I guarantee that the above will bring you unhappiness, discontent, and disillusionment. I know at one time or another, I have fallen in the trap of doing those exact things.
For instance, I read a lot of sewing-related blogs. One lady reviewed her past year of sewing and here is what she made: 24 dresses, 7 cardigans/jackets, 3 pair of pants, 3 tops, 3 skirts, 1 twinset, 1 vest, and 8 pieces of doll clothes. What clothes have I made this year? Two blouses that I had to give to Goodwill because I didn't realize I had to make a major fitting adjustment before I cut them out. Two simple skirts. One blouse correctly fitted but not put together yet, and one jumper for 7-yo Caroline that I absolutely have to finish before I see her on New Year's Day. Yes, I do work outside the home full-time, but I have no children living with me and my husband does all the cooking. I have a good sewing machine and serger, a cutting table, some lovely pieces of fabric and many patterns, and several reference books. So why am I so lousy at getting my sewing done? Compared to that blogger, my efforts are ridiculously ineffective. It makes me feel quite worthless.
Now, if I took that information about her productivity, and instead of using it to beat myself up, use it to provide creative inspiration, yes, that's where things change. There's a major difference in "If she can do that, what's wrong with me?" and "If she can do it, I can at least do more than I'm doing!" One paralyzes; the other energizes. Even better, I take the inspiration from her report, file it away in a corner of my mind, then only concentrate on myself. The word "inspire" means to breathe in, so I breathe in their accomplishments, and then the only step left is to breathe out my own accomplishments. In the end, it's all me - my plans, my joys, my life the way I want to live it - because others can provide inspiration, instruction, advice, and help - but it's ultimately my decision and commitment to create my own unique experience.
You can't compare yourself to others because every decision in life is a trade-off. Very few people are what we can Renaissance people who are geniuses at everything. If you want to be a concert pianist, you have to devote hours a day to practicing the piano - and therefore have to give up other things you might have used those hours for. Those trade-off decisions make life tough. As I've heard, you can have anything you want - just not everything you want.
I find at this time every year when I get introspective and reflective about what I have done in the last 12 months and what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months, I find it tempting to focus on everybody and everything except myself. True introspection is a nasty business, as it can lead to clarity, and clarity can be mighty upsetting. I get disappointed in myself, and I get frustrated when my specific weaknesses make themselves too apparent to ignore, and I ultimately know in my heart something needs to be done about them, and it's all up to me.
Yet, I persevere. I can see that I indeed did accomplish more than I thought this year - I made a baby quilt for Joshua, I renewed my Certified Medical Transcriptionist certification by completing the CEU requirements, I finally learned the pattern adjustments for my body type that will enable me to sew perfectly fitting clothes, I've learned how to eat for health and energy and have reached and maintained my goal weight, I've participated in my first software beta program and had a ball working with it, I've been more productive at my job, and I'm sure I have other things to my credit that I have momentarily forgotten. Once I satisfy myself that I am indeed getting things done and learning new skills, I am finally ready for the new year ahead and more goals and challenges.
One of the hardest things in life is to find that balance - of feeling good about yourself, yet realizing your past mistakes and the never-ending attempt to improve, learn, and prioritize, because the hopeful part about life is that we have indeed been given more time, even if it's only today. So, my advice to myself and my friends on the journey:
1. Don't compare yourself to others - it can be intimidating. Whether you pour all your efforts into many resolutions for self-improvement, or you just want to survive 2011 emotionally and physically intact, focus inward, not outward.
2. Prioritize. (Right now, we have a very sick baby Joshua and everything else pales in importance.)
3. As I said last week, this too shall pass.
4. Fly the Serenity Prayer as a banner above your head: Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
5. "Waste" is an evil word - whether you're wasting money, time, talent, or some other precious gift. Less waste in 2011 would be a worthy goal for all of us.
Welcome to the Great Adventure of 2011! We are travelers on the road together. I wish you safe journey.