A key to happiness

Like the title? Leave it to me to be fair and not say “the key to happiness”.

In reality, we can find happiness in a million different ways. The problem with happiness is that if it is our #1 goal, we might never be happy. There are times in our lives when we have to make tough decisions that make us unhappy temporarily, whether for the sake of someone else’s happiness or for the sake of our on future happiness.

However, apart from mental illness, I believe happiness is a choice. There are things we can do to help us feel more happy. I have a new perspective on life that’s been a key to happiness for me. It’s something that I’ve made a mantra over the last several weeks:

Stop seeing everything as a competition!

This realization came to me when I randomly decided to go running one day. For most of my life, I didn’t believe that I could be a runner. I would hear people say things like “easy 3 mile run” and it would seem impossible. Running a single mile was an accomplishment for me, and it wasn’t easy! So when I would go out on a run I’d hate it because I struggled so much.

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However, when the weather started to get warmer, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to the gym. I wanted to be outside. So, I laced up and went for a run. I ran a mile, but this time I was surprised to find that I felt good and proud. I decided to try it again the next day and then the next day… and so on. I told myself I could stop if I needed to and I could walk as much as I wanted. I didn’t have an goal other than to move and be outside. I wasn’t competing with anyone in my mind. I was just moving.

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^I happily run with people faster than me 😀

And so far, it’s worked. I’ve been enjoying going for a run 5-6 days a week for the last two months. I have worked up to about 2.5 miles, which I am proud of, but I am not focused on achievements in terms of times or miles. This time around I am focused on being consistent and enjoying myself.

This mantra of “no competition” has carried over in other areas too.

Academia builds people up to be competitive. This can be a strong motivator, because I know it was for me. However, I didn’t realize how much my desire to compete with my classmates led me to miss out on other things. Now, in grad school, I have made some awesome friends. It is hard to compete with people while building friendships with them. Rather than focusing outwardly, comparing my work to others, I’ve begun focusing on my own work, doing the best I can. I use to think that I needed to be competitive to be successful. I was wrong! I can do just as well not and in the mean time, encourage others too.

I’ve felt it with blogging too. When I first started a blog I was hesitant to truly commit to it. I didn’t believe I could compete with other bloggers- the bloggers with great photography skills, experiences to tell about, and creative intelligence. I pushed past this and eventually committed. It wasn’t long before I felt that same competitive drive poking me. “You can do better… Watch out, your views are down today… She worded it better than you.” These feelings sucked the fun out of it. What’s the point of a hobby if it isn’t fun? Since then I’ve traded competition for compassion and I’ve made the decision to feel happy for the success of others.

 

Some may say competition makes us better. It’s a motivator. I believe that.However, I also believe that it can make us less loving, less content, and more likely to be unhappy. We have a tendency to see things as a competition, even when it is not. Not everything is a contest, race, or job interview.

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So what if we decided that we were no longer going to compete with others? Maybe we’d stop letting comparison steal our joy. We could work on building character and enjoying the life we have. We could learn to appreciate our own personal journey, rather than longing for the one someone else is on.

I’m linking up for Thinking out loud Thursday!

 

 

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46 thoughts on “A key to happiness

  1. oh my goodness– I have been thinking about this so much the past few weeks. I’ve noticed that I’m always comparing! Mostly I do it to other people wondering why am i not in this stage of life, why don’t we have XYZ yet. It really sucks the joy out of life, doesn’t it?! I’m truly working on enjoying my own life and being happy for other people’s successes…it definitely doesn’t happen overnight though! Thanks for your thoughts—great post!

    1. The stage of life thing is very difficult to remember sometimes! I’m usually like “how do they afford that??” Or “how do they have time for that?” It’s so much more rewarding to look in our own lives and see how far we’ve come!

