There’s a reason comparing ourselves to others is pointless… And it has nothing to do with our motivation, work ethic or having the same hours in the day as Beyoncé.
You know that moment when you look at the woman next you and think, “Why is her life better than mine?”
I certainly do.
After wasting a lot of my time comparing my journey to others and watching my friends and clients do the same thing, I knew we desperately needed a way to unhook from this pattern. Luckily, my work brings me into close contact with hundreds of women in transition, and over and over I’ve witnessed their years of change falling into nearly identical patterns.
When I really examined what was happening, I found a simple answer to the question, “Why is her life better than mine?”
Turns out, her life isn’t better. Her life is at a different stage.
We are all experiencing a different stage of the same life cycle. Knowing what stage we’re in is the answer to stopping the comparison game!
Stage 1: The Year of Unrest
This year feels the worst. We’re lost. We’re frustrated. We’re angry with the world. We’re whining and complaining and crying ourselves to sleep.
Nothing seems like it will help during this year and we feel stuck and alone.
The Year of Unrest is incredibly painful. But the good news is that this year inspires change.
We get so sick and tired of being in the muck that we stop settling. We stand up, wipe our tears, channel our frustration and say, “This is my life and I’m going to make a change.”
Stage 2: The Year of Destruction
This is the year we tear everything down and welcome a clean slate. This could be the year of divorce, leaving school, changing jobs, letting go of toxic relationships, moving across the country, developing boundaries or deciding who gets a say in our life.
Whatever the change, it’s radically different from the previous version of our life.
We feel a little better during the Year of Destruction because we’re finally taking control. We need a lot of support during this year, craving deep talks and like-minded community.
I experienced a Year of Destruction when I quit my job, traveled around the world for a year, returned home and said, “Okay self, we’re ditching all the expectations and starting over. My life, my terms.”
Stage 3: The Year of Growth
This year is all about rebuilding. We might not experience “external success” but our life finally feels like our own and internal satisfaction is high.
We don’t know what we don’t know, but we’re stretching and growing and learning. It’s an exciting time!
The Year of Growth could look like a new relationship or new stage of family, going back to school, diving into a passion project, discovering your spirituality or starting a business.
Whatever it is, we don’t know everything on the horizon, but we finally feel like we’re working our way towards it.
For me, this year is really empowering. I’m full of curiosity and I don’t mind a challenge. I’ve been in the Year of Growth for the last several years. My family was growing, my business was growing and I was learning new things about the woman I wanted to become.
Stage 4: The Year of Mastery
This is the year we wake up and say, “I have everything I ever wanted.”
They happen. I promise.
In fact, I just had one of these years! I gave birth to my daughter. My business hit a place of personal fulfillment and financial abundance. We bought our beach house in our dream community, remodeled and settled in. I felt confident as a teacher, accomplishing my life-long dreams of launching Stratejoy Summer Camp. My Year of Mastery felt good.
When you’re in this magical year, enjoy the hell out of it. Revel. Practice gratitude. Really appreciate where you are.
Because guess what comes next?
Yup. After mastery comes unrest.
Your life is cyclical
As we start the cycle again, we may hear ourselves asking, “Is this it?” Or, “What do I do now?”
I’m in a bit of unrest right now, but it feels less dramatic than the last time I experienced this stage. I know how to tackle the unease by asking, “How can I renegotiate this piece of my life?” instead of going through a full-blown Year of Unrest and Year of Destruction.
This time, it means talking to my husband about putting spark back into our relationship. It means committing to the next evolution of my business and thinking hard about the women I want to serve.
These are big conversations, and a lot of work goes into having them. But I didn’t have to go through long years of unrest and destruction because I was well aware of what was happening.
Using this cycle to stop comparison
When we know ourselves and our place in the cycle, we will experience freedom. Freedom to relax, to be present and to trust we are doing all we can in our current stage.
We will always keep circling back through the cycle in different areas of our life with different degrees of complexity and severity. But our self-awareness of the cycle will make it easier to handle, easier to enjoy and easier to manage our expectations.
And next time we see someone whose life is practically glowing with Mastery? Relax and be happy for her. No need to compare.
The wheel turns.
Our time is coming.
Author: Molly Mahar
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Ak Rockefeller