Learning to run your own race

Over the course of my 25-year career as a financial adviser I was fortunate to have interviewed several hundred people and hear their life stories.  My impression was that only a small proportion of these people were successful in the sense that they were truly happy, fulfilled and financially secure.  

Some were wealthy but had poor health due to lifestyle. Others had many achievements to their name but were unhappy. Some worked hard but never seemed to see the financial success which they were striving for. While others seemed happy but went through relationships like I get through training shoes!

Success leave clues and what I leaned from my interviews and my own life experiences is that you can only be truly happy and successful when you stop judging yourself against other people. Particularly today, with social media enabling people to constantly communicate a curated version of their ‘perfect’ life, it’s even easier to fall into the peer comparison trap.

There will always be someone who is wealthier, taller, more attractive, wittier, thinner, better connected, luckier, fitter, and smarter than you.  It’s far better to aim to be the best version of you, than a fake version of someone else. Constant improvement, yes. Living your life constantly in the shadow of others, no.

It’s far better to aim to be the best version of you, than a fake version of someone else.

Self-acceptance sounds simple but I know from personal experience that it is one of the hardest things to do, particularly if you are entrepreneurial or a high-achiever. Spending money to impress others is a mug’s game. Creating a façade of what you think will impress people or make them like you is too much hard work. Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for unhappiness, destructive behaviour and burn out.

I used to worry that my accent would tell people I’d not had a good formal education and they’d judge me harshly as a result. What I failed to bear in mind was the fact that I had done considerable study, training and read hundreds of books and research reports to develop my financial and business knowledge and skills. Good people, who mattered, respected me for what I did have, not what I didn’t. I never worry what people think of my accent now.

Over the years I’ve entered quite a few running races. I see some runners get carried away with the race atmosphere and go off too fast, only to crash out with a stich after a few kilometres. I see others trying to keep up with their friends and in the process hate the race experience from start to finish.

I prefer to focus on maintaining my target running pace in line with trying to beat my previous best time. In that sense I am not particularly bothered what the other runners are doing. I just put one foot after another and focus on my pace. This means I have to accept that some runners will overtake me and that’s OK because I’m focusing on my personal best.

I know it’s had but learning to focus on achieving your personal best and being true to your own ideals and values is the foundation to true success.  The funny thing is that the more you do this the happier, fulfilled and wealthier you’ll become.

So how about you? Are you living your life through others – what they think of you, how they live, their values and their achievements? Or are you trying to be the best version of you and run your own race?

Warm regards


PS If you have your own story or anecdote on this, or any other issue, I'd love to hear it. Just leave a comment below.