Why Comparison is the Enemy of Creativity
It’s humbling to know and publicly admit that I’ve never had an original idea, including the one I’m going to share today. It’s also liberating beyond measure. Most of us are raised to believe that unless we create something original, our offer is not valuable, or even worse, that we are plagiarizing.
When wanting to start a new business, write a book, or embark on a new adventure, how many times have we heard, “Someone else has already done it. The market is saturated.” And in my case, “Everyone and their aunt is a life coach. You’re too late to the game.” or, “You’re never going to make a living in that profession.” It’s not just the external voices that hold us back. In my case, my internal competitive drive had me comparing myself to the likes of Tony Robbins, and deciding that I would never measure up. In essence, I was failing ahead of time, by not even starting.
That’s what comparison does to us. It stops us in our tracks. This is counterintuitive because our culture is built on the idea of comparing one student, artist, businessman, and essentially all humans, to another. Even if we were raised in a family with parents who consciously did not compare us to others in any way, that changes as soon as we become part of the typical school system. For some of us who seek higher education, this dynamic of finding our worth in how we stack up next to other students, effortlessly gets carried into, and is supported by, our high demanding work environments.
So what’s the problem? Isn’t it good to be competitive and high achieving? Both qualities of competition and achievement, are fun and make life interesting. But when we buy into the belief that our successes and achievements are a result of having a comparative mindset, we sign up for an endless run on the hamster wheel of life. Sooner or later, most of us come to the conclusion that this is the least fun and interesting, and the most exhausting way to live our lives.
At the very beginning of my coaching career, I couldn’t see the way forward because I just couldn’t see myself becoming Tony Robbins. Tony, with this booming, masculine presence, so confident in telling people what was wrong with them and how to live their lives, was to me, an unattainable goal - a god of a coach, compared to my embarrassingly human one. I also knew that I wanted to share my work in writing, but I come from a family of legitimate and well-known authors. “I can never write like they can”, I said to myself. The result of all this comparison, was that I seesawed between not making any effort (in the real world) and endlessly consuming other coaches’ content in order to unlock their “secret” to success.
Everything changed for me, when my own Life Coach shared the distinction between comparing and channelling. Steve explained that comparing comes from the ego because the ego cannot create, it can only compare. When we allow our ego to be in the driver’s seat, we shut down our creativity. The achievements that our soul strives for, whether in our personal or professional lives, always comes from creativity. But where does creativity come from? In my experience, it always comes from inspiration. I began to test this life concept by making a conscious decision to let myself be inspired, and even channel, the people that I was in the habit of comparing myself to. I shifted away from the belief that unless I create something totally novel, I’m not worthy of doing this work. I allowed myself to be inspired by Tony’s passion, Steve Chandler’s innate calm, my clients’ courage to be vulnerable, and my author mother’s discipline to make time for writing, even when she didn’t feel like it. I thought, “If The Beatles were admittedly inspired by and channelled Elvis, and if so many original thinkers credit a predecessor for inspiring their creations, I too can do the same."
The voice inside my head, which can be quite brutal if I let it, rushed back with this answer. “Because you’d be copying other people’s work!” This statement is false. Being inspired by others who we admire, and channelling that inspiration to create something that is coming genuinely through us, is not copying. It’s taking something that has come before us, remixing it, putting our own twist on it, and contributing to the body of work that we are a part of. There is an argument to be made for the Big Bang being the only original thing that has ever happened, and everything else across all fields is just a fresh take on an already existing idea.
Once we are inspired and no longer stuck in the hellish world of comparison, we can access a much greater source of creativity than our little egos. That’s where the good stuff lives. To be clear, I’m not suggesting we copy someone else’s creation as is. I’m suggesting that when we catch ourselves feeling envious, jealous, or less than, we make a deliberate and conscious effort to identify the parts of their creation that we want to allow to inspire us in our own work. Know that we don’t have to recreate the wheel, we just need to make it our own by using our gifts, knowing that it’s enough to be the first one to curate the past in our own way and voice. There are enough extraordinary ideas already in existence, and there are a limitless number of ways those ideas can be recreated and offered to our own tiny corner of the world.
If you’re interested in exploring this concept further, please email me and I will share the list of top practices my clients use to shift from comparison to inspiration and creativity.
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