1000 or whatever. When we see that we have less this month than we did last month, we count it as a victory, and continue to look for ways to accelerate the payoff, even if it’s just by an extra ten bucks. This is SO important when you are working to achieve a huge goal. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Not to mention the Brady Bunch clan had a live in maid and Mike Brady had one hell of a den/office! That thing could have easily been another bedroom. Although the boys and girls DID have to share a room so I guess you can’t have everything. 🙂 I’m getting better at not comparing myself to other people’s successes. Just because someone may have it made in one area (let’s say a nice house) doesn’t mean they have something else going on that you don’t know about. Maybe trouble losing weight, or an ailing parent, bad relationship, or illness. No one has it made and everyone has their struggles. It helps me approach everyone with more compassion even if they do seem to have “perfect lives’ on Facebook.

    • Laurie says:

      Tell me!! I so agree too, that we don’t often see or look for other struggles that people are having, but instead just assume that if they have one aspect of life in order, that their entire life is perfect. This is why it is so crucial to be grateful for what you have. Thanks for weighing in, Tonya – it’s always great to hear your wise thoughts. 🙂

  • Great post Laurie. I am so guilty of this, I’ll follow one person but see they’re raking in over $10,000/month and think to myself “How will I ever get there?!” or “OMG, my blog only gets XXX views a day when this blog gets over 1000!”

    As you pointed out I’ve had to train myself to just focus on myself and not compare myself to others.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh my gosh, Marvin, I used to be SO bad at that. Especially about the blog views. Now, I just remember that I’m doing this to help us and to help others, and that the numbers don’t aren’t worth a hill of beans to us.

  • Mackenzie says:

    I love what you said about having “tunnel vision” with regards to finances and focusing on what is important at that moment. Yes, it definitely is the little things that matter! 🙂

  • anna says:

    I used to LOVE the Brady Bunch – it was the first TV show I started to watch in the early 80’s, and I thought that was what American families were all about so I did my best to imitate them (including forcing my cousins and brother to do song/dance routines with me lol). Anyway, I like your point about changing your perspective – there’s been some expensive, well, expenses, lately, and while I self-lament on how expensive everything is, I try to turn it around and just become grateful that I have the means to pay it off, even if it doesn’t mean putting in quite as much into other things I would like to. In the end, I do think it’s thinking about things differently and in a half-full manner that helps way more than thinking negatively or thinking like a ‘have not.”

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, hilarious about the song/dance routines!! We used to do them along with The Monkees – this shows our age difference, Anna. 🙂 I can imagine you go through lots of that money stuff with a wedding coming up, but like you said, the important part is that you’ve got the cash, and that you and soon-to-be-hubby will starting married life debt free – YAY!

  • NZ Muse says:

    I get financial envy. A LOT. I can’t lie.

  • I love to watch The Middle with my wife for the same reasons: they fail, but they keep going and eventually everything’s going to be alright 🙂

    I too am let down every now and then when I see the reports from people doing what I do, earning 5 to 10 times more, traveling the world and apparently living a life of leisure with the money pouring and them doing nothing all day long. Sometimes the idea that we create is far from the truth, because I am sure that these people work their behinds off to be where they are. I guess that it’s inevitable to sometimes be a bit envious and discouraged by the success that others are having, but you should indeed focus on your goals and achieving them.

    • Laurie says:

      “Sometimes the idea that we create is far from the truth”. SO true, C!! But looking around, it’s easy to realize that we all are very, very blessed. 🙂

  • What you said about this being a mental battle rather than a money battle is so true Laurie. Just focusing on the little things we achieve is so important for motivation and remembering why we’re on this road to financial freedom in the first place. I think everyone wants ‘more’ even if they are at the very height of financially freedom.

  • Great post! I usually let the success of others motivate me, but it can be discouraging sometimes when others “appear” to have more advantages and you just want to give up. It’s excellent advice to focus, change your mindset and count the small victories. And I love the Middle…I think the most recent episode I saw was when they were trying to make it to the Buffet but the pastor had a talk with them. In the end, he realized that while the family members were quirky and not perfect, but they had each other’s back and love one another.

    • Laurie says:

      Glad you like The Middle too!! Yeah, as weird as everyone is in that family, there is something comfortably normal about them, isn’t there. 🙂

  • Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged. I remember a couple months ago lamenting how far we still had to go to reach financial independence, and the Mrs. was trying to cheer me up by reminding me just how far we’ve come and how we’re still young. I said something like “Well Mark Zuckerburg was a billionaire at my age.” No good comes from a pity party though, and being sad wasn’t going to change anything. So, I just got back to work on changing my circumstances. I loved the article and thought behind it, btw.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, Mark Zuckerberg – yeah, comparing with him would get a person down real quick. :-). I love, though, how you just got back to work on changing your own circumstances – great job!

  • Great post Laurie. I used to compare myself to others but my life improved when I realised there was no point. There will always, always be someone richer, smarter or better looking than you. Well, than me at least) 🙂

  • I think to a certain extent we’re “programmed” to complete with each other. I’m watching the Olympics as I type this and obviously there is extreme pressure to be #1 and “bring home the gold”. Sometimes this is good and motivating and other times it’s not. For me it’s finding a balance of being happy with what I have while still pushing myself to get the things I want.

    • Laurie says:

      I love what you said about finding that balance, KK – that is so important! If we go too far one way or another, there always seems to be trouble.

  • Dear Debt says:

    This is something I am working on constantly. I’m jealous of people’s income, debt repayment and success. I feel like, ‘oh wow they’re so successful, I guess they’ve already done it, there’s no room for me!’ Which isn’t true. It comes from my scarcity mindset, which I am trying to change. Old habits die hard. We can all have our own success and our own voice. Comparing ourselves to others can be helpful in gauging progress, but it can lead down a slippery slope of doubt and insecurity.

    • Laurie says:

      “There’s no room for me”. LOVE that, Melanie! Why do we think that way?? A book I read one time said “There’s no shortage of money – you’ve just got to figure out how to get your hands on some of it.” That statement was very freeing for me. I get what you mean about the scarcity mindset too, and that statement has helped me so much in this area. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Melanie – much appreciated. 🙂

  • I LOVE the list idea!

    Writing down what you are doing “right” (what is aligned with your long-term goals) gives your own voice more power than what messages may come to you via comparisons with others.

    The more you pat yourself on the back with solid proof that you are being true to your word, true to yourself, the less you can be negatively influenced by the experience of others.

    Let’s keep patting ourselves on the back every step of the way!

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