  2. First of all, congratulations to you on your running!! That’s a great accomplishment.

    I have been thinking a lot about competition lately as we are heading into our dietetic internships in the fall. I’m nervous that there are going to be interns smarter than me or that are great presenters and maybe I just won’t match up. However, I’ve stopped thinking about it that way and instead thinking of it as a learning opportunity. All of the interns have different backgrounds so we are going to bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, and I’ve started to think of it as – what can I learn from my fellow interns, and what can they learn from me. We’re all in this together!

    The topic of competition also reminded me of comparison. I think it took me a really long time to stop comparing myself to others, whether it was about food, working out, or career-related. Someone could talk about how much they would work out or study or whatever, and instantly I’d feel guilty and question that I wasn’t doing enough. It was a while before I realized that no one knows what is best for me but me, so I do things on my own terms. If I didn’t get to a workout for a few days in a row, it means I need to rest or something else is going on…..like final exams 🙂

    1. I looove the nutrition field, but I HATE the way it feels like they pit all of us against each other! We would have a much more enjoyable experience if we praised and encouraged each other along. I am so thankful I’ve made friends like you so that we can do exactly that.
      You are going to shine in your internship, no doubt. I’m so excited to hear how it goes!
      Ps this is such a crazy time- focus on surviving! 😉

      1. You are going to shine in your internship, too! I look forward to seeing your accomplishments throughout the internship and being an RDN. 🙂

  3. You should be an actor.
    Aha. Because this is the exact mindset you just have to have in my industry. But because its all so subjective and personal, it can be very damaging and has the ability to steal all your passion away (I know because its happened to me). Its a constant battle to not compare yourself to others, but I’m getting there. You just can’t. There’s no point. We are all our own person and we can’t be anyone else. I’m trying to, rather than compare, to simply learn from others.
    This was beautiful Kate – thank you very much.

    1. Oh man I can totally see how this applies in your industry. Having other humans judge your performance is so incredibly subjective. I remember in singing competitions the people who often won really surprised me! It all depends on who the judge is at the time.
      Who knows when we will catch our break?if someone gets there before us, good for them. Our time will come!

  4. When I started seeing school as a personal thing and not something I had to do to compete with others, my studying habits got WAY better! I feel so much less stress to try and achieve A’s in everything.
    I am the same for working out, I try to do what feels right for me that day, if I push myself to run 2.5 miles because I saw you being able to run 2.5 miles, the workout becomes miserable.
    It’s also really hard for me to get those blogging thoughts out of my head, I have so many insecurities about not posting enough recipes, not posting often enough and so on, I am trying to keep it completely up to me and on my schedule, if I post too often it will feel like a chore, and I never want that.

    1. Yes! School and learning should be a personal thing even though the world of academia wants us to think otherwise.
      I love your attitude towards exercise (I guess because it’s a lot like mine 😉 ). We got to do our own thing!
      I think you’re doing a fabulous job with your blog, especially with how busy you are!!

  5. Another wonderful, insightful post, Kate!
    I grew up very competitive – gymnastics, attending a small grammar school where I was always one of the top few students. I carried that mindset until recently, too.
    Competition is good, because we do need an external drive to better ourselves and achieve things, but it’s so much better to focus inward and cheer on our peers instead of bringing them down or giving up because they did something better than us.
    Happiness is definitely a choice (batting menta illness, as you mentioned) and releasing that has made such a difference in my life.

    1. Thank you Catherine!
      I sometimes feel like even if competition pushes us to do better, maybe it isn’t worth it. I battle with this thought, because like others, I want to do well, but I don’t like the kind of person competition makes me. I think you’ve got the right idea to cheer on our peers!

  6. Love this post girl. First off, congrats on the running! It sounds like you have been doing great 🙂 Second, I really feel like competition is part of human nature. We just cant help but compete with and compare ourselves to others, whether we really mean to or not! And while I do think it can be a motivator at times, you are right when you say that comparison does really steal our joy. SO many times it shifts to the negative side. Great post girl!

  7. Can I just say? AMEN! 🙂 When I stopped looking at exercise/body/food, especially, or academic accomplishments or even growing in my relationship with the Lord as ‘competition’ it was amazing freedom. I was made an individual. I was made to be who God wanted me to be, and that means getting rid of my pride and really just EMBRACING and running after the talents I was made with for God’s glory. I am SO glad that you’re enjoying running. The most important part is enjoying it, not how long it takes you to complete the run. I’m not a fast runner, but I really love it… Comparison is not fun, but learning and growing and trying out new things are AMAZING!

  8. Agreed. Competition is the thief of joy. You wrote this wonderfully and I have nothing to add but to say I needed this reminder 🙂

  9. Yeeeessss! I used to think that this was just in terms of fitness, weight and appearance for a while, but oh man, I can see it in so many things. For me, a HUGE one is comparing myself to other moms – am I exposing them to enough, feeding them right, spending enough one on one time, etc etc etc. and in blogging! It’s so easy to compare yourself to other bloggers and wonder whey you aren’t where they are.

  10. This is such a great post and I’m glad I found you today. I do believe comparison can rob of us our victories which is so unnecessary. Who are we even comparing ourself too? What’s the point…

  11. I’m a pretty competitive person by nature, so letting go of the whole competitive mindset was a pretty big struggle for me – and it actually made me pretty miserable. BUT one of the things that I’ve found helped the most was learning to be happy for other people and their successes. Once I took all the focus off myself (totally easier said than done) I realized that there’s enough room in the world for everyone to be successful in some way and that someone else’s success doesn’t mean that I can’t have my own too.

  12. Competition truly is (for me too) the thief of joy. It’s still hard for me to be okay with the knowledge that someone else will always be better or stronger than me. I love your honesty here and thank you so much for sharing this today!

  13. You are so right about competition – yes it can make us better in some instances, but it also brings alot of pressure, comparison and takes focus away from enjoyment. You’re so right to focus on “running your own race” (like what I did there?).

  14. Really, I was not so competitive before I started blogging. But seeing all this popular, good looking and mindful blogs makes me jealous at first. I changed my attitude a few months ago and now blogging is more about networking and inspiration 😉

  15. I feel the same exact way about running! I have running off and on for the past 6 years and I still struggle with comparing myself to everyone else (including myself and past runs I have been able to do). It really takes the fun out of the exercise, which is why I quit so easily. But this is inspiring to read and makes me want to lace up and try again and just be mindful and content with what I can do.

  16. I think one of my biggest accomplishments in the past two years is letting go of that unhealthy competitive drive to be the best… constantly comparing myself to other people and feeling “less than.” By letting that stuff go, I feel like I’ve learned SO MUCH more. I answer questions wrong in class and I ask questions and I’m open to hear answers and different perspectives from my peers. I guess I’ve gained a stronger sense of self-worth and esteem. I really relate to this post and to you- thanks for always being so open and sharing!

    1. I definitely agree that letting go of insecurities opens the door for us to really learn. Being able to learn from my peers has helped me to grow and have a greater perspective of things! ❤

  17. Oh Kate, so much of this resonated with me, and I’m grateful you put these thoughts of yours into words, and then put those words out on your blog. Your honesty here shines, and more and more, I’m realizing where my own competitive spirit stems from, and it feels increasingly similar to your own sentiments. thank you for sharing these transparent thoughts.

  18. Yes, Kate! I don’t know why we are wired to compete…especially when there isn’t anything to compete about. It is a joy stealer when it twisted into “I must win” instead of using it to be better than your previous self. Thank you for sharing! #LinkLove

  19. I just read this and happened to post about competition today, too. It can be a good thing and a powerful motivator but I agree it easily can become way too controlling. Love this post and love hearing about how you started running!

  20. Reading this was just what I needed today so thank you for that, Kate! While I don’t necessarily see everything as a competition there are enough situations I’m beating myself up for not coming out at the top for no reason. It’s hard to work against something that has been in your mind for what feels like forever.

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